Nicola Benedetti (4 November)
Few of today’s top-ranking performers combine as successfully as Nicola Benedetti a busy concert career with an untiring advocacy of the importance of music education. In the latter role, she has made contact with thousands of young people through workshops, masterclasses, partnership projects and school visits, is President of the European String Teachers’ Association and is deeply involved with Sistema Scotland (the charity committed to bringing music and instruments to some of Scotland’s most deprived schools).
Born in West Kilbride to an Italian father and Scottish-Italian mother, Nicola began violin lessons with Brenda Smith at the age of 5, going on to lead the National Children’s Orchestra of Great Britain at 8. In 1997, with her friend Alina Ibragimova (who visited Putney Music in the 2016-17 season), she went on to study at the Yehudi Menuhin School in Surrey where her teachers were Menuhin himself and Natasha Boyarskaya. At the age of 16 in 2004, she won the BBC Young Musician of the Year competition.
Since then, a comprehensive overview of her career would fill many more paragraphs than is possible here. Suffice it to say that she has worked with a great many of today’s most illustrious conductors and orchestras all over the world, is a favourite at the Proms, played at the opening ceremony of the 2014 Commonwealth Games, is a dedicated performer of chamber music (her regular duo partner is the pianist Alexei Grynyuk, who visited Putney Music in the 2016-17 season) and with her recording of Bruch’s Scottish Fantasy is the first British solo violinist to have entered the Top 20 of the official UK album charts. Her awards include the MBE in 2013, the Queen’s Medal for Music in 2017, honorary doctorates from Glasgow Caledonian University and Edinburgh’s Heriot-Watt University, and an honorary degree from the University of Edinburgh.