Jennifer Pike is one young lady whose head is definitely not for turning.
In 2002 at the age of 12 the Stockport-based violinist became the youngest-ever winner of the BBC Young Musician of the Year competition, and at the beginning of this year she was honoured with the South Bank Show/ The Times Breakthrough Award. How does this gifted teenager cope with these accolades?
“Gosh,.. I think my feet are still firmly on the ground. I’m very, very happy about where I am at the moment. I’m very, very lucky to have all these wonderful concerts and to be given so many opportunities.”
Jennifer is currently undertaking postgraduate tuition at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, “studying with David Takeno. He’s an inspirational teacher.”
Being a member of any college of music brings performing responsibilities to its students.
“Yes, hopefully I’ll be playing the Tchaikovsky Concerto or the Bruch Scottish Fantasy with them next year. But certainly in terms of orchestras and student socialising it’s very good to get involved!”
Many young soloists, particularly attractive female string-players as is Pike herself, have pressure put upon them to build an image, but this doesn’t seem to have happened yet to Jennifer.
“I don’t think so, but I’m very aware of what’s, sort of, expected now, in terms of projecting a certain image.
“I realise, of course, that a lot of people think very carefully about what they should project as an image... I try not to. I mean, I’m a very, very serious musician, and it’s very important to focus on that, really.”
As a young musician, does Jennifer Pike feel any special responsibility towards endorsing contemporary music? Soon she will be making her Australian debut with the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra, premiering and recording the Violin Concerto by Andrew Schultz.
“I do a lot of contemporary music! My dad, Jeremy Pike, is a composer. He teaches at Chetham’s in Manchester, where he is head of composition. He’s a really inspiring influence on me, and I’ve tackled some weird and wonderful things, so I’m just terribly excited to be learning this new concerto by Andrew Schultz, and having an input into the creative process. Really working with the composer is amazing.
“My Dad has composed a lot of music for me, including two of the rounds of the BBC competition. I think one day it will be Pike Concerto played by Pike, conducted by Pike.”
Chamber music is an important feature of Jennifer Pike’s work.
“I absolutely love chamber music. And of course the repertoire is amazing, especially for the string quartet. At the Guildhall it’s a wonderful opportunity to meet other musicians. We’ve just done the Schubert Quintet – it’s fantastic to get lost in that world It’s completely different from concerto and recital-playing, and my teacher tells me that chamber-music technique, sonata technique and concerto technique are all different, and it’s very important to be able to adapt to different kinds of music.”
Jennifer Pike is playing both in Birmingham Town Hall (a Mozart concerto with the Orchestra of the Swan) and Symphony Hall (the Mendelssohn with the CBSO) within the next few weeks. “But I’ve played in Symphony Hall before. I think I was 14 -- I wore full dress, so it must have been evening. You always think by clothes...
And on Sunday she is looking forward to “breaking the ice” with the audience in a pre-concert interview with me and Orchestra of the Swan conductor David Curtis. It will be a refreshing and heartening experience for us old lags.
* Jennifer Pike plays Mozart with the Orchestra of the Swan at Birmingham Town Hall on Sunday (2.30pm, pre-concert interview at 1.30pm), and Mendelssohn with the CBSO at Symphony Hall on October 29 (7.30pm).