Violinist Nicole Wilson is a representative of a new breed of orchestral musician, for whom performing is just one strand to her bow. She played with the London Symphony Orchestra for ten years, spent five years as Principal 2nd Violin of English National Opera, has presented music to the nation on Classic FM, on television for the BBC Proms and now works with many different groups as well as working as Executive Producer of FunKey Rhymes, which develops materials for young musicians. She has now founded Musical Orbit, an organisation that provides online music lessons across the globe from some of the world’s finest orchestral players. I caught up with her on the South Bank in London in between rehearsals; she began by explaining the concept in more detail.
But it’s not just a portal for music lessons, it seems. ‘On the website I’m also asking players to talk more openly about more difficult aspects of the profession, like injuries, performance anxiety, other professional difficulties and so on. So whether people are either hoping to go into the profession or are just in the audience, they can see that performing is not just about standing up there on the platform – there’s so much that leads up to it. That’s the reason it’s called Musical Orbit – it’s about the whole person, and the whole journey they’ve been through, and I want the world to understand that.’
How does my online music lesson work?
I asked Nicole about her vision for Musical Orbit, which also encompasses the world of amateur music-making. ‘Wouldn’t it be amazing if you could be anywhere in the world, and you could decide that you wanted to play to the leader of the New York Philharmonic? Or if you suddenly want to learn the bassoon, and you live on the Shetland Islands? There may not be any bassoon teachers there – but you can still have lessons on this platform! As long as you have broadband, the sound quality is good enough, and you can just click the link and be in the room with that teacher. It’s been great for the teachers too – they have to be more verbal, to describe what they want to show, rather than physically manipulate someone’s playing position. So they’re learning as they go too, and have really embraced this different way of teaching.’
Musical Orbit is an invaluable resource both for players needing vital help before key moments in their professional lives, and for teachers wanting to pass on their knowledge and experience to the next generation – and remarkably, all from in front of their computer screen. This is a genuinely new model for music tuition, and in Wilson’s hands, it looks like it will grow and grow.