Scots violinist wants kids to swap Mario for Mozart

Nicola Benedetti says it upsets her when she's told that 'kids hate listening to a symphony'. Picture: Simon Fowler / Universal
Nicola Benedetti says it upsets her when she's told that 'kids hate listening to a symphony'. Picture: Simon Fowler / Universal
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NICOLA Benedetti has taken a swipe at parents who allow their children to play video games rather than demand that they listen to classical symphonies.

The Ayrshire violin virtuoso is known around the world for her prodigious talent, unflappable poise and impeccable manners.

If you said, video games or a maths lesson, of course they’ll choose games

Nicola Benedetti

However, the 27-year-old has now revealed her fervent belief that all youngsters should be exposed to classical music, whether they like it or not. The musician has voiced exasperation at parents who allow their children to opt out of listening to the works of the great composers.

Benedetti, who secured a £1 million recording deal at the age of 17, believes mothers and fathers should not be afraid to be unpopular with their offspring.

“It actually really upsets me when people say: ‘Kids hate listening to a symphony, why would we do that to them?’

“I think, hang on a minute, if you were to turn round and say to a kids: ‘Would you like to play video games or would you like to have a maths lesson?’ Of course, they’re going to go for the video games.”

The West Kilbride-born musician added: “Needing the child’s approval for what they do in school is just such an alien concept when you’re talking about maths, science, history or English, but, suddenly, when you bring music into the mix, it’s: ‘Oh no, we can’t show them anything that they don’t instantly love because that would be like forcing children into something that they don’t want to do.’ It just bemuses me.”

She added that the trend towards “dumbing-down” meant today’s children were being short-changed.

“Children should be exposed to anything that has the sophistication and breadth of unbelievable content that classical music does, just as I think they should be exposed to the greatest books ever written.

“You’re not just developing concentration and focus in order to try to understand the music. You are also getting something that has life lessons, has beauty, has uplift and joy and sorrow and tragedy – all the things that you will have to deal with in your life at some point.”

The graduate of the prestigious Yehudi Menuhin School, who is now based in London, claims her own early experiences persuaded her to strive for perfection as an adult.

“You can be working on something for four months, six months, a year and suddenly you discover a new and better way of doing something and you go out in front of all those people – and under all that pressure – you’re able to reach a different level,” the violinist said in an interview with a women’s magazine.

“You feel like you’ve really done justice to that music. It’s a phenomenal feeling and extremely euphoric when it all comes together.”

The award-winning performer also heaped praise on her Scottish fans for sticking with her, stating: “As the years go by I appreciate and recognise their worth more intensely, because classical music is not something that, by itself, pulls in enormous crowds.

“It’s music that does require a certain amount of dedication and focus and you have to work hard to insist upon that from your audiences.

“I regard it as an enormously privileged position to have an audience in Scotland who have stuck with me and I can only pray that it remains that way.”

Benedetti shot to fame in 2004 when, aged 16, she won the BBC Young Musician of the Year competition.

In 2012 she brought classical music to a whole new audience when she was the opening act on the main stage of the T in the Park festival.

Last year she performed at Loch Lomond to a global audiences of tens of millions at the opening ceremony of the Glasgow Commonwealth Games.

Benedetti will be a prominent feature of the Edinburgh International Festival this summer when she joins the Oslo Philharmonic Orchestra under the baton of Vasily Petrenko for their second festival concert, playing the violin concerto by Glazunov.

Glazunov Violin Concerto, Usher Hall, 16 August