Victoria is a violin virtuoso

By Sharon AsplinWHEN 11-year-old Victoria Goldsmith arrives at school each morning, she has already put in at least an hour's hard work before most of her schoolfriends have emerged from their bedrooms.

By Sharon Asplin

WHEN 11-year-old Victoria Goldsmith arrives at school each morning, she has already put in at least an hour's hard work before most of her schoolfriends have emerged from their bedrooms.

Rising at the crack of dawn, the talented musician spends the time before breakfast determinedly practising her violin.

And when she comes home again, Victoria knows she has another three more hours ahead – not to mention fitting in her homework and snatching some time to relax before tumbling into bed.

As her father says, it is a punishing schedule.

But is it one which is necessary as Victoria – known as Vix to her friends and family – now stands on the threshold of her musical career and following in the footsteps of Vanessa Mae and Nigel Kennedy.

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What happens in the next few months will probably determine whether the Colchester schoolgirl can, and indeed wants to, fulfil her ultimate aim to become a professional world-class soloist or whether her violin playing will be downgraded to a beloved hobby.

And her hopes and dreams – as well of those of her parents Inga and Iain – are centring on her success in the first stage of the BBC Young Musician's competition, which kicks off this summer.

Russian-born Victoria, who has dual nationality, started to play the violin at the age of six-and-a-half and by the age of seven had gained entry to the pre Conservatoire higher music school in St Petersburg, where she studied for a year before moving to England.

When she arrived in this country, Victoria spoke just a smattering of English and was taken under the wing of Mark Messenger, then head of strings at Colchester Institute.

In 2000, she was awarded a place at the Yehudi Menuhin School in Surrey, where she studied the violin for two years before transferring to the Philip Morant School in Colchester.

Over the past few years, she has become a familiar face in Colchester musical circles, always accompanied by her mother, herself a professional pianist – Mrs Goldsmith has put her illustrious solo career on hold to concentrate her efforts on her daughter.

Victoria, who also spends every Saturday travelling to London for a lesson from Lydia Mordkovich, a professor at the Royal Academy of Music, is currently playing Mozart's violin concerto number four and Mendelssohn's violin concerto.

But she takes all the hard work in her stride. "I'm getting used to it. It's difficult, but it's actually quite fun," she said.

"Saturday's the best time because I can come home and relax and on a Sunday if I do my five hours' practice early, we can go out somewhere. But I like the normal days as well.

"Practice and performance are completely opposite – when I practise, it not so much music, but technique. When I perform, I get quite nervous before I start, but once I have started it takes me away and I put all my feelings into it."

The Goldsmiths are full of praise for the support they have received from the Philip Morant School and Victoria, already with the poise and confidence of an adult, knows she would not have come so far without that backing and that of her parents.

While her mother is more obviously at the forefront to coach, advise, encourage and, of course, accompany her, behind the scenes her father helps with administration, lifts and in countless other ways.

Mrs Goldsmith said: "I try to stay calm about my daughter. She has soul, technical ability and intellect and if she continues to practise really, really hard she could achieve quite good standards in the future.

"When I see she gets tired, I understand it is probably a good idea for her to stop, but I am always pushing her to 10 or 15 minutes more. It's expanding your ability to work, even if tired, a little bit more."

Mr Goldsmith, who describes himself musically as "an enthusiastic amateur", added: "It's what Vix wants that is important. All I want to do it to make sure she gets the best chance to do it.

"If she becomes a soloist, wonderful, but if she just keeps her music as a lovely hobby, then that's fine too. But I would have regretted not being there to support her."

Undoubtedly, Victoria's talent has meant family sacrifices. Lessons cost about £500 a month and her latest violin was the same price as a new car.

Mr Goldsmith also lost his garage at their Dale Close home when it was converted into a soundproofed music room. Ironically, the ceiling is too low and Victoria is in danger of hitting it with her bow.

So the Goldsmiths are now looking to move house, although they have put this on hold as this year promises to be exceptionally busy.

They are eager to find a local professional or semi-professional orchestra who will give Victoria the chance to develop her solo performance skills for the challenges ahead.

She has just cut her first CD for the prestigious Czech national radio competition Concertino Praga 2003, which includes her performance of Bruch's violin concerto number 1.

Victoria is also preparing for this year's Essex Young Musician's competition and the Colchester Rotary Music Festival and Competition.

But it is the BBC contest which is the big one and Victoria admitted she was nervous about it. "I am scared. But I think the world is a strange place and what will happen, will happen," she added.

Whatever the future holds, today Victoria certainly knows where she is going. "I just want to be a phenomenal violinist and a soloist with my mum," she said.

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