VERONICA SHOOT, CONCERT PIANIST
She was, when only six years old, predicted by Lord Yehudi Menuhin as ´destined to become a great pianist´ and Veronika Shoot is now identified by distinguished musicians and audiences alike as ´one of the most sensitive, charismatic and versatile´ pianists performing.
Born in Moscow, Veronika moved to the UK at the age of five when her father, Vladislav, became the composer-in-residence at Dartington Hall. By the time she was seven she had given her first recital, playing to a sold-out audience at the Dartington International Summer School Music Festival.Now performing across the UK and worldwide, Veronika has broadcast on platforms such as BBC Spotlight News and BBC Radio 3. She has been invited to play on some of the most prestigious stages in classical music, including London´s Wigmore Hall, Royal Festival Hall, St John´s Smith Square, Purcell Room, Steinway Hall, BOZAR Centre for Fine Arts in Brussels, The Rachmaninov Hall in Moscow, Amsterdam Conservatoire, International Mozart Festival in Istanbul, Koblenz Gymnasium and L´Opera Gabriel at the Chateau de Versailles.
Veronika undertook full scholarships at The Yehudi Menuhin School, The Purcell School of Music and The Royal Academy of Music, with Professor Tatiana Sarkisova – graduating with a First – and The Royal Scottish Conservatoire with Professor Fali Pavri, where she received a Distinction for her Masters. She has taken part in numerous master classes over the years, receiving artistic guidance from many acclaimed musicians.
She is a Laureate of International Competitions including the Yamaha International Piano Competition and the Two Moors Festival, and has been awarded with some of classical music´s most prestigious prizes.
With a wide-ranging repertoire of solo and chamber music, Veronika is passionate about collaborating with instrumentalists, singers, writers, artists and actors. Veronika is dedicated to creating compelling and innovative programmes that can be performed to a wide audience. She is also a strong believer in the importance of musical education, and in recent projects combined music and art for workshops in schools that the children found “the most exciting” of their kind. Veronika teaches piano at the London Russian Music Academy and was recently appointed ´Music Ambassador´ for saMM (the Saturday morning music school at King Edward VI Community College).
She lives and continues to develop her art in London, but put another stamp on her passport of worldwide travel recently when playing at the incongruously named Camel House on Lanzarote. The name always puts me in mind, somehow, of Maria Muldaur´s Midnight At The Oasis, but in fact the Camel House Concerts is a series of occasional special events presented by Sir Ernest Hall, former industrialist, now a philanthropist and himself an accomplished musician. He bought the property and turned it into a bespoke music venue within his living accommodation and the concert veronica gave showed just how atmospheric is the music room.
I was privileged to review that performance for the Lanzarote Information web site and you can find my observations and an exclusive interview with Veronika in my archives at http://lanzaroteinformation.co.uk /
It is said that we are judged by the company we keep, and if that is so then Veronika must be held in high regard indeed. There can be no higher accolade, surely, than to have been identified as so talented by Yehudi Menuhin. I am no expert in ´classical´ music and certainly in my teens I doubt I could have found a classical composer on my musical horizons, unless Leiber And Stoller can be categorised as classical. So nothing in those days could have drawn me to a classical concert held I think at Manchester Free Trade Hall other than the girl I was going out with at the time.
However the performance we saw from Yehudi Menuhin and Stephane Grappelli sounded to me like a wonderful camp-fire performance by a pair of raggle taggle gypsies who knew how to get the girls up and dancing. As if a premonition of the musical integration that I now so love and that Veronika Shoot offers in her recitals. The two maestros gave us live rock and roll and country and folk and blues and swing that on any of their recordings would have been filed in the record shops under classical, away from the greedy eyes and grubby fingers of teenagers.
Veronika does the same sort of thing. I suspect that on her bookshelves you might find Shakespeare and Stephen King side by side and in her art room a Degas next to a Damien Hirst because in the concert I witnessed recently she gave us Schumann and a piece written by her brother when he was twelve years old, with its ´bits of rock and roll.’
Her album, Journey Through Childhood, further illustrates how eclectic she is, offering us works by Debussy, Shostakovich and Schumann as well as by Toru Takemitsu, all sitting alongside a piece by family member Vladislav Shoot in a seven track selection of evocative childhood pieces. Its running time of seventy four minutes runs away as you listen, ensuring that you immediately play it again to enjoy those awakened images of ´blue remembered hills.´
As a concert pianist, aside from her usual performing work, she has become especially passionate about musical education and sharing this gift with young people away from the usual accustomed/ routine classical concert stage to give young people the opportunity to be exposed to music on a more hands-on regular basis so they feel it accessible for them to explore its powers!
´In my years as a professional pianist, since leaving music college, I have become increasingly keen to spread my love and experience of music,´ says Veronika, ´not only to play, but also to listen to and engage with those might not otherwise have that opportunity.´
Her aim is to introduce youngsters from all backgrounds and levels in an accessible manner to music of all kinds, and especially classical music, (or what is known as classical music, but is actually a very BROAD spectrum)
Veronika believes that such music should be introduced to a young age group, as she feels this type of music is actually the most provocative, interesting and engaging kind to grow with.
´This wonderful music stimulates the imagination, and creativity,´ she explains, ´and opens the ability to be bold in expression. It helps children learn to ‘listen’ and access hidden gifts from the art of listening and artistic collaboration. This music can open a heart and ennoble it with positivity, good thoughts and feelings.´As someone fortunate enough to be exposed tothe beauty of such music throughout her childhood she knows how beneficial and helpful an introduction to music can be. She sees music not only as the greatest means of communication, but also as a tool for sharing and teaching. A love of music develops transferable skills of listening, calmness and being alert in mind and Veronika is keen to develop such skill sets with a new generation
She has devised numerous workshops and concerts that young people can share and that require no preparation on their part other a willingness to be there.
the release of her album ´Journey Through Childhood´, which, features
some of the worlds’ most famous and great music miniatures for piano, for
adults and children alike, Veronika has come to fully realise the effect of
music on the brain and its incredible ability to break all barriers
between people. Awakening a child´s inner potential, through creativity and
musical learning is an approach she strongly advocates.
´My aim is to give many more children the chance to engage in music in a very immediate down to earth way,´ she says. ´to let them feel that it is accessible and possible for them to do. Engaging in music is proven to release tension, stimulate the brain for focused thinking, and release creativity from within.´
She designs bespoke age-appropriate workshops, performances, and master-classes, tailored to each event, some of which outlines can be seen below, and Veronika delivers on-going collaborative art projects with the music departments in a number of institutions in the UK and abroad.
Starting from regular classes with an introductory kids concert and question time, she also has sessions tailored to professional young musician classes, and master-classes, as well as instrumental work designed for people exposed to music for the first time. She also delivers musical seminars on general and specific topics.
All that passion and eagerness to share it shines through in Veronika Shoot´s recitals. We loved her beautiful and wide-ranging concert recently at The Camel House, Sir Ernest Hall´s quite incredible property at Macher on Lanzarote (where he bought a camel house and created a concert hall, as we will discuss in a future post). In a brief chat after her recital we introduced her to ´the five bums at the bar,´ who ask all those open questions that begin with a w,… designed to draw out expansive answers. Veronika kindly gave me her e-mail address, and said it would be ok to send her over some such questions. I received her reply last night that reveals she must have given her answers some serious thought, and I´m very grateful, and proud, to publish her response here. I think you´ll find them revealing and refreshing and very relevant all across the arts.
WHO, we wonder, are the musicians dead or alive, who have influenced your listening and playing.
´My first musical inspiration and influence was my family.
My father and brother are both composers, and at the time I was a child, I was constantly surrounded by music in the home, live performances. One of my first memories was walking onto the stage at the age of 3 when my father went up to take a bow after a work of his was performed. I received a standing ovation (probably for having the guts and audacity to follow his suite) and after running to the piano at the back of the stage and playing the only song I could play at the time. (Dogs Waltz or chopsticks as it is called) I remember feeling so happy on stage sharing what I could.
My mother Irina was my first piano teacher. From the age of five I went to all the concerts at the wonderful Dartington International Summer Music Festival.
I never had an idol, or just one pianist that I admired over all the rest. I rather felt that the vast world of music and discovery of so many different composers (who were mostly dead but whose music was so alive) was my greatest influence to begin with.
I remember as a child, the first musical tapes I listened to were called Bach and Brahms, and at the time I did not understand they were the names of the composers of this music. I just felt like I knew this music from an unexplainable place, and that it spoke to me. I felt it in my soul, and it felt very personal, touching something within that nothing else could. It was then that I felt that the key to my future lay somewhere in the discovery of such music.
Since then I have been so lucky to be surrounded by and exposed to wonderful musicians who have nourished and inspired my development such as my piano teachers who devoted their time and energy and showed me a love I would never forget.
As a pianist, I always felt a great respect and admiration to Glenn Gould, for his love, dedication and devotion and the way that expressed itself through every note of his playing. The result this produced… for me felt original and pure, the voice of Bach spoke through him and yet his playing could never be copied or imitated.
He influenced me through his authenticity to the music and himself and that is what I wanted to achieve in my own life. Such artists like this have always been a great influence and inspiration for me.´
WHAT make of instruments do you usually play in concert, and why, and was the piano you played on Lanzarote your own?
´Most pianists (except for very few – who could manage to transport their own pianos) have to play the piano that is provided. I feel it is a special skill that a pianist must master.
What this means is that from a young age, we as pianists are accustomed to ‘befriending’ (or not, as the case may be!) the particular piano we are provided. We feel its voice, its difficulties and subtleties and we learn to find the way to communicate through it. It is quite a special art that requires us to be open and patient and take responsibility for our own receptivity and reactiveness.´
WHERE does your music take you, literally and / or metaphorically?
´My music takes me all around the globe, from France to South America… to many concert halls, funky living rooms, unique churches, and unusual stages.
My music takes me around the world, connecting me with beautiful people, and while doing so, the music takes me home, to my heart, doing what I love the most. Expressing myself in the way I know best, and sharing the universal language that brings people together.´
WHEN listening to music simply for pleasure do you find yourself constrained (or released) by an expert objectivity?
´This depends on the kind of music I listen to and how I listen to it. Often when listening to a piece of music with a focused critical ear, I feel constrained to listen to the music I would play.
This makes me listen in so deeply I lose track of everything around me and become focused, but if I switch off my ‘knowledge’ of the music being played, and just receive the soundworld,´ this can be incredibly healing and releasing. This is why I enjoy listening to many types of music, as well as Classical, Romantic, and Baroque, such as Jazz, electro swing, and tribal beats. I think it is important to constantly reinvent and I love to also keep a track of modern music and the music of today. Each type of music awakens a different vibration which brings out different qualities.´
WHY, when music itself so often crosses genres and traditions, do the industry´s marketing forces seem so keen to classify and categorise?
´That’s a very good question. I think people always like to categorise and put things into boxes. This makes them think it will sell better, and be easier to ‘categorise’. Perhaps it is because our society is always obsessed with putting things into boxes, it is about selling and what sells. To be honest that is something I would like to make it my mission to change. I have only recently began to express the whole of my musical personality and create new ways of sharing, simply because each musician is uniquely different and I believe in the world we live has to carve their own new path. The paths that are already designed can be too constrictive and actually create a bad name for our music world. I myself do not like the word ‘classical’ music. This somehow seems to say that it is old, or dead. I do feel that all music is music, it is alive, and it is new, with each time we come to play it, and we need to communicate it this way if we would like to keep expressing ourselves truly, and impact the world positively in such difficult times. This sort of approach I believe could help drop the categorising and classifying.´
You can learn much more about Veronika´s lifestyle as a concert pianist by visiting https://www.veronikashoot.com/