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Ami-Louise Johnsson - Viola


1- You began your violin studies at the age of 5 with Nina and Oleg Balabine at Lilla Akademien music institution in Stockholm. How do remember these first mentors in your development?

Growing up at Lilla Akademien, Nina and Oleg Balabine were not only supporting me in music but also in everyday life. With the goal of transferring all their knowledge and wisdom to me, all the 13 years I spent together with them was a privilege. It was always a blast playing and learning together with them! They used to tell me about their memories from their younger years touring all over the world playing loads of concerts, meeting people and experiencing all kinds of things, which made me want to explore and experience something similar in my life.

2- Is your family musical?

No one in my family are musicians but my mother played some piano when she was very young, but only as a hobby, which was the case for my father as well but with the violin. I guess you can’t say they are very musical, but they are definitely not clueless about what I’m doing! Both of them enjoy listening to all kinds of music and have a lot of knowledge about it, which has been helpful and inspiring for me growing up. My younger brother has without choice followed my path into music, playing the violin...but nowadays he’s fully enjoying it!

3- In 2009 you solo debuted with the Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra playing J.S. Bach A-minor concerto in Berwaldhallen. Do you remember your feelings at the time?

I opened the concert by playing a little cadenza me and my former teacher Hugo Ticciati wrote together, and I remember being really proud of myself after that. My heart was beating like crazy out of joy! Also, all the Kings and Queens of Scandinavia were attending this concert so I remember being really excited about performing for them.
I have to say I can’t remember much about the actual Bach Concerto performance except that I was extremely concentrated and very serious.

4- You began your violin studies at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama in 2019. How is this progressing?

As I began my violin studies at the Guildhall, there was a lack of violas in my year, so the head of Chamber music and violist Matthew Jones was telling us that violinists with viola experience were needed for new string quartets. I always wanted to play the viola but the image of me being only a violinist was deeply imprinted in my head. But I thought, this is my chance to get to know what it’s like! So I went and told Matthew that I really wanted to play the Viola in a quartet, but had no experience and no instrument. Next week Matthew brought me a viola in his hand and told me to have fun...And I did, for sure! So much fun that in February 2020, I changed my principal study from violin to viola. Studying with prof. D. Takeno has been enrichening and adventurous, intense and exciting!! The Guildhall staff and professors were very supportive about the choices I made, and the transition from violin to viola was incredibly smooth. Today I still play the violin for fun, and reading repertoire, but my voice and heart definitely belongs with the viola.

5- What are your fondest musical memories, privately or performing?

I have very fond memories of my quartet, Fibonacci Quartet, performing at the Beethoven Competition for Young Musicians in London. It was our very first public performance, and the audience as well as the organisation and judges were so incredibly warm and supportive. We also met some wonderful musicians from various nationalities who were students and alumni from all London conservatoires. As it was our very first concert and the age limit for the competition was 26 (we were aged 17-19 at the time, the very youngest competitors!), we did not realistically expect anything. Imagine our surprise and joy when we were awarded both the first prize and the audience prize! It was a beautiful, proud evening for us filled with fantastic music and incredible people.

6- How often do your practice?

Since my motto in this matter is quality before quantity, I wouldn’t say I exceed over 3 hours of daily practise. But it also depends on how I’m feeling that day, some days you can’t stop playing and other days you just want to do something else. I have quite a flexible but also impulsive personality, so I never force myself to do something I don’t want to do, but of course only in situations where no one else gets in trouble…
I’ve recently discovered a mental practice which has been productive and helpful, especially in the learning process of new repertoire.

7- Would you consider teaching in the future?

I would love to teach at some point. There’s something very beautiful about carrying the knowledge you have and giving it on to others, but I feel that it’s also about the exchange between the student and the teacher, you learn from each other.

8- Who would your dream accompanist be, from the present or past?

Johannes Brahms. I would love to experience his alleged rubato and slow diminuendo. It seems like he was quite a character.

9- What advice would you give music students at the start of their journey?

We are already privileged for being able to study what we love, so why not make the most of it. Work hard and have fun. Don’t be too serious but do take responsibility. Be open minded and careful, but not afraid. We only have one life to waste!

submission September 2020

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