Who or what inspired you to take up the violin and pursue a career in music?
I started playing violin in kindergarten, actually through my school as they had a mandatory music program where everyone had to choose between the violin and recorder. I feel lucky there was this program, and that I chose the violin! My parents are not musicians and didn’t have any intention to start the kids on instruments so it all happened quite by chance. As for a career, I think everything’s happened very naturally so there never really was a moment I decided to officially become a musician.
Who or what have been the most important influences on your musical life and career?
All the teachers I’ve had. I’ve had many and all very longterm, and I feel I met each of them at the right time in my development. In addition, there’ve been a couple people I’ve worked with less but who I also think about all the time when I practice. Most of those haven’t been violinists actually, many pianists and some other string players included.
What have been the greatest challenges of your career so far?
Most of them are not actually music-related but more to do with the lifestyle of a traveling musician. Probably moving away from the US to study in Germany was the most drastic change.
Which performance/recordings are you most proud of?
Any of them that I feel I’ve really given my best. As for recordings, I’ve only made one so that’s easy!
Which particular works do you think you play best?
This is a good question—I think that I’m still too young to know which music is THE most suitable for me. Sometimes the music that I love the most comes the least easily to me, but it’s hard to know if the difficulty is actually to the benefit of the eventual interpretation or just difficulty. However, as long as I feel I can communicate something special through a piece to the audience, I’m happy to keep exploring.
How do you make your repertoire choices from season to season?
Sometimes presenters or orchestras will have some specific requests which I will take into consideration when planning, but especially with recital programs I have to think what will appeal to me that season and also discuss with the pianists I play with. What’s difficult is to know what I’ll feel like playing a year or more in the future!
Do you have a favourite concert venue to perform in and why?
Wigmore Hall is fantastic, but I also haven’t played in a lot of the great halls yet so I’ll wait to form an opinion!
Who are your favourite musicians?
I admire so many people, it’s hard to pick just a few. To make my life easier and speak only of violinists—Oistrakh, Menuhin, Szigeti, Heifetz, Janine Jansen, and Isabelle Faust.
What is your most memorable concert experience?
The final of the Queen Elisabeth Competition in 2015
As a musician, what is your definition of success?
To be privileged enough to work only on what you want to work on, and to be able to share it with others. But I hope I never feel as if I’ve “succeeded” and don’t need to keep evolving and working on my playing.
What do you consider to be the most important ideas and concepts to impart to aspiring musicians?
Dedication, selflessness, and integrity.
What is your present state of mind?
Stephen Waarts’ debut recording is released on 30 November on the Rubicon Classics label. Stephen is accompanied by pianist Gabriele Carcano in music by Schumann and Bartok.
(photo by Benjamin Ealovega)