Coco Tomita, violinist

Who or what inspired you to pursue a career in music and who or what have been the most important influences on your musical life and career?

With both my parents being musicians, specifically pianists, I have been immersed in music since day one and I could not have been luckier. The environment I grew up in enabled me to pursue my dream of becoming a musician from a young age. For that I am hugely grateful to my parents. Their supportiveness, understanding and guidance have lead to me being where and who I am now.

What have been the greatest challenges of your career so far?

For us young musicians, we are often locked away in practice rooms crafting and polishing our expertise, perhaps naïve to what it means to be an ‘artist’. There is no one version of an artist, however; there are so many aspects and possibilities of expressing oneself and making oneself known to the world. I certainly had to face challenges when realising that it’s not all about the playing. Once you put yourself out into the world, you will inevitably be observed and critiqued, and seen not just as musician but also as a person. Simultaneously, as a young adult, I am on this journey of figuring myself out while also going through the turmoil of changes every day and discovering what resonates and what doesn’t, and this can feel like a challenge. But I like to remind myself of the growth mindset and to strive through the things that life throws at you. 

Which performances/recordings are you most proud of?

I am extremely proud of my debut album with Orchid Classics [Origins, released on 4 March 2022]. One I will not forget as it was a life-changing experience thanks to my incredible team and the hard hours that were put into making it possible.

Which particular works do you think you perform best? 

It‘s difficult to say since it‘s all pretty subjective. What I can say is there are styles and composers that I feel come more naturally to me. I definitely thrive and yearn for Russian repertoire and have found myself thoroughly immersed when learning and performing it. 

What do you do off stage that provides inspiration on stage?

I believe that having a strong image of being present on the stage I am about to perform on already in the practice room enables me to feel at home and be inspired when finally on stage. Familiarising yourself with the feeling of nerves, excitement and anticipation when working towards a performance can give you a sense of control and familiarity on stage. These two things allow me to take risks and be inspired during that one chance I have on stage.

How do you make your repertoire choices from season to season?

I would say from this year, I’ve truly started to feel like I have this cycle of repertoire from season to season, since the number of performance opportunities have increased. So I am still in the learning process but from my knowledge, it can help to transition from one set of repertoire to another by replacing certain pieces with new ones. I find it helpful to include both old and fresh repertoire to keep me motivated and stimulated throughout each season. 

Do you have a favourite concert venue to perform in and why?

Out of the venues I have had the chance to perform in, Wigmore Hall has left a lasting impression. I have never felt so free on stage and I hope to perform there again in the near future.

Many of my past concerts also took place in churches and I have grown to love and appreciate them. The atmosphere they bring and the stunning acoustic can be hard to find elsewhere. 

What do you feel needs to be done to grow classical music’s audiences/listeners?

This is a question I think we young musicians should ask ourselves constantly since we are the upcoming generation to take on this field. In order to gain more audience we need to reach out to people in some way. Certainly there is already an established classical audience but it is only a fraction of what it could be. It has no doubt been taken into action by a number of creative figures and institutions to bring classical music to unfamiliarised people and places. When I took part in the Nicola Benedetti foundation session a few years back, I was astonished and impressed by the vast number of young people ranging from primary school children to A level students coming together and experiencing classical music and what it can offer. I think when given the chance, many will turn their head with curiosity, and so providing a variety of platforms for classical music is probably the most important way to growing our audience. 

What is your most memorable concert experience?

It’s hard to narrow down, but one that speaks out is a concert that took place during an orchestral tour in Spain with the Yehudi Menuhin School orchestra. Something about performing amongst your peers and friends and putting the hours and sweat into working on the pieces made the performance experience euphoric. I remember feeling like a unit with the rest, breathing together, feeling the pulse as one. It was nothing like what I’d felt before. 

As a musician, what is your definition of success?

It’s impossible to state what my definition of success is as my values, expectations and desires are ever changing and growing by the day. My possible idea of success now I’m sure would be far from what my idea of success is in 10 or 20 years’ time. What I do wish for as a musician and in life is to take the risks and live life with fewer regrets. 

What do you consider to be the most important ideas and concepts to impart to aspiring musicians?

I consider myself still aspiring every day and I feel I have not lived a long enough life to have a concrete idea. However, from what I’ve learnt, it doesn’t happen overnight. Perseverance is a huge part of this profession and nothing comes easy and nice. On the other hand, the rewards and experiences should make it all completely worth it and more. Musicians have a long career for a reason. It lives long even after your time is over. 

Coco Tomita’s debut album Origins (with pianist Simon Callaghan) is released on the Orchid Classics label on 4 March 2022. Find out more

Hailed by critics and audiences alike, the UK/Germany-based Japanese violinist Coco Tomita gained public recognition after winning the BBC Young Musician 2020 Strings Category. Her success led to an invitation to record a debut album with Orchid Classics, numerous approaches by music festivals across the UK, and an extensive concert tour of Japan, her home country.

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