Annalise Lam violinist

Annalise Lam, violinist

Annalise Lam is violinist with J.A.M. String Collective

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? 

I started playing the violin, thanks to some free taster classes at school. I had the choice between recorder and violin, and it wasn’t a difficult choice for me! Just after my first violin taster class, I saw Vanessa Mae playing on TV and I remember loving her music and her sparkly dress. I wanted to become just like her, performing in front of audiences and looking so glamorous. Other important influences for me are Itzhak Perlman, Didier Lockwood, Sheelanagig and of course- Stephane Grappelli!  

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

Finishing my masters degree at Guildhall, then suddenly finding that the whole world has shut down because of lockdown. It was very hard to stay motivated musically, and it seemed as if we’d never go back to a ‘normal’ concert again. It has made me even more grateful for every concert and musical opportunity I find. 

Of which performances/recordings are you most proud? 

One of my most memorable performances must be- playing violin for Gifford’s Circus on their Carpa Tour in 2022. I was playing violin right next to a clown who was jumping through a ring of fire (on horseback!), trapeze artists flying gracefully, and acrobats launching themselves through the air. In terms of recordings, it has to be JAM String Collective’s new EP. The recording turned out well and it has been an absolute joy to play with two very talented friends too.  


Which particular works/composers do you think you perform best? 

I’m probably best at playing gypsy style violin, as that’s how I first got into improvising on the violin. I remember watching Sheelanagig’s violinist, Aaron Catlow just shredding on the violin and just being blown away. When I play gypsy style violin, I feel like I can just pour my passions and feelings right into the music.  

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

I love travelling by train and going on different steam trains across the country. There’s just something so nostalgic and beautiful about travelling by train. I also love exploring the areas around train stations by foot, discovering many hidden places. I’m often inspired by new places I’ve found and these experiences definitely shape my music making. 

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

It usually depends on the concert and audience, but we try to programme a good mix of pieces. I also enjoy the challenges of arranging new music, which are not normally played on stringed instruments. My arrangement of “Nicolette” by Kenny Wheeler was a real challenge to arrange because of the sparse instrumentation and recreating drum sounds on stringed instruments. 

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

That’s a tricky one! It probably has to be either the Crypt in London or the Lescar in Sheffield. Both venues have an amazing atmosphere and audiences, which are a joy to perform to. They are also both quite intimate venues, and you really do feel like you’re taking the audience on a musical journey with you. 

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

I think that classical music has to be much more accessible. Cheaper concert tickets would bring in a much wider audience and introduce classical music to a new demographic. I also think a lot of mainstream festivals, e.g. Bestival, could have more classical music performances so more people could experience it. 

What is your most memorable concert experience? 

It definitely has to be when I watched Sheelanagig perform at the Bristol Fleece when I was 16. I’d never heard improvising strings before, let alone a violinist who played whilst standing on the shoulders of the guitarist! I loved their energy too! That concert had a big impact on me musically, as that’s when I decided to start studying jazz violin. 

As a musician, what is your definition of success? 

As long as the audience have enjoyed the music and feel inspired or emotional from my music, then that’s success for me.  

What advice would you give to young/aspiring musicians?          

I would say – don’t be afraid to explore many genres of music on your instrument. The violin might not be used in ‘metal’ music, but you can certainly get a grungy sound from it if you explore! 

What’s the one thing in the music industry we’re not talking about which you think we should be? 

Diversity. I feel that the industry is not as diverse as it could be. I’m quite often the only female when I’m playing jazz gigs, although the industry is gradually getting better at being diverse. 

What’s next? Where would you like to be in 10 years? 

I would love to still be playing violin with the JAM string collective and playing more piano. I see myself writing much more music than I am right now too!  

J.A.M. Collective is

Julia Dos Reis -viola
Annalise Lam – violin
Miranda Lewis-Brown – cello
Their debut EP ‘J∆M’ is released on 5th May. Find out more