Nicola Benedetti MBE (Doctor of Music)

Oration by Professor Gordon Campbell

Nicola Benedetti is the outstanding classical violinist of her generation. She emerged as a new star in the musical firmament in May 2004, when at the age of 16, she became the BBC Young Musician of the Year.  A few months later, she was signed by Universal and has, to date, released seven CDs of repertoire ranging from Italian baroque to new commissions, and from violin concertos to chamber music.

Nicola was born in Ayrshire, in the west of Scotland, to an Italian father and a Scots-Italian mother. Neither was particularly musical, and classical music was not a mainstay of the home, yet at the age of five, she began violin lessons, and at ten left home to attend the Yehudi Menuhin School, a specialist music school in Surrey  where she boarded until she was 15 and where she learnt the value and discipline of practising her instrument for at least 5 hours a day – a commitment she passes on to young people today.

Since the age of 17 Nicola has regularly made more than 100 concert appearances a year. Her performance career takes her all over the world, and she has worked with many of the world's most prestigious conductors, orchestras and festivals, including the Proms, London Symphony Orchestra, Chicago Symphony Orchestra and the New York Philharmonic, She has performed for the Queen on a number of occasions, including the Royal Variety Performance, and has appeared in New York’s Central Park in a television special, and with Rod Stewart for a television Christmas Special from Stirling Castle.

Raploch, in Stirling, is the focus of Nicola’s championing of the importance of music education for young people and on the wider community. For the past four years, she has carved time out of her busy performance schedule to participate in Sistema Scotland, a project also known as Big Noise, which allows underprivileged children to have  extensive musical training for free. She frequently makes time on tour in the UK and abroad to visit local schools and colleges, inspiring people with the power of music and giving masterclasses to young people of all abilities and backgrounds.

This year Nicola devised and led the Benedetti Sessions, a three day rehearsal, masterclass and performance workshop held at City Halls in Glasgow, bringing together 250 school children and music college students. She will bring the workshop to London this September to the Royal Albert Hall, just prior to her debut recital in the same hall.  This work in music education has this year been recognised with the award of an MBE.

Nicola has on several occasions appeared on this stage, playing with the Philharmonia Orchestra. Some of those present will remember her first appearance here, playing the Tchaikovsky violin concerto in 2006.  She later returned for a magnificent performance of the Sibelius Violin Concerto. For many members of this University, the fondest memory will be the evening of 14 October 2009, when the partnership between the Philharmonia and the University of Leicester was launched with a concert in this Hall at which Nicola played the Glazunov Violin Concerto. That occasion created a bond between the Philharmonia, Nicola Benedetti, and this University.

Mr Chancellor, on the recommendation of the Senate and the Council, I present Nicola Benedetti, that you may confer upon her the honorary degree of Doctor of Music.

Written and delivered by Professor Gordon Campbell on 12 July 2013 at 11am

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