Young Artist Interview: Kaija Lukas

Multiple award-winning violinist Kaija Lukas studied in Tallinn, Salzburg and Philadelphia and gained her master’s degree at the Guildhall School of Music & Drama in 2012. Based in London, she works as a soloist and with ensembles including the Jigsaw Players, English Chamber Orchestra and the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. In 2013, Kaija co-founded the ensemble Chamber Fayre which performs repertoire with an unusual trio: violin/viola, flute and double bass.

You come from a musical family. Did this motivate you to learn the violin?
Yes, absolutely! My grandfather was a violinist with the Estonian National Opera orchestra and all my family members play an instrument. My mum and older sister are piano teachers. My mum also taught me when I was young, but that didn’t work out very well! I remember seeing a violinist on TV when I was about four or five years old and immediately told my mum I wanted to play the violin. She got me an instrument and that’s how it started. I also played my grandfather’s violin for a while. My mum works in a local music school in my hometown in Estonia and I spent all my after school time there mingling, playing and listening to music with other students.

How long have you been playing and how much daily practice do you put in?
To be honest, I have been playing for as long as I can remember and I always have a violin with me wherever I go. I practise every day, going through essential scales and technical studies to keep up the physical flexibility in fingers and arms. It’s like brushing your teeth (that’s the comparison I use to encourage my students and make practice sound easier!). Average practice time per day is four hours, but that varies depending on my work schedule, touring, teaching etc. On a free day (which is a luxury) I still usually work but I adopt more flexible working hours. On these days, I make as much tea/coffee as I like, play as much as I like, and listen to my favourite pieces!

What violinists, living or historical, inspire you the most?
There are lots of people I admire. My colleagues and anyone who has real interest and passion for music, rather than just showing off through the music, if you know what I mean. Above all, my idols include Russian violin legend David Oistrakh and Israeli violinist/violist Pinchas Zukerman, who inspired me to pick up the viola.

Do you listen to classical music in your free time?
Sometimes yes, usually no. I like silence. And I love jazz music. I love listening to Ella Fitzgerald, Louis Armstrong – what a great sense of musicality! It relaxes and inspires me.

Do you prefer solo performances or working with ensembles?
It is difficult to say because I love them both very much. I love performing solo repertoire, creating my unique approach, expressing exactly what I want to say and playing without any compromises. But on the other hand, I also love discussions about music and shared energy, and playing as a member of ensemble provides that. I need both, really.

Do you have a standout career moment to share?
Yes, even during my short lifetime, a few adventures have happened! I remember returning from a concert tour in Azerbaijan a few years ago and receiving a phone call from a conductor who asked if I could step in and perform the Brahms Violin Concerto the following day! That was very intense! And fantastic! To be honest, I’ve never experienced so much adrenalin, and the concert went really well.

You’ve performed all over the world. What’s your favorite concert venue?
Favorite venues are the ones where I feel warm and welcome. I don’t necessarily love huge halls because these can feel anonymous and cold. I prefer smaller halls where you fill the space naturally with sound and can really react to and play around with the acoustics.

Tell us about Chamber Fayre, the ensemble you co-founded.
Yes, of course. The idea came about when we were thinking of playing chamber music with some colleagues. It is an unusual combination of instruments but we are determined to find more and more repertoire. There is some very good music out there, and we have already put together a few programmes and performed with great success. Next step would be to choose some pieces of modern music and maybe commission pieces for our group.

What would you like to achieve by the age of 30?
I want to continue with exactly what I have been doing so far – playing music as much as possible and surrounding myself with inspiring people every day. I want to create a family with my very dear fiancé and make the world a better place for our children.

Where can we find out more about you?
Website on the way very soon. Watch this space!