UP CLOSE: Véronique Vella
Ms Vella is currently a freelance composer, pianist and music tutor.
di-ve.com spoke to Ms Vella about her musical career.
How did your career take off and what have been its highlights?
In 1999, I won the Malta/Ian Tomlin scholarship to study music in picturesque Edinburgh and that was the beginning of a new and exciting chapter in my life. After taking piano as first study under the tutelage of Nicholas Ashton, a wonderful teacher whose sensitive playing, personality and knowledge I found to be truly inspiring, I went on to study composition. I really felt this opened a lot of new doors for me, as it led to even more exciting opportunities to collaborate with many talented international musicians.
Having my music performed in various countries, including the US, UK, France, Italy, Ireland, Malaysia, Austria, Germany and Malta, is definitely a highlight, as is of course writing music for established artists like the Orchestra for Scottish Opera and the Edinburgh Quartet, among many others. I must say that having these amazing performers ask me to write music for them is a real honour. One of these successful ongoing collaborations is with virtuoso Irish flautist Aisling Agnew who has commissioned me two pieces to date.
In 2008, I became the first Maltese woman to be awarded a PhD in Music Composition and have since been asked to speak at various international conferences.
Current involvement in the music world
My time is split between teaching, performing and writing. I also work on Teatru Manoel’s Toi Toi educational programme, a welcome initiative by Rosetta Debattista.
What do you consider noise and what distinguishes it from music?
I think it really depends on who the listener is and how he/she perceives the sound material. For years and years musicians have played with this idea and tried to challenge preconceptions about what is music and what isn’t. Sometimes there really is, perhaps, a fine line. However, I feel it is largely subjective and this dichotomy will always elude musos and musicologists alike.
Who do you look up to?
Musicians who are taller than me.
Is Malta what you’d like it to be with regard to music?
There have been many positive changes in recent years. However, there are still many areas that require improvement.
It seems that there is an increased awareness of the relevance of the subject of music as well as a growing interest in it. Creating new opportunities whereby people are exposed to a variety of music can be a life-enriching experience. This is one of the aims of the Toi Toi programme I’m involved in.
Your most memorable performance
Each concert I take part in is special to me in some way or another. One of the more memorable performances is a concert in February last year, in which I premiered my piece Ritratti for piano and orchestra with the Malta Philharmonic Orchestra at the Teatru Manoel. That was the year I was selected to be one of the winners of the Young Composers Competition. It was such a privilege to perform in our beautiful national theatre.
A past faux pas on stage
I’m not sure if this is a faux pas, but it’s certainly not what I consider to be regular on-stage behaviour. A couple of years ago, I was giving a solo piano recital at St James Cavalier in September. Needless to say, it was extremely hot and humid so I felt compelled to complain about this to my audience and in between pieces went off stage to turn up the air conditioning.
What are you currently working on?
I'm currently working on a couple of commissions, one of which is a piano concerto.
Do you have any upcoming milestones?
I'm looking forward to having more time to work on my compositions this summer... I've recently had a few offers to write music for short films, theatre and studio recordings. At the moment I'm waiting to hear back from various people to find out whether or not they've managed to secure funding for these projects, a perennial issue for us musicians it seems.