Kiwi vi­o­lin­ist is quar­ter-fi­nal­ist


Ben­jamin Baker was barely three years old when he begged his par­ents to al­low him to play ‘‘that gui­tar thing’’.

It was a vi­o­lin, which had caught his eye, and his heart, at a recital.

By the age of five he was busk­ing on Lambton Quay to spon­sor World Vi­sion chil­dren. Aged seven he played for Nigel Kennedy, and by the time he was 10 he had moved, with his fam­ily, to the United King­dom to take up a schol­ar­ship at the spe­cial­ist mu­sic Ye­hudi Menuhin School

This year he is re­turn­ing to New Zealand as the only New Zealan­der to reach the quar­ter fi­nals of the pres­ti­gious Michael Hill In­ter­na­tional Vi­o­lin Com­pe­ti­tion to be held in Queen­stown and Auck­land at Queens Birthday week­end.

The win­ner takes away a pack­age worth over $100,000 and Baker likes to think he will have a home ad­van­tage.

‘‘It’s one of the most won­der­ful things about mu­sic com­pe­ti­tions. It’s about what we do on the day. In prepa­ra­tion you’re just aim­ing to be at your best and be ready to play all that com­pe­ti­tion reper­toire to the best of your abil­ity and en­joy it be­cause when you en­joy it it trans­lates best to the au­di­ence.

‘‘Af­ter that it’s in the hands of the es­teemed judges.’’

Baker, 27, has been based in London since he was ten and has de­vel­oped a ca­reer as a full time free­lance soloist.

He has man­age­ment con­tracts with the Young Clas­si­cal Artists Trust in the UK and Young Con­cert Artists in New York where he was a First Prize Win­ner of the 2016 Young Con­cert Artists In­ter­na­tional Au­di­tions, win­ning three spe­cial per­for­mance awards.

‘‘This year has taken quite an amaz­ing shape for me. Af­ter the com­pe­ti­tion I’m back to the States in five weeks then tour­ing with a pian­ist’’. That in­cludes time in Ger­many, China and South Amer­ica.

Com­ing to the Michael Hill com­pe­ti­tion is a re­turn of sorts. In 2013 he was a part of the com­pe­ti­tion as the New Zealand De­vel­op­ment Prize win­ner. Now he is there as a quar­ter­fi­nal­ist.

‘‘It holds a spe­cial place be­cause ev­ery­one wants to come to New Zealand.

‘‘When you com­bine that with the re­ally high lev­els of in­tegrity and world class play­ers they at­tract and a phe­nom­e­nally re­spected jury - it’s a re­ally po­tent com­bi­na­tion.’’

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