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.’’