Italian violinist Stella Di Virgilio is our musician for the month of May. This is her second year of playing with the London Firebird Orchestra. This is her story…
Can you tell us something about your musical training and professional development?
I grew up in Italy where I started playing piano from the age of 5. I still remember how much I loved playing duets with my sister and best friend. When I was 8 I realised I wanted to play violin. After studying violin for 9 years at the Conservatoire in Milan I moved to London and graduated with a Masters from Trinity Laban Conservatoire, after studying with John Crawford.
Since then I have been teaching for Lambeth Music Service, freelancing with orchestras and ensembles around London and abroad, and performing in music festivals in Cornwall, Estonia, Sweden and Turkey.
How long have you been involved with Firebird and what other musical groups are you involved with?
I have been involved with the London Firebird Orchestra since 2016. Over the past couple of years I have also:
performed in Ivan Putrov’s ‘Men in Motion’ ballet gala at the London Coliseum
played with the BBC Concert Orchestra in a conducting masterclass with Marin Alsop
Lead the second violin section with the London Mahler Orchestra conducted by Daniel Capps
Participated in the St Endellion Festival working with artists including Martyn Brabbins, Mark Padmore and Susan Bullock.
I also regularly perform with the Little Orchestra, Orchestra Vitae, Amadeus Orchestra, Women of the World Orchestra and the London Musical Theatre Orchestra.
Tell us some of the highlights of your career to date…
On Remembrance Friday 2016 I performed Mahler’s Symphony No.2 with the London Mahler Orchestra to a sold-out Southwark Cathedral (in candlelight!). With over 100 musicians and 150 singers on stage, this was the biggest musical project I have been involved with, and it was a very emotional and hugely inspirational experience for me.
In the last couple of years, I have also been performing with the Street Orchestra of London conducted by Gijs Kramers.
Our tours are always unique experiences performing around 5 concerts a day, with repertoire ranging from Haydn and Mozart to Bernstein, Sidney Bechet and Snoop Dogg. Our aim is to bring music to everyone, completely free of charge in parks, squares, schools, libraries, refugee and detention centres, nursing homes etc.
Playing with this orchestra is definitely one of the most eye-opening and exciting musical experiences I have ever taken part in bringing music to those who are least likely to be exposed to it as part of their daily lives. It’s so easy to lose touch with how instinctive and joyful connecting with other people can be, and it’s a wonderful privilege to be able to do this through music.
And what about your future ambitions in music?
I have a real passion for opera and I would like that to be a big focus of my future orchestral career. There are very few things which move me as much as a performance of Verdi or Puccini!
I also have a very strong belief in the educational and connective powers of music and I want to continue working with organisations which bring music to disadvantaged communities and people surviving war and other psychological traumas.
What do you see as the value of Firebird to musicians like yourself?
I enjoy playing with the Firebird Orchestra because the level of musicianship is always very high, and there is a very friendly atmosphere in the orchestra. All the musicians I have met there are roughly in the same place in their careers. This means that there is little competition and that everyone always contributes positively towards each performance.
I believe the orchestra is a great opportunity for recent graduates to bridge the transition into professional playing, and working with them has been a great source of inspiration for me and other musicians alike.