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Practice makes perfect

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Jackson Spurling still remembers his first violin recital. He was 5, and so small he plucked the instrument with his fingers. “I never used a bow,” he said. “And I was so nervous.”

Now he is 17, but he still gets a little anxious despite having performed many times with the Bermuda School of Music and the Saltus Senior Orchestra.

“I think everyone does,” he said.

Jackson will be back on stage for the Bermuda School of Music's annual Joy to the World Christmas concert this week.

“I'll be playing Bach's Concerto for Two Violins, with Naphisa Smith,” he said. “I really like this piece.”

The pair have studied together at the Bermuda School of Music for 12 years.

Ironically, Jackson did not particularly like playing the violin when he started.

“My parents had to push and prod to get me to practice,” laughed Jackson, the head boy at Saltus Grammar School.

“Like most kids, I wanted to be outside.”

It was not until he was 11 that he fell in love with the instrument.

“I love the sound of it,” he said. “It has these beautiful high notes, but also a wide range. It is one of the most musical instruments and requires a lot of skill and talent.”

When he is playing, he imagines beautiful scenes of 17th and 18th-century Europe, where much of the music he plays originated.

“It makes a nice break between school and homework,” he said. “At this level, practice is essential. If you don't practice, you'll never get any better.”

One of his proudest moments was playing alongside college students in the Pienza Music Festival in Italy two years ago.

“My teacher LaTannia Ellerbe's teacher was involved in that,” he said. “That connection was what gave me the chance to audition for it. I don't know how many people applied for it, but they accepted 20 young people from around the world.

“It was really beneficial to see people who were totally dedicated to their passion.”

His dream is to one day play at New York's Carnegie Hall; he will not have to wait long to see that realised.

He was recently accepted into the High School Honours Performance Series there. Students from around the world spend a week learning from master musicians, and then play in a concert. Jackson was nominated by his teacher, Ms Ellerbe.

“I had to submit an audition recording, online,” he said. “It will be a big concert, and I'm looking forward to playing in a place like that.”

Once that is done, he hopes to perform one day as a soloist in the famed music hall. However, for that to happen, he realises he has a lot of work to do.

“It never comes naturally,” he said. “The practising is really key. It has taken me a long time to get to where I am today. I have the Bermuda School of Music to thank for that. I was very fortunate to have such great teachers early on. They pushed me and helped me to develop.

“I have been able to pursue music, not at the expense of anything else, but because it is my favourite thing to do.”

Joy to the World, featuring the Bermuda Chamber Choir and the Bermuda School of Music Youth Choir, takes place at St John's Church in Pembroke on Friday and Saturday at 7.30pm. Tickets, $60 for sponsors, $35 for adults and $25 for students, are available at, Bermuda Bookstore, Bermuda School of Music, choir members and at the door

String to his bow: young violinist Jackson Spurling (Photograph by Blaire Simmons)
Young violinist Jackson Spurling (Photograph by Blaire Simmons)
Young violinist Jackson Spurling (Photograph by Blaire Simmons)
Young violinist Jackson Spurling (Photograph by Blaire Simmons)
Young violinist Jackson Spurling (Photograph by Blaire Simmons)

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Published December 10, 2018 at 8:00 am (Updated December 10, 2018 at 7:42 am)

Practice makes perfect

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