when you are a true diva, you only need one namecher, madonna, aretha. such is the case with violin virtuosa vanessa-mae. born vanessa-mae vanakorn nicholson to a singapore hotel manager and a pianist, the artist who would come to be known only as vanessa-mae enjoys a mixedchinese and thaicultural heritage. sharing the same birthday (27 october) as fellow single-named, historic composer and violinist, paganini, perhaps it's no wonder the considerable talent that this child, born nearly two hundred year later, would begin to express as she matured. trained in the piano, by her mother, from an early age, vanessa-mae earned the title of british young pianist of the year at only eight years of age, after she and her mother moved to great britain, following the separation of her parents. in london, vanessa-mae's mother, pamela, met graham nicholson, who would become vanessa-mae's step-father.
having taken up violin, some three years prior to winning the young pianist of the year award, vanessa-mae decided to set aside her interest in the later to concentrate on the former. at age nine, she was penning her own cadenzas to accompany mozart compositions and, a year later, participated in her first concerto performance, with the london philharmonic orchestra. at eleven, the director of the royal college of music was moved to identify vanessa-mae as a true child prodigyjust like mozart and mendelssohn, before her. by the age of thirteen, vanessa-mae set a world's record by being the youngest person to ever record violin concertos by both tchaikovsky and beethoven. not content to rest on her laurels or to allow the exhuberance of youth be yoked by the stringency of classical music, vanessa-mae began experimenting with alternative violin music that combined the use of acoustic and electric instruments. though there is always controversy when a classically trained musician strays from classical music, vanessa-mae's experimentation has been met with resounding acceptance, across the globe. in fact, it is unlikely, had she remained solely within the realm of classical music, that she would have become anything more than a flash-in-the-pan oddity that received wide-spread recognition before slipping back into classical obscurity.
though she already had three recording to her credit, it was the release of the violin player, in 1995, that marked a radical departure for vanessa-mae and, by virtue of her stature within the industry, all of classical music. many people were too busy dancing on crowded dance floors to the single "toccata : fugue" to notice that vanessa-mae has broken another record by becomming the first classical music artist to appear on billboard magazine's dance music chart. additionally, with multi-platinum sales and chart standing in over twenty countries, vanessa-mae made a name for herself as great britain's most successful musical export of the year, while a brit award nomination as best female artist marked her as the first instrumentalist and classical artist to have ever received the honor. vanessa-mae supported the violin player with a world-wide tour very aptly entitled red hot. with performances in vietnam, singapore, the united states, poland, switzerland and a host of other countries, vanessa-mae has introduced fans of rock and classical music to one another, as well as giving a home to those who had long been fans of both. while her technical skill and passion attracted more mature audiences and those familiar with the intricacies of classical music, her unrestrained exploraition of the limits that separate musical genres enticed younger and less conservative fans. just barely two centuries after paganini applied the most radical theories of mathematics and physics of his day to his music, vanessa-mae was now using cutting-edge computer technology to enhance her music. her touring has also earned her another "first" as the first classical artist to headline a show at the royal festival hall. both that performance and her sold- red hot performance, that same week, were filmed and aired on british television, as well as being released commercially on video.
aside from having shared concert billing with such notable artists as annie lennox, rod stuart and status quo, vanessa-mae has received a variety of honors, commemorating her contribution to the world of music. she has been presented with the german bambi for best classical artist of the year an has been invited to address the distinguished oxford union debating chamber. founded during paganini's lifetime, it's likely that another "first" was recognized when those in attendance gave the singapore-born, chinese-thai-british diva a standing ovation. in the united states, praise was equally as forth-coming, with invitations extended and accepted to appear on the tonight show, and to be the first non-u.s. citizen to perform the national anthem at a world series play-game. the press has been no less generous, with articles in major publications such as time and newsweek, and international newspaper coverage of her times square performance, which wreaked havoc upon manhattan traffic.
since the release of the violin player, vanessa-mae has produced a number of albums that magically fuse her extreme technical competence with more modern sensibilities and production techniques. the juxtapositioning of respectability and sexuality present on both the original four seasons and storm is best exemplified by vanessa-mae having been invited to be the only non-hong kong native to perform at the re-unification ceremony and the only classical artist to be featured on janet's the velvet rope album, in the same year. the release of storm, vanessa-mae's musical wanderlust extends beyond the violin, to the realm of vocals, which she tackles with equal aplomb. her involvement with the chinese re-unification ceremonies, meanwhile, caused her to harken back to her classical roots for the release of china girl.
truly, the contributions made by vanessa-mae to musical are formidable. one of the generations most compelling classically-trained musicians, vanessa-mae has inspired both fans of classical music and modern music to rethink their perceptions. she has ignored both proponents of classical music, who would have her adhere more strictly to the tenents of the genre, and fans of modern music, who would argue the validity of the violin as a viable conduit of rock's youthful exhuberance. like shiel e., on the drums, vanessa-mae has brought the violin center stage, with her, refusing to shy away from the brilliance of the spot light. "my philosophy remains the same," she explains, "to play the music that i want to play, irrespective of all boundaries. jazz, reggae, classical, pop, technoi see no reason why i shouldn't listen to or play them all". and because vanessa-mae cannot see any reason, she is a classic diva.