BEFORE she started formal violin lessons at the age of four, Denise Mubin was already snatching her big brother’s violin even as a toddler.
Her mother bought a smaller toy violin to satisfy her enthusiasm, and the wooden string instrument served as a stand-in until she was old enough to attend music classes.
Discovering her passion allowed the 16-year-old violinist to nurture her love affair with the fiddle, winning awards and participating in masterclasses with renowned international musicians like Rodrigo Bauza, Jiri Heger, Maud Lovett, and Amoury Coeytaux.
Denise counts the masterclass with the latter French violinist Coeytaux to be a particularly fruitful lesson that has contributed to her growth as a musician.
She said: “He taught me a lot. If I had another chance to meet him, I would like to play for him, to see how I’ve progressed all these years.
In March this year, the aspiring professional violinist played with an orchestra for the first time, performing with the Selangor Symphony Orchestra, and she is also on the list of musicians with the Malaysian Philharmonic Youth Orchestra.
Born and raised in Seremban, Denise is also part of a four-member chamber music group called The Seremban Quarter, alongside her brother.
While she doesn’t have a dream stage, Denise, who listens to all types of genres, says all she wants to do is “to show people what music is.”
As she puts it: “I want to tell people that classical music is still here and it’s still enjoyable. It’s different from pop music but it’s still something that really speaks to your soul.”
What is the coolest thing about playing the violin?
“The coolest thing? I don’t know, I get to play in front of everyone, and I get to speak with my violin and not with my voice. I think that’s the coolest.
“If the audience understands and communicates with me [through] my violin, I think that’s cool.
“It’s kind of like, I speak with music, and not with my words, my voice.”
Can you tell me the story and significance behind your violin?
“It was made by an Italian, [Francesco] Bissolotti. I have already been with it for six, seven years now, this violin. I kind of like it very much, so for a long time now I’ve been carrying it to so many places.
“I think that’s like my ... I don’t know, my heart, kind of like carrying my heart.
“It’s precious for almost every musician. I mean, like, they always have something that they hold on to. So for musicians like us, we really, really just like [the] violin or the viola or the cello, it is really something we hold on to.”
Do you have a particular piece that you enjoy playing?
“Right now, I’m learning this piece called [Sonsounces]. It’s a concerto.
“It’s kind of like learning a new style, but I really enjoy playing it because it’s a totally different style than what I would play.
“It’s kind of like French music, really romantic kind of style.”
What are the pieces you usually play?
“Straightforward, with kind of an impact [like] Kreisler’s Praeludium and Allegro, that piece is really straightforward.”
What is a misconception you hear about playing classical instruments?
“Musicians always have a life, so we’re not always just listening to classical music. We’ll listen to a bunch of music, like Taylor Swift, Ariana Grande.
“I [listen] to classical music, pop music, even K-pop. I listen to all of that, I listen to every kind of music.”
Who has inspired you most with what they’ve accomplished?
“I actually really admire my brother. He’s studying in Singapore now. He works hard for everything. I think that’s what I lack, hard work.
“And I kind of want to be like him, when I’m older. He’s accomplished more than I ever will. So I think I really want to get that kind of image, like him.”
What is one thing you think everybody should try at least once in their lives?
“The violin! They should go play it. It’s easy at the beginning for kids but as it gets to a difficult grade, it becomes very frustrating sometimes.
“Everything has its difficulties, but I think it’s fun. It’s music. You just won’t really hate it.”