Caterina Isaia is one of the most interesting of the young Italian cellists. At the moment she is studying in London and is happy to accept an interview proposal that comes from Bergamo, the city where she spent a few years of her life.
Why music and why the cello? Do you think your family has somehow influenced your choice?
I lived the first years of my life in Sicily and, at the age of 6, I sang in the Chorus of white voices of the Teatro Lirico Vittorio Emanuele of Messina and in the Summer Season of the Greek Theater of Taormina. I grew up in theaters because my mother was the choir director and piano teacher. Listening to the rehearsal of the symphony orchestra, I was struck by the voice of the cello. I would have liked to start playing it right away but, due to my family’s travels, I was able to start my studies in Bergamo, a few years later.
A che età hai iniziato lo studio del violoncello? Dove hai studiato e quali sono stati i tuoi primi maestri?
I started at the age of nine, taking lessons for nine months at the Bergamo Conservatory with Flavio Bombardieri and then, with the support of my family, to follow the lessons of the Sino-American cellist Marianne Chen, in Parma. Since 2015, I have been a student of Monika Leskovar. And, in October 2016, I participated in the “Antonio Janigro” International Cello Competition in Croatia. On that occasion, a jury member of the competition, cellist Giovanni Gnocchi, suggested that I try to enter the Yehudi Menuhin School in London, to continue my studies there. After two rounds of auditions (first video and then live in London), I was admitted with a scholarship covering 90% of the annual tuition amounting to forty-two thousand pounds! From Italy, the remaining 10% thanks to the Accademia Filarmonica di Verona and to UBI Banca, to which I am very grateful. At the age of fourteen, I moved to London to Menuhin School College to study under the guidance of the American cellist and teacher Bartholomew LaFollette.
Before moving to London, you attended a year of musical high school. Which of the subjects that have been proposed to you during your studies do you think are the most important for the training of a musician and which ones did you perceive as more distant from your interests?
I attended the first year of high school at the Liceo Musicale Secco Suardo in Bergamo, before moving to England. Having attended very little the Conservatory, or an institution with musical subjects, I immediately realized how important it was to have a vision of music also through the study of musical theory, harmony, and history of music; I also deeply understood the educational importance of Literature, Art History and Mathematics for the growth of a musician. I think all subjects are important because each of them offers you a different approach and perspective. Personally, I have a particular interest in humanities and foreign languages.
And now where are you studying? How is your study curriculum structured?
I am finishing my third year at Yehudi Menuhin School, where I will study until next summer. At the Menuhin School, the days are structured so that people study school subjects, such as English, German, Mathematics, Biology, etc. together with theoretical-musical subjects such as History of Music, Harmony, Composition, and Ear Training. During the day we have about four / five hours to study our main musical instrument and in the evening one hour to pay for the homework. The day starts at 7:45 in the morning with the first hour of study for everyone and ends at 8 in the evening. We receive two instrument lessons per week from the main teacher and one lesson from the assistant. The school curriculum follows the guidelines of the British government, so we have summer exams at sixteen (called GCSE) and then at eighteen (A Levels). In addition, we have chamber music groups, such as string quartets or trios for violin, cello, and piano. Chamber music is very important to the growth of each of us, both as musicians and as people.