NACO on Tour: Esther Abrami is making a name for herself one click at a time

Esther Abrami plays during the ConneXXions 2019 event at the Royal College of Music on May 13. Photo: Fred Cattroll

LONDON — When you meet her, Esther Abrami seems just like any other young music student anywhere. But the petite, attractive violinist from Aix-en-Provence in France is not any other young music student.

She has become a social media phenomenon, mainly on Instagram, where she has 177,000 followers on just 377 very popular posts.

Somehow she has a caught a wave of interest on social media that is attracting attention literally around the world.

ARTSFILE talked to her in London’s Royal College of Music where she is a fourth year student. She was a featured guest on Monday at ConneXXions 2019, a featured event on the NAC Orchestra’s 50th anniversary tour of Europe.

Two years ago, she said, “I had no contacts whatsoever in the music world. My parents are not musicians.” This was when she was just starting at the Royal College of Music and was interested in making connections for her own professional development and career advancement.

So, being young, she created an online presence to make herself known and guess what? It worked.

“It helped me with my identity.” And it is helping her attract an audience to her growing concert career. It’s also helped her get valuable violins. Fans are loaning them to her.

Her latest is an 18th century Testore violin and just before that she was playing on a violin by another 18th century Italian maker named Landolfi.

The event she was taking part in on Monday involved using technology to connect young people to music. It also shows how technology can actually have a positive impact on something creative and community building. Seems like a perfect fit for Abrami.

Esther Abrami at ConneXXions 2019. Photo: Fred Cattroll

She does put herself out there.

“There is always a risk in anything you do. The first thing to know is that I share my musical journey on social media and not my personal one.

“What I try to be really honest about is my musical life. For me, there is nothing in there that I wouldn’t want people to know.”

She said she did not feel like she was taking a risk by becoming active on social media. It’s OK, she says, as long as you are careful and know what you are posting and what you want people to know.

The emphasis on Instagram for Abrami began as soon as it started to make inroads in Europe about two years ago, just as she was looking for an opportunity.

“I went on it and I saw that people were boasting about photography and fashion and different thing and I realized there was no classical music.”

She made a simple decision. “I like the violin, I like classical music, this is what I want to do, why don’t I share it?”

Seems simple enough.

“I posted a picture of me and my violin and I posted a short video and I was so surprised by the response that I got from people.”

With such encouragement, Abrami kept going.

“I never believed I would end up with that many followers.” Some of whom write to tell her that her posts are encouraging them to study music.

If there is a holy grail for classical music organizations, it is in the shape of a key that unlocks the interest and attention of young people. Maybe it just took a young person to do it. In her own way Abrami is helping to demystify classical music.

“It’s all about the way you approach people with this. You do hear a lot that classical music is unpopular but I think one of the reasons for that is because it wasn’t seen as something cool.”

She knows that sounds simplistic but she’s still convinced that’s one of the main reasons.

“Why do kids want to go dance or do something else — it’s because they think it’s cool.

“Young people are on the internet anyway, I might as well show them something that is an art, something that is nice for them to know.”

As her following has grown, she has moved from being Esther Abrami, musician, to also being Esther Abrami, infleuncer.

The result is that certain companies will now come to her and ask her to use their products such as a violin case. She only takes products that she likes, she said. Most of the products that she is receiving are related to music. The venerable violins are like that. She does get some cosmetics and other products too.

There is an educative function to Abrami’s social media activity.

“Nobody really teaches you how to be a professional musician. In the past two years, the experiences I have had managing my own career has been tremendous.”

She’s now in her fourth year of a Bachelor’s of Music. She will be graduating this year.

She plans to keep performing as a soloist and she has several booked already in places such as Italy, Mexico and Vienna. She said she likes the freedom being a soloist would give her.

“I also really love teaching and education in general which was why the ConneXXions 2019 was so appealing.”

She also wants to keep advancing on social media.

“I have seen the benefits that it can have. I get so many messages from people saying it has inspired them to take up an instrument I couldn’t ask for more.”

It’s actually somewhat ironic Abrami is where she is today. She didn’t start playing the violin until she was 11. A friend was taking lessons and her mother thought if Abrami would study with her daughter, the daughter might stick with it.

That didn’t work. The daughter dropped out, but Abrami caught the music bug and she’s been working hard at it ever since.

She studied in France and then at 14 left home to study at Chetham School of Music in Manchester and from there made the jump to the RCM.

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Peter Robb began his connection with the arts community in Ottawa in the mid-1980s when he was the administrator and public relations director of the Great Canadian Theatre Company. After a long career in journalism with the Ottawa Citizen where he served in a number of different posts he returned to the arts when he became the Citizen's arts editor.