Cornish fiddler Sue Aston may play in the privacy of her own living room, but she reaches a global audience.
Thanks to YouTube and Google Plus, Aston’s self-named show regularly attracts a large audience eager to see the classically trained violinist perform with her husband and two sons. Aston also interviews guests on her Internet broadcasts and has a regular segment called “Fiddling with Food,” where she shares recipes with her audience.
Extending her interest with technology even further, Aston is currently working on a project she calls The Diary of a Coastal Composer, which is available by subscription through her website.
“On this platform, I visit a location, and create music, video, podcasts and artwork, which is all inspired by Celtic myths and legends,” Aston notes.
A graduate of the Birmingham Conservatoire, Aston describes her music as a blend of classic and Celtic influences.
“It’s a melting pot of all the music I have ever experienced,” she says. “My music has structure, which comes from my classical background, but my melodies are strong and haunting, which reflects my love of the Celtic tradition.”
Training as a classical musician provided Aston with discipline, she notes, adding that it was exciting to obtain a degree-diplomas in violin performance skills, enabling her to go on to play in professional orchestras.
“In my heart, I always yearned for a more organic and natural way of expressing myself musically. My grandfather was a soloist at social events and parties and earned good money doing this. He taught my father to play, who then went on to teach me.”
Aston points out that for her playing the violin was part of a family tradition and a way to bring joy and happiness to people in an entertaining way.
“This contrasted with the more formal music training I received at music college,” she says.
Aston began playing when she was young, as violins could readily be found around her home. As an only child, she used to pick up the instrument to entertain herself. When she was seven, Aston started lessons at school. Of the violin, she says “It came easily to me. I remember playing through the whole of my first violin book in one afternoon. The teacher always used to ask me to play duets with him in front of the class and before long I went on to have private lessons.”
Aston describes her music has purely inspirational and says it comes into her mind, flows out of her fingers and she has no idea where it comes from. On the other hand, marketing her inspiration and earning a living involves pure, hard work, along with planning any concerts she puts on.
Career highlights include meeting and working with musicians such as Martin Carthy, Dave Swarbrick and Nigel Kennedy.
“A personal highlight has been launching my Internet shows and bringing my love of music and folklore to a world-wide audience. We performed to the Rock School judges at Summerfest in America last year – and did this live from our living room, to the amazement of everyone there.”
Nonetheless, Aston finds the profession carries its challenges, noting that it can be difficult to keep up the momentum of playing music professionally.
“It’s a demanding career,” she points out, “and can be tricky to do when you have a family and don’t want to leave them to go off traveling in order to play gigs. It’s easy to fall back on teaching and that can be an issue if you aren’t fulfilling your dreams as a performer.”
Looking ahead, Aston plans to continue growing her audience for her live shows.
“Some of my shows are produced by a team in America – My Music Hangout – who love seeing me perform alongside my family.”
Adds Aston: “If music is truly in your heart, then you must pursue your dream always. It’s a tough path, but don’t ever give up – even if you do other things to fund your ambitions. A time will come when people will get to hear you and appreciate your work.”