Violinist Louisa, 16, bids to reach final of world renowned Menuhin competition
An English schoolgirl has reached the semi-finals of the world renowned Menuhin Competition for young violinists, making her the first Briton to do so since 1983.
Louisa Staples, 16, of Battersea, London, is one of nine still competing for the trophy, making her the first Briton to get to the penultimate stage in 33 years.
Founded in 1983 by the American violinist Yehudi Menuhin, widely regarded as one of the greatest musicians of the 20th century, the competition has since become a showcase for some of the world's brightest violin proteges.
The winner of this year's competition stands to win £10,000, as well as being loaned a golden period Stradivarius violin - rumoured to be worth more than £5 million - for a year.
The only other Briton to reach the finals was Tasmin Little, a semi-finalist in 1983, who has since gone on to be awarded an OBE for her award-winning career as one of the nation's most successful classical violinists.
Since then the competition has been dominated by American, Russian and Chinese students, but now Louisa has been given the opportunity to win the coveted prize in her first international event.
Speaking before the semi-final, which takes place at the Duke's Hall at the Royal Academy of Music this Wednesday, Louisa said she was feeling "excited, nervous - and a tad apprehensive".
"I'm very excited, it's my first competition, so I'm thrilled to be through to the semi-finals," she said.
"But it's very stiff competition, so I've been trying to stay calm and just focus on practising ahead of the event."
Brought up in a family of string musicians, Louisa attended Broomwood Hall School, Balham, before entering the Menuhin School in Surrey, aged eight.
With her eyes set firmly on becoming a professional violinist, Louisa spends up to six hours a day practising, although she pointed out that she does take the "occasional" day off.
"My parents have been incredibly supportive, and have really helped me to pursue my ambitions," she added.
"Getting this far in the competition is far further than I ever expected, but I'm making sure I don't get too stressed. It's important not to overdo it."
If she makes it through to the final, Louisa will join three other competitors at the Royal Festival Hall on Saturday April 16, where their performances will be live streamed to audiences across the world.
The competition has returned to London this year for the first time since 2004, in order to celebrate the centenary of Menuhin's birth.
The final will begin at 7.30pm and will include performances from the Royal Academy Symphony Orchestra.
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