24th March 2006 at 00:00
Professor Lin was a big panda of a man. He concentrated on technique and making sure I looked relaxed even if I was playing something difficult

Mrs Anderson, my headmistress at Francis Holland school in Sloane Square, was understanding about me taking time off for my music. It was an academic school, but Mrs Anderson was musically inclined and broad thinking. She saw that I had potential and to realise that potential I had to work on it early in life.

It was thanks to Mr Cleveland, my piano teacher at Francis Holland from the age of four, that my musical talent was spotted so early. He suggested to my parents that I needed special training. I took up the violin when I was about five and when I was eight I went to China for six months' intensive tuition. Mrs Anderson was really cool about letting me go.

I studied with a big panda of a man called Professor Lin at Beijing Conservatoire. He concentrated on technique and making sure I looked relaxed even if I was playing something difficult. The problem was that Professor Lin didn't speak English. My mother was with me for the first three months and she speaks very good Mandarin and was able to translate, but for the next three months my grandmother was with me and she speaks only basic English, so I had to learn Chinese very quickly.

By the time I was eight I was only going to school for half a day and spending the rest of the time concentrating on my violin. I started to tour when I was 12 and then spent about one week in every month at school because the rest of the time I was recording, rehearsing or travelling. I made my first crossover album when I was 14 and by 16 I was touring virtually non-stop.

When I was there, I loved school. I loved the social aspect of it, but by the age of 14 it was really just somewhere I went to hang out with my friends when I wasn't working. I found it particularly frustrating to get hooked on a subject and then have to go on tour and catch up by taking notes from my friends.

Eventually, of course, I had to knuckle down to GCSEs, and because of my bizarre schedule I had private tutors who taught me in a spare room on the top floor of our house in Kensington. It's amazing how much you can achieve in six months one to one with private tutors. I took seven GCSEs and passed them all, but unfortunately I got a couple of B grades; I was hoping for straight As.

Chris Kubiak was my favourite tutor. He was an American, of east European descent, living in London. He taught me English, which was my favourite subject because I loved my teacher. He was about 35 then with messy blond hair, sneakers and his shirt always half tucked in and half out.

Chris's classes would go on and on (at no extra cost). We both became so engrossed that the time flew and sometimes lessons which were supposed to last an hour would go on for two, three or even four hours. He was an inspirational teacher. He encouraged me to ask questions, which I liked.

Being an only child and spending so much time in the adult world of professional music, I felt at ease in adult company. He'd taken a PhD but couldn't find a job that rewarded him appropriately for his expertise.

After I'd finished my exams he hung around for a couple of years and then went back to the United States to study law. We kept in touch and met up when I went on tour in the US.

I started to do A-levels but was travelling so much I could never fit in the lessons. I missed out on a lot because my music career began so early and I wish now I'd had a tutor with me on the road. I was passionate about music, but I would like to have had the option of more study. I didn't even get around to taking my driving test until I was 23.

Violinist Vanessa-Mae was talking to Pamela Coleman

The story so far

1978 Born Singapore

1981 Moves to London with mother and adoptive father

1982-85 and 1986-93 Francis Holland school, Sloane Square, London

1983 Begins studying violin

1985-86 Kensington girls' school

1986 Studies violin technique at Beijing Conservatoire

1988 Appears at Schleswig-Holstein Festival and makes concert debut with London Philharmonic Orchestra

1990 First album, My Favourite Things

1995 First crossover album, The Violin Player

1997 Performs at ceremony to mark Hong Kong's reunification with China

2004 Album, Choreography, released

2005 Tsunami benefit concert in Bangkok

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