Tasmin Little taught herself to read music in half an hour whilst off school unwell at the age of six.

The daughter of an actor father and a beauty therapy mother, she was brought up in West Hampstead and boarded at the Yehudi Menuhin School where fellow pupil Nigel Kennedy pulled her hair.

One of only a very few people in the world who have dared to perform live the fiendishly difficult Ligeti Violin Concerto, she has produced more than 30 albums and was made an OBE in 2012. The gregarious 49 year old lives in Ealing with her children aged 14 and 12. She gives around 60 performances each year all over the UK and the world and so Tasmin is clearly a busy person.

"Although I travel a lot for my concerts, the bulk of my preparation is done at home, so luckily I spend more time at home than away from it. I take care not to plan too many long trips. When I am at home, I spend a lot of time with my children, helping them with homework, and playing lots of games too. We all like card games, magic tricks, going for bike rides, swimming and watching films either at home or at the cinema. I also find cooking very relaxing."

Her daughter and son play between them the piano, flute and clarinet, which they started at Montpelier Primary School in Ealing. But although they love music, neither has ambition to follow their mother’s footsteps and go professional. “I know that music will help them in many ways during their lives, so I’m very happy about that,” she says.

Tasmin feels very strongly that not only her own children, but all children, should have access to classical music and she has worked hard to try to expand audiences beyond the middle-aged middle classes. Her passion in this area was sparked during a few hours busking incognito under a railway bridge in central London for a newspaper article in 2007. Many of those who stopped to hear her play were young people in hoodies, and she decided to do what she could to make classical music more widely accessible.

The following year she launched The Naked Violin project in which she played for free in shopping malls, hospitals, schools and even prisons, and her free download of three works for violin was listened to by thousands.

Ealing Youth Orchestra
Ealing Youth Orchestra
 

So when Ealing Youth Orchestra asked Tasmin if she would perform with it - its 80 members are aged 13-19 and make up the most talented young musicians from 25 schools across West London - it didn’t take her long to agree, particularly as the venue is around the corner from her Ealing Common home. “I learn a lot when I work with young people, it’s interesting to see how they think and solve problems. I find it inspiring,” she says.

She hopes that the players too will be inspired to continue to put in the thousands of hours of practice it takes to become an expert. “I always enjoyed listening to great musicians and it was this that inspired me to keep going,” says Tasmin, who adds that playing scales, which many teenage musicians find so tedious, should also be enjoyable. "They are a way to work on sound and technique without becoming emotionally involved."

Tasmin gained a distinction in her grade eight violin exam at the age of 11, gaining 142 out of a possible 145 marks.Tasmin loves living in Ealing, her home for more than 20 years. “It’s a great place for family life. I love all the different parks. From a work point of view, it is a quiet place to live, but marvellously handy to get to the airport and into the centre of London as well.”

If she hadn’t become a concert violinist she might have liked to have been a nurse. “Sometimes, after a concert, people come up to me and thank me for my lovely music, saying that it has helped them during a difficult time. Even though I didn’t become a nurse, I know the healing power of music and the potential it has to bring joy and comfort to those who need it.”

Tasmin Little will perform Sibelius’ Violin Concerto with Ealing Youth Orchestra, conducted by Leon Gee, on February 13 at St Barnabas Church, W5, as part of the Ealing Music and Film Festival. On February 6 she will lead an open rehearsal and masterclass at the same venue. For more details visit http://www.eyo.org.uk or http://www.ealingmusicandfilmfestival.org