UNIVERSITY NEWS LAST UPDATED : 30 MARCH
Esther Abrami was just 10 years old when she first started playing the violin, and she soon fell in love with not only the instrument, but also the exciting career her talent could bring her way. Nowadays, Esther is a classical musician and signed to Sony, and has an extraordinary social media following thanks to her commitment to transform the way we listen, and view, classical music.
Esther told us: “I grew up in the South of France, and from the moment that I asked my parents if I could have violin lessons, and I had my very first session, I just fell in love with the instrument and soon decided that I wanted to make it my profession. I joined my local conservatoire where I lived at the time. I grew there quickly, and my passion for the violin just got bigger.
“Playing the violin and making it my career was always my priority. When I was 14, I graduated from the local conservatoire, and I made it my goal to study somewhere where I could really focus on music. At the time, I was struggling to prioritise both music and school, but I eventually found this school in England, Chetham’s School of Music in Manchester, which was specifically for students who wanted to be musicians.
"I auditioned and got in, so I moved to England at just 14 years old, without my parents, to start pursuing my dreams. I didn’t even speak English at the time, and I had to learn a lot very quickly, but I’m so glad that I did it.”
After school, Esther moved to London to study at the Royal College of Music, which is where she started to consider how she would make her passion her career. But she soon realised that she was going to have to think differently to stand out from the crowd.
She said: “When I arrived at the college, I then had to find out how I was going to make this my full-time profession and how to make money out of it too. In many colleges, especially within classical music, the whole aspect of making money and living off what you do, is very taboo. The focus is on the music and getting better. Of course, that is very important, but if you want to enjoy it and want to live off it too, you need to discover how to make it your career, as well as your passion.
“In college, it is easy to just forget about the outside world and your next steps, but after your studies, what are you going to do? You need to think about what is next. Getting the best grades can only get you so far once you have completed your course. I started to get frustrated with how things were presented at college, as it was very different to my idea of how I wanted to share music. It was all only targeted for a certain audience, and anything that was fun or original was always pushed away. I realised that ultimately, I didn’t have anything to lose by taking a few risks and trying something new. That is how I started performing on social media.
“I started off by sharing a few clips of myself playing the violin on Instagram. Nowadays, loads of musicians are on social media, but when I started, there just wasn’t a huge amount of us, which helped me as it gave me the time to grow my social media following.
“At college, I was putting so many hours of violin practice in, and thanks to sharing clips on my social media channels, I had so many people watching and listening to what I was doing, rather than being stuck in a practice room for hours on end, for maybe just three people to listen to you at the end of the year.
“When I saw that people were enjoying my content and my music, it was incredible. I started to receive messages from people telling me that they loved listening to me in the morning, and even telling me that I had inspired others to start playing the violin too. It really pushed me and encouraged me to keep going and kept me motivated too. It changed my mindset completely. At college, I could get quite depressed because I just felt so lonely and didn’t feel like I was making any progress. But social media just opened a whole new world for me.”
After completing her studies, Esther was awarded a full scholarship to study at the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire, and she arrived in 2019 to complete a Masters in Music Instrumental Performance.
She said: “I absolutely loved studying at the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire. It was so different from where I had studied before, and everyone was very friendly. Previously, I found that I was getting a lot of judgement for sharing my music on social media, but at the Conservatoire, I just felt like everyone was a lot more open minded. Those around me had a mentality of doing things in a more modern way and trying new things too.
“I had an amazing time living in Birmingham, I lived really close to the Conservatoire and I was in every day to practice. I even filmed a lot of my social media videos in the practice rooms too.”
Esther now has an impressive following across several social media accounts, including over 383,000 followers on TikTok, as well as 256,000 on Instagram, and 277,000 on her YouTube channel.
She said: “My parents aren’t musicians, so when I was younger, I had no real guidance as to how to make my dream a reality, or contacts within the industry, so I had to learn a lot by myself. Creating content, and thinking about image, promotion and marketing too, not only helped me to build a community of followers, but also industry contacts.”
“Thanks to my social media following, I started working with radio stations like Classic FM. Our partnership together has really grown, right up until last year when they invited me to perform at the Royal Albert Hall. Making my solo debut at the Royal Albert Hall was just a dream come true.
“I have also had the opportunity to work with many fashion brands too, including brand partnerships with the likes of Lancôme Paris, The Kooples and Zenith Watches, and I am also a brand ambassador for Givenchy and Beaumont. These are things that I could never have got if it wasn’t for me being passionate about my social media channels.”
Soon, Esther got noticed by Sony, a move that changed everything for the graduate, who released her self-titled debut album in 2022.
She said: “With Sony, I was invited by them to a concert as a ‘music influencer’ and share my experiences of the concert. I met the team then, and I got on well with them.
“After that, one of the artists from the concert wanted a violin to play on one of her singles. She knew me from Instagram, and she reached out and asked me if I’d like to play on her song. She put me in touch with her team at Sony, and it was the same team that I had previously met a few months prior.
“We worked together on the track and soon after, the team at Sony said that they wanted to sign me and record an album, which was just amazing. Growing up, I always felt behind my peers and like I wasn’t someone that people really believed in, so I never would have expected that to happen to me. These are things that I had dreamt about for so many years, but I never believed that they would ever come true."
With a massive following on social media, Esther has become a real expert in what works on major platforms like TikTok.
She said: “The key to social media is the ability to adapt. Social media moves on so quickly from one trend to the next, it is fast moving and if you’re not able to adapt your content, you’re out. It obviously isn’t always easy to adapt and sometimes, your content works well, other times, it just doesn’t, and your followers can increase and decrease constantly. A lot of people give up then as they get frustrated, but you’ve got to keep trying things in different ways.
"TikTok changed everything for social media, and lots of channels are now adjusting and changing to be more like the channel. TikTok requires you to have a lot of ideas, and you must find a concept that makes you stand out and makes your content appealing to watch. With TikTok, the content must be super short, fun, trendy, and even better if it’s funny, and it can be a real challenge to do that with classical music.
“The other big thing for social media is being creative, staying open minded and keeping on top of what is trending right now, and also keep questioning how those trends can relate to me and my work.
“What I love the most about TikTok is the fact that it’s a bit more real compared to other social media platforms. Instagram is very polished, and it can be very superficial. On TikTok, your videos can be seen my absolutely anyone, and I love that it allows me to be creative, fun, and positive too.”
Esther is now keen to continue to use her voice as a content creator and influencer, as well as her social media channels, to break down the barriers around classical music.
She said: “Classical musicians being on social media really helps to make the genre more inclusive, and it’s great to see it moving ahead. I have recently become Artist in Residence and Creative Partner for the English Symphony Orchestra, which includes collaborations with them on social media, as they are looking for that new audience.
“Social media isn’t something that all classical musicians need, and people should feel free to do what works for them, but we need to work together to make the genre more inclusive, so people listen to it more.
“I’ve never understood why so many people don’t listen to classical music; it is incredible. It is a genre that has a lot of judgement around it, but all it takes is for one person to share it on a platform like TikTok and show that it is cool, which helps to really break down barriers and get rid of any kind of judgement that classical music is only for rich and older people. It is fun to listen to!”
As for advice for current students, Esther has picked up a lot of life lessons along her road to success.
She said: “My advice to current students is to ignore judgement. It’s so easy to say it, but so hard to do. Don’t fear doing what you really want to do just in case you’re scared of people judging you, of people talking behind your back. It’s so easy to end up not doing it because you don’t want to upset those around you, but it is your life. After college or university, you’re going to be left with what you built during your studies.
“Also, it’s never too late to do what you want to do. In classical music, you’re often made to feel like if you’re not a prodigy or haven’t been playing with an orchestra since you were 12 years old, that you’re never going to become anything. It’s so far from the truth. I didn’t play with my first professional orchestra until I was 21. I was ‘behind’ for a long time, so do not be discouraged by timings and how far along you are in your music career.
Esther now has big plans for the future, with the goal to turn her social media followers into audience members at her concerts.
She said: “My favourite thing about my job and what I do is the freedom that I have. Every day is different, and my job brings together everything that I love, from travel and organising my days the way I want, to playing music and creating content. I also love the sociable aspect of it too, I love meeting new people and working with them on collaborations and projects too.
“The next step for me is to transform social media followers to audience members and people who would come to my concerts. The first step is to bring in a new audience, especially those who wouldn’t normally listen to classical music, and then convert them into being fans of me and my music.
“I also want to keep growing and working towards making my genre as popular as any other music genre. Eventually, I want young people to listen to classical music in the same way that they would listen to pop, rock and everything in between.”