Stefi Cruz, a young violinist and teacher from Aldona Goa has been selected to represent India to play in the Commonwealth Youth Orchestra. The Commonwealth Youth Orchestra and Choir are a creation of the Commonwealth Music Partnership, which has Queen Elizabeth II as Diamond Jubilee Patron, and Maestro Zubin Mehta as Music Patron. She spoke to the Navhind Times in an exclusive interview.

Stefi Cruz press release

Congratulations on this fabulous opportunity. Tell us how it came about.

I’ve been working for the last year and a half as a violin teacher at Child’s Play India Foundation (, a music charity that works to bring classical music to India’s disadvantaged children, instilling positive values and creating social empowerment through music.

Child’s Play is one of the few institutions from India chosen to join the Commonwealth Music Partnership. In May, they invited Child’s Play to send a representative in a fully-funded opportunity to play in the violin section of the Commonwealth Youth Orchestra as part of the build-up to the Commonwealth Games Glasgow 2014. I auditioned and was selected.

Where will you be playing?

The Commonwealth Youth Orchestra will have three concert performances: in the Royal Concert Hall Glasgow; and St. James’s Palace and the Commonwealth Secretariat, Marlborough House, London between 23 to 25 June. It’s going to be a hectic time for me.

Do you know the concert programmes yet?

Yes, the music has been emailed to me in advance. Our concert repertoire will include Antonio Vivaldi’s Concerto for Strings in A major; Concerto for Violin and Strings no. 2 by Paul Carroll; The Commonwealth Song and Anthem; an extract from Henry Purcell’s ‘Come Ye Sons of Art’; and a string piece also by Paul Carroll called ‘Castle of Mey’ (which is the home of the Queen Mother in Caithness, on the north coast of Scotland).

How do you feel at the prospect of this trip? How have you been preparing for it?

I’m incredibly excited as this is going to be my first overseas trip ever. And it’s going to be such a novel experience, meeting other young musicians from all the other Commonwealth countries.

I’ve been working very hard to learn the music scores. I’ve been assigned the first violin part, which has some extremely challenging passages in the upper register.

Tell us how you began studying the violin. You come from a musical family, don’t you?

My father Douglas Cruz played guitar in several popular bands, and my mother Esperanca acted and sang in Konkani tiatr. My sisters Joy, Sandy and I are triplets. Both of them play keyboard and sing. I began violin study at age 9. My long-term teachers include Caridade Fernandes, Eshvita Nazareth and George Gama.

How long have you been a violin teacher?

I have been teaching privately for about nine years, and at the Pilar music school for seven. I have been with Child’s Play, teaching at the Salesian-run Auxilium School Carona Aldona since January 2013.

Since joining Child’s Play India Foundation, it has sponsored and furthered my own professional training in several ways. Masterclasses with the violinist Rasa Zukauskaite greatly improved my confidence in violin playing and my technique. The intensive Suzuki Violin teacher training programme taught me the principles of the Suzuki ethos, and methods of teaching. Most recently, the week-long Trinity Laban Summer Music Academy course in Mumbai was extremely helpful in planning my sessions, and dealing with various scenarios in the teacher-pupil relationship, and learning new teaching strategies. There are so many facets of the teaching and learning process that I had not considered before.

What of the future?

This wonderful opportunity I have been given will certainly widen my horizons and give me a broader perspective which I can impart to my pupils as well. It also promises to be the first of many more opportunities for the children being taught at Child’s Play India Foundation, for their teaching staff and the musicians who play in Camerata Child’s Play India.

(An edited version of this article appeared in the Navhind Times on 20 June 2014)