Music > catwalk for the classical violinist/Hugo Boss model, Charlie Siem

Music > catwalk for the classical violinist/Hugo Boss model, Charlie Siem

British model Charlie Siem was spotted by Mario Testino and has been the face of brands such as Dunhill London, but he makes it clear music is his passion

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Cool. Very cool, Mr Siem.
Photo: George Bamford

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Smart and street - this juxtaposition reflects Siem's success in two very different worlds.
Photo: George Bamford

Charlie Siem is part of two seemingly unrelated worlds. The musical world, where he has been praised as one of the bright young stars of classical music, and the fashion world, where he has modelled for Dunhill London and Hugo Boss.

Born and raised in Britain, it was mere chance that introduced the 29-year-old to the violin, because neither of his parents were musical. Despite that, Siem was drawn to the instrument.

He started playing the violin when he was just three years old. He performed his first concerto with an orchestra at age 15, played with Britain's Royal Philharmonic Orchestra at 18, and has been gaining popularity ever since.

"It's one of those things where I have to accept that destiny plays a part in our lives, because it's one of those things that chose me," Siem says.

His entry into the fashion world was equally random. Famous photographer Mario Testino saw one of Siem's performances in Cuba and invited him to an event where there were lots of celebrities. There, Siem was invited to model for Dunhill the very next day. "It's one of those things where you follow the road presented to you. I never aimed to be in the fashion world at all."

Despite his achievements in both fields, he makes it clear that violin is his passion, and that's where he focuses his efforts. "I don't think of them as two separate careers. The only reason I accepted the fashion exposure is because I think it's built my profile as a violinist as much as anything else."

And built his profile it has. On Saturday, Siem will play at the City Hall Concert Hall with the City Chamber Orchestra, and he is also giving a violin master class this Sunday from 3pm-5.30pm at the Cultural Centre Concert Hall.

"The goal is playing the violin. Music is my passion; that's what I've been inspired by my whole life," he says. "Modelling is just something on the side that helps me do what I love."

But his success hasn't stopped him from striving to continue improving. Instead of setting big goals, Siem focuses on steady progress. "Sure I want to expand my career, reach more people and do things on a bigger scale, but there's no end goal. I just think about moving forward."

His goal sounds rather modest for such an acclaimed performer. "I'm trying to become a better musician. If I can get to the end of the day and I've practised well, I've made progress. For me, success is having an entire day of productivity and feeling satisfied at the end of it."

Siem thinks one of the greatest challenges for an artist is to stay inspired.

"Every time you go on stage, you need to feel like it's the first time, and you're playing that piece for the first time. I'm always searching for things that inspire me," he says.

His own inspirations include violinists who were popular in the 1950s and 60s, like Jascha Heifetz and Christian Ferras. "Players from that era had such a distinctive way of playing that is very different from the way players are today. Now they're cleaner and more polished, but they lack the rougher, more personal edge."

No stranger to criticism himself, he advises students not to dwell on negativity. "There's something wrong if everybody likes you. It means you're not challenging them," he says.

"It's probably not a good sign if no one likes you, but if 50 per cent of people don't like you it means you're challenging them. And that's OK. The key is to realise people's opinions are people's opinions and not take it too seriously."

This article appeared in the Young Post print edition as
Not just a pretty face

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