About Me


I grew up in a household of musicians. Both my parents were music teachers and my brother was internationally renowned double bassist and professor, Corin Long.

I learned several instruments from a very early age, beginning with the clarinet at age 4, then the flute and finally I fell head over heels in love with the violin around age 10 and haven’t looked back since. I passed ABRSM grade 8 violin with distinction aged just 14.

I was lucky enough to grow up in Leicestershire, world-renowned for its high standard youth orchestra: The Leicestershire Schools Symphony Orchestra. With this orchestra, I learned the professional repertoire and, through touring with them to various countries, got to play in some of the most inspiring venues in the world. It was an amazing experience!

At age 20, I went to drama school and trained to be a professional actress. Throughout this time, I was also teaching the violin to pupils who attended the junior after school department. I had also taught pupils privately in my mother’s music department. She passed on to me children that had been given up on by their existing peripatetic teachers and I was able to coach them through the early ABRSM grades. I learned from this to never give up on anyone. All they need is the right approach.

After Drama School, I worked in Theatre-in-education before spending 11 years working for Singing Sally’s, a pre-school music and movement company in Leicestershire. Here, I wrote many of the songs that featured in the weekly sessions. In 2008, I set up my own Music and Movement company (Tickled Skink), teaching primary aged children about world habitats through music (including original song), drama and movement.

By now I felt I had gained many years of experience in engaging the very youngest of children and I wanted to apply this to my many years of violin teaching.

In 2016, I undertook the “Stringbabies” training in Glasgow. Stringbabies is a method of teaching very young children general musicianship and violin playing through a system of shapes.

I used this method on many of my very young pupils but still, my theatre/storytelling/imaginative muscle was twitching. After years of having it ring a bell at the back of my head, I finally put pen to paper (or rather mouse to screen!) and devised my own story and character-based approach to learning violin, reading music and general musicality.

This is proving a big hit with children as young as three. It’s fun, engaging and meets the very young child at their own level of development and fascination. It also seems to make them want to practise, to get excited about lessons and to be keen to progress (they want to know what happens next in the story!).

This is where I am today. I have successfully combined my two greatest loves: music and drama, to create something unique. I am also a huge fan of Mimi Zweig and use a lot of her technical exercises to improve bow control and technique.

teach the violin to children of all ages but specialize in the beginner to intermediate level of playing. I love fostering that initial spark and growing it into something amazing! I also teach ABRSM Music Theory Grades 1 to 5.

Music Qualifications & Achievements:

  • ABRSM Violin Grade 8 Distinction
  • ABRSM Flute Grade 8 Merit
  • ABRSM Grade 8 Theory

Winslow Dr, Wigston LE18 3QG, UK



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Rated 5.0 out of 5
June 15, 2021

Vanessa has been teaching our son violin for more than two years now. My son started as a novice and now he can pick up a new song and play. Vanessa is very patient and friendly when teaching. Our son loves her a lot! She is also very accommodative to our holiday plans. She deserves 5 stars!

Rated 5.0 out of 5
June 15, 2021

Vanessa has been a fantastic violin tutor for my daughters for the past 6 years. She is enthusiastic and passionate about teaching music. She is accommodating and flexible to individual learning styles and therefore brings out the best in the children she teaches. Vanessa makes learning how to play a musical instrument fun and engaging and I would highly recommend her to anyone looking for a music tutor for their children.

Rated 5.0 out of 5
June 15, 2021

Mrs Balkwill has been a real breath of fresh air when it comes to our children learning violin. In just a couple of lessons, both my very young children have grasped simple concepts, demonstrate basic practice and are enthused about learning to play the violin.

For the first time of their own accord, they have taken out the violin at home and practised what they have learned.

The feedback and progress report on a weekly basis is comprehensive and we are able to assist and support practice at home as the instructions/feedback she has given is brilliant.


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