Vanessa May: Mum's discipline techniques have taken emotional toll

ABUSED: Violinist Vanessa Mae performing at her concert in 2005.
PHOTO: Vanessa May: Mum's discipline techniques have taken emotional toll

SINGAPORE - Singapore-born violin virtuoso Vanessa Mae may have been a millionaire at an early age, but she claims her mother's "Tiger Mum" discipline techniques have taken an emotional toll on her.

Born in Singapore, Mae moved to London when she was four with her mother, Mrs Pamela Tan Nicholson, a Chinese-born pianist and lawyer, after her natural parents split up and her mother remarried.

She learnt to play the violin and to ski that year, showing musical talent, and was soon sent to Beijing's Central Conservatory of Music for training.

By 13, she had recorded three classical albums and, at 15, caused a furore when she posed in a white see-through dress on the cover of her pop album, The Violin Player, reported Britain's Daily Mail.

She has sold an estimated 10 million albums and is worth at least £40 million (S$84 million).

But her success was at a price, she said.


The 35-year-old said that when she was a child, her mother used violence to discipline her and made her kowtow on her knees twice to punish her.

"It's a subservience thing, not forgetting who is boss,' said Mae. "I was made to pull my ears at the same time."

When she did not play a piece perfectly, she said her mother and her music teacher would slap her.

"Up until I was 20, if my mother was upset, she'd be hitting away," she said. "She'd hit me on the arms and the face. It was just her form of expression.

"I was in Lyon once, and my mother and music trainer were both upset with me because of some playing issue.

"They both hit me at the same time, then said, 'Stay here, we're going out. And by the way, load the dishwasher.' Maybe I wasn't thinking about my career enough.

"My trainer stopped hitting me when I was 15, after I hit him back and he started to cry."

Her mother recently reached out to her when Mae represented Thailand at the Sochi Winter Olympics in the women's ski event. She finished last in a field of 67 competitors, reported Reuters. Mae said she has not been in touch with her mother since the games.

This article was published on April 21 in The New Paper.Get The New Paper for more stories.