As a child, he was Yehudi Menuhin’s most famous protégé, studying first at the Menuhin School (where it emerged, following Menuhin's death, that the legendary violinist had personally paid the young Kennedy’s fees throughout his education at the school) before moving to the Juilliard School of Music in New York to study under the celebrated teacher, Dorothy DeLay.
During his career Nigel Kennedy has undertaken countless international tours, performing with the world's major orchestras and conductors, from Europe to the United States of America, Central and South America, to South East Asia and Australia. Major debuts have included London's Royal Festival Hall in 1977, the Berlin Philharmonic in 1980, his New York orchestral debut in 1987 and his 2004 French debut. Nigel Kennedy has attracted an enormous amount of worldwide media attention throughout his extraordinary career. His television appearances have been wide and varied and he has given numerous public and private performances for members of the British royal family. He has also been presented with many awards including, amongst others, Outstanding Contribution to British Music and Male Artist of the Year at the UK Brit Awards; in France a Gold Award on the major network TV programme Vivement Dimanche and in Switzerland The Gold Rose of Montreux.
An exclusive and major EMI artist since early in his career, Nigel Kennedy's multi-award-winning discography is extensive. His first highly-acclaimed recording was Elgar's Violin Concerto which was voted 1985 Record of the Year by Gramophone magazine and was awarded Best Classical Album of the Year at the BPI Awards, selling in excess of 300,000 copies. His first landmark recording of Vivaldi's Four Seasons earned a place in the Guinness Book of Records as the best-selling classical work of all time. Over 2 million copies have been sold and the album remained top of the UK classical charts for well over a year. His second Vivaldi volume with the Berliner Philharmoniker won the prestigious German Echo Award for Best Performance of 18th Century music and the supreme Austrian classical award The Amadeus Prize for Best Instrumental Recording of 2005. He has also made best-selling concerto recordings of Bach, Beethoven, Berg, Brahms, Bruch, Mendelssohn, Sibelius, Tchaikovsky and Walton, alongside chamber music and recital discs.
His passion for jazz resulted in the album "Blue Note Sessions" made under the eye of Grammy-award-winning producer Jay Newland featuring a band of jazz giants such as Ron Carter and Jack DeJohnette amongst others. Released in 2006 on the legendary Blue Note Label, Kennedy was the first EMI Classics artist to be invited to join the label. In September 2002 Kennedy was appointed Artistic Director of the Polish Chamber Orchestra, a role Kennedy's teacher and mentor, the late Lord Menuhin, once held. With this orchestra he rediscovered a stunning and forgotten late Romantic Polish concerto, Emil Mlynarski's Violin Concerto No:2, and combined it with Mieczyslaw Karlowicz's Violin Concerto in A major, which was released under the title 'Polish Spirit' on EMI. ‘Polish Spirit’ has won numerous awards the world over, including the prestigious 2008 ECHO Klassik Award in Germany for Instrumentalist of the Year and Poland's Fryderyki 2008 Album of the Year Award.
Kennedy's latest double album on EMI, named in typically idiosyncratic fashion, "A Very Nice Album”, marks another bold excursion into non-classical repertoire and was recorded with his group, 'The Nigel Kennedy Quintet', made up of the violinist and four dynamic musicians from Poland. His Bluenote album focused on interpreting compositions from past masters of the jazz repertoire but, this time, Kennedy steps to the fore as composer as well as improviser. Since its release in 2009, the quintet has been making 'Very Nice Album' appearances throughout the world.
Nigel Kennedy is currently founding a new chamber orchestra, made up of vibrant young musicians from Poland. In 2010, he will undertake a major recording and international tour with the orchestra, with a unique programme of Bach and Duke Ellington. 2010 will also see Kennedy as Artistic Director of a major Polish Festival weekend, an exciting and first of a kind event hosted by London's South Bank Centre which will celebrate Polish culture and bring together musicians and artists from a wide range of backgrounds and styles. Nigel Kennedy is a passionate Aston Villa fan and attends as many games as his schedule allows. He has one son, is married to Polish lawyer, Agnieszka, and they divide their time between homes in London and Krakow.