Pupil Spotlight

Meet Victor Vernicos: The 16-Year-Old Pop Sensation Balancing Eurovision Stardom and GCSEs

May 9, 2023
6 min
There's a new star on the horizon, and his name is Victor Vernicos. From the Virtual Classrooms of Minerva's Virtual Academy to the glitzy stage of the Eurovision Song Contest, this 16-year-old sensation is making waves in the music world while simultaneously studying for his GCSEs. It's not every day you meet a student who's juggling trigonometry homework with international stardom, but Victor is no ordinary teenager.

In an exclusive interview with our very own CEO, Hugh Viney, Victor peels back the curtain on his extraordinary journey. With the charm of a seasoned performer and the modesty of a dedicated student, Victor delves into his musical origins, his selection as Greece's Eurovision representative, and how he keeps up with his academic commitments amidst the frenzy of his burgeoning pop career. His musical journey is a testament to his passion and talent.

In this heart-to-heart conversation, he shares his early musical experiences, from his first introduction to music to the moment he realised he wanted to pursue it professionally. It's an inspiring tale that showcases the power of dreams and the importance of perseverance.

Victor Vernicos, MVA Student and the Greek Eurovision 2023 entry

Victor's selection to represent Greece in Eurovision is a story in itself. How does a 16-year-old schoolboy get chosen to represent his country on one of the most prestigious music stages in the world? Victor gives us the inside scoop, discussing the rigorous selection process, the joy of being chosen, and his feelings leading up to the big event.

Finally, Victor talks candidly about the challenge of balancing his school work with his music career. It's a delicate juggling act that requires discipline, time management, and a healthy dose of determination. But, as Victor shares, it's a challenge he's more than up for. His commitment to both his education and his musical aspirations is truly inspiring, proving that with the right mindset, anything is possible.

Join us as we delve into the life of Victor Vernicos – a teenager navigating the world of pop stardom while keeping his eye on his GCSEs. It's a story of passion, perseverance, and the power of dreams. Tune in to this must-read interview and get ready to be inspired.

MVA Founder and CEO, Hugh Viney, in conversation with Victor Vernicos

How's it been going at MVA this term?

It's been going great. Struggling a little bit because I've been going through Eurovision, but MVA offers a great deal of flexibility, which I'm grateful for. So yeah, all good.

How did you first get into music? How old were you?

I was about four years old when I started getting into music. I mean, music was always around in the family, but I started taking piano lessons at four after playing on the piano because we've always had a piano in the house. Knowing nothing. And I started vocal lessons at eight years old. I started playing guitar at ten, then I started writing my music and producing around 11-12 years old. That's how my journey has been going.

And how does someone end up at Eurovision? What's the process?

Okay, so different countries have different selection processes. Some countries have national finals, and some countries have closed selections. So you submit, like Greece, the country I applied for, because I'm of Greek origin. I'm half Greek, half Danish. So I applied for Eurovision to the representing broadcaster here in Greece, the ERT - they had 106 submissions this year. They cut them down to seven, then they cut them down to three, and then I got selected. 

This year was the first year that a panel of the public was also involved. When the songs came among the top seven, 70 people came and listened to all of the songs, and they voted on which songs they liked the most, and then they got cut down. I wrote this song when I was 14, and I produced it myself as well, so It feels really emotional.

Does it feel great that it's your song? Because I'm sure some of the artists have songs written for them, pop artists, does it feel even more special that it's yours?

Yeah, I'm so grateful that I'm going with a song of my own. I'm gonna, fully, purely be expressing myself on stage.

Amazing. So how much has your life changed since you were nominated to represent Greece at Eurovision?

I don't feel like anything has changed because I was always 100% with music. I work hard myself, without people pushing me. But now with Eurovision, the difference is that people depend on me too, like, you know, with deadlines and stuff, etc.

In the UK, Eurovision hasn't always been taken as seriously as the rest of continental Europe. However, Sam Ryder last year kind of changed that because he was successful, and this year we're hosting it in Liverpool. How much of a difference does it make that the UK is taking it more seriously than it used to? 

I think it'll be amazing and the UK scene is one that I've always looked up to. I love this question. I love all UK artists, and I'm so glad there's going to be a spotlight from the UK audiences here. I think your vision is going to be ten times bigger than it used to be as well. I think it's going to be huge, just because you know the BBC is handling it and it's going to be in the UK. So I'm here for it, and I'm excited.

I love your sound. We've always been cynical sometimes in the UK about Euro-pop. You sound brilliant; like you could be in the UK charts. So who are your main influences from your point of view?

Thank you, yeah. I have loads and loads of influences. I grew up with all types of music. You could go back to soul, jazz, blues, funk and all that stuff. Because my Danish side of the family is very, very bluesy and jazzy. My grandfather used to play. He had his own jazz band, and he used to play the clarinet in it. In general, I've been influenced by many doors, but one of my idols is a UK artist. Until I was around 12-13 years old my number one idol and the first person who I ever saw live was Ed Sheeran. I caught him on the Divide tour, and he was definitely one of my tops, but I feel like I've been influenced from everywhere I mean, it's Ed, it's hip-hop artists like J Cole and loads and loads of other hip-hop artists. I also like this UK band called Amber Run, I'm a really big English pop lover. I love all that mixed with a little bit of funk and jazz and soul plus hip-hop.

So do you have any favourite acts in the competition? Educate me. I've just been listening to you, and maybe the UK one. Any of your favourite ones coming up that you could recommend?

For sure, there are so many beautiful acts here and so many awesome songs. I like the girls from Czechia. I like Mae Muller a lot as well, she's very fun, and her energy is quite cool. I hope she does well because she seems great. Loreen is back, who won the contest in 2012.

The guy who's representing Finland this year, everybody's obsessed with him. He gave me some nice words about my song as well. It's probably the one that stands out the most amongst the chaos, he said that it takes you to a different world which was really sweet and stuck in my head because I really got hyped about that reaction. 

This was your Eurovision journey, a bit of your early life journey, kind of getting to Online School journey. How much did you know about Online Schools before you found us?

Not much, but I was looking for it for a year before I joined in September 2022. I was thinking about it for a while because I just wanted to find a way to have more time for music. I was like, should I drop school? But then I was like, nah, I don't really want to do that. But I wanted to find a way to do it that would be more flexible for me. And then we found Minerva, and it gave me about 25-35 hours per week more to work on music with the choices I'd made with my subjects etc. And things have worked well.

Amazing. And do you remember how you found us? 

Yeah, my mom did the research, I gotta give her props. But yeah, I'm pretty sure she was just searching for an Online School over Google, and she found Minerva. I mean, she thoroughly checks everything she looks into, she's very good at research, and when she found Minerva, she liked what she saw.

What's your daily and weekly routine for music, school and family/social life like? How do you balance it? Give me a typical day, a typical week.

A typical week would be hard to take a rest because everything is changing so quickly. But a typical day would go like this. I wake up early, around 6, like 5.30-6.30. I get up and probably go for a run because I'm trying to keep my stamina up for the stage. I'll come back, I'll check over my schoolwork and see what I have for the day because Greek time is also two hours in front of everybody in the UK, so I have some time in the morning to check out how my day is going to go and what lessons I have and what assignments I've got.

I might work on school in the morning for a few hours, see what lessons I might have missed and watch them recorded, which is a great feature you guys have as well. And then I'll go start working on social media, start editing some videos for content throughout the day and practice performing by doing vocal exercises and just in general training and then going up to the broadcaster doing the actual rehearsal with our director as well, posting videos online, there's a lot of that. I continue to write music and keep sharpening my craft, so I do that every day as well. Hopefully, get some good meals in. Hopefully, take a shower so I don't stink.

Victor on EPT News

Full on. But well done you for keeping focused. Is it tough to find time for socialising and friends?

Right, friends. Yeah, a little bit, but at the moment, I'm focusing on the main people that I want to be seeing. I'm trying to protect my own energy as well, and trying to meet the people that actually make me happy and lift me up. So I just see them whenever possible. Because it's also good. I mean, you need breaks. Not breaks, but you need time to allow yourself to get into a different headspace to be able to have energy for the thing you're working on. And trust me, I don't like taking breaks. I like to just keep going. I don't like wasting time, but it's important to understand that it isn't wasting time to go and relax sometimes. So yeah, I do find time, especially because everything is so flexible with school. So yeah, I get time, but it's hard, for sure.

So, you've got exams coming up, right? Your GCSE exams.

I'm doing four because one of them, out of the five, I'd have to do when I am in Liverpool and that's not going to be possible, so I'm going to do one of them in November, and I'm going to do the other four after Eurovision. So after the Grand Final, I think I have a four-day break and then I have my exam, my first exam.

Wow. So you're performing representing Greece at Eurovision on one day, and four days later, you're taking your first GCSE exam. Which one?

Yeah, exactly. My first one's English language.

Would it make a difference in your English language exam if you do really well in the competition? Or will you basically get no revision done because you'll be partying for three days?

I'll probably be studying on the flight home.

Okay, good lad. Wow. What a way to juggle. Would it have been possible to dedicate yourself to music in this way at a traditional school?

Definitely for Eurovision, no, because again, I have to depend on other people. And I think that the point for me is to be as efficient as possible and to be able to practice as much as possible; and improve as an artist. So the trajectory I'm taking now would be nothing compared to the past one, but it doesn't mean the past one wouldn't be successful. There are people that are stuck in traditional schools, and I don't believe that it's not possible. I just believe that this way is more efficient.

Excellent. Are there any memorable experiences, or particularly memorable moments you've had at MVA?

Announcing the fact that I'm going to Eurovision, one of the teachers was saying it in class. I just wrote it (in the chat), and then I got like a stream of bling bling bling messages in the chat, people replying, being like, what? No way! And it's so cool because it's in the UK this year and Minerva is based in London, I mean, other than the fact that; you know, it's worldwide. But yeah, it’s crazy, and that was really cool to see.

The entire school is behind you. And if there's anything I can do about it, the entire UK will be behind you too. Tell me, have you got a favourite teacher?

No, I can't pick one. I'll make the other ones feel bad. They're all amazing. But honestly, one of the great perks of the school I think, is the teachers and the way that they handle things. I mean, I just feel like the teachers at MVA are really, really open-minded. So I appreciate that.

Victor in the studio

Would you have made it onto Eurovision had you not joined MVA?

I think I would have made it to Eurovision, but I don't think I could have handled it as well as I have. Assuming I would still be going to traditional school now. So I would’ve needed the extra time to go and do it all. Plus, one of the things that they wanted to check in the committee meeting was the fact that; you know, I'll have time for this. So either I'd have to go to traditional school but not do well in school because loads of assignments would be missing, and lose loads and loads of school days, or go to Minerva and watch the recorded lessons and do assignments from wherever I am in the world. So that's quite cool.

Amazing. And for another musician, how could being at MVA help you, help a musician develop their skills and pursue their dreams?

Just to have more time to work on it. The number one thing that I think works to improve in any sector is just to spend more time on it. I mean, the more you write, the better you get. The more you do, the better you get in general. And obviously, you can travel because everything is online, so that helps as well if you need to be moving around. Yeah, those two things are the main subjects.

So would you say that being an MVA gives someone more of a chance of succeeding in music or any of their kind of performing artist career?

I'd say to 90% of people, yes. I'm going to leave the 10% out just because there are some people that crave to be in the physical presence of other people. You know, people are different. But Minerva's social world is quite inclusive as well, and it's good. I don't want to put an absolute there, but Minerva definitely works for me and I think for loads and loads of other people too.

That's great man, and I appreciate that. Now can I touch on one of your songs? In the song, Victor, brutally honest with you, you talk about losing friends and leaving school. Can you tell me about that lyric?

The lyric is ‘I lost my friends, I left my school’, which was actually an emotion I had. I wrote it before I actually left the school that I used to go to before I started Minerva online. Before Going to an Online School and stopping going to the school that I used to go to, in general, I had been leaving schools. We've been switching schools for a while, like every three years or something here in Greece. But yeah, it was just an emotion I had that I wanted to express because I was afraid of losing my friends, and I just wanted to ride it all out, and I did.

Let's go back to Eurovision. I'm so excited for you. How does it feel to be the youngest entrant Greece has ever sent to Eurovision?

That's absolutely insane. I like record-breaking a lot because I think it inspires people. Not because I just want to be the guy who did it. But I love the fact that I like doing impressive things because I feel that making impressions on people inspires people. I mean, there are many people that thought I couldn't do it at 16 years old, and there are many people that think they can't do it at 20. And just doing it at 16 inspires people to be like, hey, why wouldn't I be able to do this or that? Not just in Eurovision, you know, with anything.

You're absolutely right. You have the power to inspire 13-year-old kids thinking about music and their career, thinking about what to do about school, and they can look at you as an example of how to do it. So really well done. It is completely and utterly inspirational. 

What'd you think of the UK's acts this year?

She's great, she's so much fun. The energy coming from Mae is amazing. I'm looking forward to meeting her. I didn't go to any of the pre-parties this year. There's one in London as well. I hadn't gone. But I'm looking forward to meeting her in Liverpool. I’m landing in five days.

When you're a Eurovision entrant, do you have like a representation from the Greece Music Association, or is it your normal manager?

Right, so there are a few, we're working with a record label just at the moment called Panic Records, which is a Greek label, which is this local Sony music representative. So I have a project manager from that side, and I have a head of delegation for Liverpool from the broadcaster. And then it's just my parents and me working my own truck.

Finally, what are your ambitions for the next year or three years?

Yeah, I just want to keep releasing music, writing music, and becoming as big of an artist as possible. Big in the sense that I just want to put out good music that helps people express themselves and they have fun. I want to provide something good artistically to the music industry, to the music world and to everybody. And hope to collaborate with some UK artists and go everywhere. I just want to travel, play shows and do everything.

So Victor, what advice would you give to other young musicians who want to make it in the world of music?

I have three pieces of advice. The one is just the more you do, the better you get. So just keep doing it, keep writing music, or if you don't write, just keep practising, keep singing, keep playing guitar, keep doing all of it. The second one is networking, just keep reaching out to people from labels, managers, other artists and other musicians to work with and just to expand that connection. And the third would be to join Minerva’s Virtual Academy. That's number three.

Victor,  Efcharisto (thank you in Greek). It's such a pleasure. Thank you for the time and for inspiring so many kids around the world with what you do. And thank you for your kind words about MVA.

Parakalo (no problem in Greek). Thank you, thank you so much. I really appreciate you guys having me as a part of the school and taking this time to interview me as well. Cheers man. Thank you. 

Listen to the full interview on Spotify, with our Eurovision takeover in the latest instalment of our brand new educational podcast MVP, or If you want to witness the magic firsthand, head over to our YouTube Channel to watch Victor and Hugh in action.

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