The trip gave me a new perspective on my approach to playing and allowed me to reach a level of playing which I previously thought was unattainable. I have been a student at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music for the past three years yet performance students only have one instrumental lesson per week and most students only have one teacher for the duration of their degree. Going to the UK gave me the opportunity to have lessons with a number of different teachers and gave me greater perspective on a number of issues pertaining to my playing. Receiving lessons from different musicians who often had contradictory concepts gave me the independence to decide which ideas were worth adopting. Gaining perspective is a critical stage of development as I transition from student to professional musician because of the dramatic shift from having weekly lessons as a student to receiving very little or no private tuition as a professional orchestral musician. When I returned to Sydney I was able to systematically incorporate these new concepts into my playing and this allowed me to attain a new level of playing. In March 2014 I auditioned for Associate Principal Bassoon of the Sydney Symphony Orchestra and I was one of three finalists along with Mark Gaydon, Principal Bassoon of the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra. Unfortunately the position wasn’t awarded however I was very proud of this achievement considering my age and I know that I wouldn’t have been able to reach this level of playing without the support of BBM. I have also applied the skills I learnt overseas in my position as a 2014 Sydney Symphony Fellow. It has been exciting to be able to share our playing with others through the SSO Education program, touring regional NSW and being able to play music in more isolated communities.
I travelled to London at the end of November 2013 and stayed with two friends from the Conservatorium High School who are now studying at the Royal College of Music in London, Benjamin Mellefont and Andrew Howes. I left immediately after my third year university recital and my return date was already set by Sydney Symphony work in late January. It gave me great pleasure to stay with friends who were heavily involved in music in London, particularly because we had played so much music together in high school. I contacted teachers in London through Matthew Wilkie (Principal Bassoon, Sydney Symphony) and I was able to receive lessons from four teachers, Joost Bosdijk, Julie Price, Andrea De Flammineis and Dan Jemison. Joost, Julie and Andrea all teach at the Royal College of Music whilst Dan teaches at the Guildhall School of Music. I chose these teachers in particular because I would like to continue postgraduate studies in Europe if possible and I saw more use in receiving tuition from teachers who are university professors rather than teachers who only give occasional private lessons.
I first had a lesson with Joost in June 2013 whilst he was touring Australia with the Mahler Chamber Orchestra. He is very highly regarded in the bassoon community as a pedagogue and he presented himself as a very understanding and patient teacher. I received four lessons from him during my stay in London and I gained valuable insight into the rhetorical nature of playing and how to phrase music in a convincing way. Joost has much experience as second bassoonist of the LSO and as such he has a very gentle sweet quality in his playing which I tried to develop in my own playing. We also discussed proper breathing and how to develop true legato, that is connecting two notes as smoothly as possible. He was very generous with his time and I recorded my lessons so I could listen back later to take notes.
I also travelled to Tring for three lessons with Julie Price. I was extremely impressed with her teaching manner and I would have to consider them some the best lessons I have ever had. We started with duets before moving onto excerpts and we worked on bridging the gap between my musical ideas when I sing a phrase and what I actually plan on the bassoon. Her teaching was very therapeutic and it helped give me a sense of calm in my practice which is essential to play in a relaxed and natural state. If I can return to London again, I hope to receive further lessons from her to fine tune my playing.
Dan Jemison was relatively new to the LSO bassoon section but our lessons were very productive and I appreciated having very similar sound ideals. This meant that he could give me different ways of solving problems to achieve the same outcome I desired. He was also very easy to communicate with as a person which is a very important aspect of teaching. Andreas de Flammineis is a member of the orchestra of the Royal Opera House and it was helpful to have a lesson with an opera musician who has a different perspective on issues and can help with problems specific to opera repertoire such as playing as softly as possible.
London made a very strong impression upon me, I found the city to be very progressive and I was impressed by the diversity and quality of the artistic scene. I went to Wigmore Hall to see two concerts, a clarinet recital by Michael Collins, a preeminent British clarinetist and a violin recital by Guy Braunstein, former concertmaster of the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra who gave a beautiful performance of the Franck Violin Sonata. I was pleasantly shocked to learn how cheap concerts were in comparison to prices in Australia and it makes me lament the relative inaccessibility of classical music in Australia.Update Your Details