BY STEPHANIE ESLAKE
Have you ever wondered what life is really like in the orchestra? Welcome to EXPOSED!
Throughout 2017, we’re teaming up with musicians and arts administrators from the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra to take you behind the scenes, and show you what it means to pursue a career in a challenging and fulfilling industry.
Yoram Levy has performed with the TSO as principal trumpet since 1998. In the years before, he’d worked with conductors including Leonard Bernstein and Zubin Mehta as a member of the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra. He has worked as a lecturer and Head of Brass at the Queensland Conservatorium, and has appeared as principal trumpet in the New Zealand Symphony, Sydney Symphony, Queensland Symphony and Western Australian Symphony Orchestras.
Yoram now coordinates brass and lectures at the University of Tasmania Conservatorium of Music, and is the president of Island Brass Academy with a mission of educating young performers. Let’s learn what life is like in the orchestra for Yoram!
How did you make your way into a position with the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra?
While I was head of brass at the Queensland Conservatorium in the early ’90s, I came down and played with the orchestra a few times. I really enjoyed it.
Since the start of my musical career, I always had two parallel and cross-pollinating passions: orchestral playing, and teaching. So when the principal trumpet position in the TSO came up in 1997, I felt it was time for me to get back into full-time orchestral playing.
What did you imagine life would be like with the orchestra – and how have you found the experience in reality?
As I had played with the orchestra and got to know people, I already had a feel for the social and musical atmosphere of the orchestra. Therefore, the experience was as I imagined it. Of course, over a couple of decades, things do evolve as new fantastic people join the orchestra and conductors have new and great artistic input.
How would you describe your typical day backstage and in the rehearsal room?
A typical day would be warming up in the studio; sit in the chair well before rehearsal starts, and look at some spots coming up in the rehearsal.
During rehearsals, there are many aspects to focus on depending on factors like repertoire, the conductor, and the orchestration. As a result, a typical day of rehearsing for me would be somewhere between exhilarating to never dull.
What do you feel are the strongest expectations placed on you in the orchestra?
Sound, expression, leadership, consistency.
Was there ever a time you thought the challenge of your role inside the orchestra would be too great?
Yes. When one faces challenges in other areas of life, it can have a significant influence on artistic output. The trumpet, being an instrument where one wears his heart on his sleeve, serves the ideas and emotions of the music in a very extrovert way. If one is afflicted by depression, for example, courage and focus can suffer.
I would say that many performing musicians would face these sort of challenges along the way to varying degrees.
How do you cope with live performance pressure?
There are techniques that have been used in sports psychology that I try to implement. I always try to remember that I am the luckiest person with the opportunity to play in an ensemble that makes great sounds.
What do you wish audiences could understand about what it means to play in the orchestra?
I would like the audience to hear and feel that for the performers, making music is a joy and a passion that is practised with total commitment.
What is the thing you most love about life in the orchestra?
The great music. I am so fortunate to sit in the middle of some of the greatest sounds and ideas ever written.
What is one piece of advice you can offer young musicians looking to commence their orchestral career?
Be yourself, be honest, work with people, have respect for your colleagues. If you are unhappy with the music or with your situation, stay positive and do your best. If you are still unhappy, there is always some place on the planet that would make you feel fulfilled. Life is too short and the music is too great to be miserable.
Yoram Levy will feature in Sir Scallywag and the Golden Underpants at 6pm, 16 May in the Federation Concert Hall.
Do you have a burning question about what life is really like in the orchestra?