BY STEPHANIE ESLAKE
How do you bring a music performance to life?
There’s a small team of emerging artists working hard in Melbourne’s inner northwest to do just that – and we want to know all their secrets.
Concerts at St George’s exists to celebrate new talent in classical music – and enrich a community with life and sound. To learn about the journey into making a music venue, we bring you this new interview series so you can find out more about the industry skills involved.
This week, we chat with pianist and Melbourne Conservatorium of Music graduate Elizabeth Hender, who is responsible for community engagement in the Concerts at St George’s Friends of Music Series. The next FOMS concert will take place this April 23, featuring Michael Petruccelli.
How did you come to be involved in Concerts at St George’s?
I became involved through Leonie Thompson and Nick Slaney who are friends of mine. Leonie and Nick organised a loan to get a grand piano at St. George’s. I quickly got on board with raising funds for the grand piano by holding my bi-annual student concerts at the church. I was also teaching piano at the church one afternoon a week and had on occasion played for services when needed.
I knew how valuable having an accessible concert venue would be for both the musicians and the general public. Leonie and Nick moved to Berlin in 2016 and needed someone to step in with organising and running concerts. Natasha Lin was approached and a couple of us who had previously been involved with the church volunteered. We caught up for meetings and the FOMS team was built!
Talk us through your role of community engagement.
Community engagement mainly involves me sourcing sponsorship for our music series. I approach local businesses and ask if they’ll sponsor and support FOMS. I also assist with our online newsletter, some Facebook promotions and with the running of concerts, taking photos, etc.
What do you bring to this concert series through your role?
I would like to think that my outgoing personality brings an aspect of warmth and friendliness to FOMS. I love having a chat and meeting new people, particularly people within our local community. My role in seeking sponsorship for FOMS is important and I believe that I am able to inspire others to become involved in our concert series. These people have the opportunity to come and share an exciting concert series that benefits all people within the community.
What have been some of the challenges you’ve faced so far?
Finding time! I teach over 70 private piano lessons per week as well as accompanying students. Finding the time to dedicate to FOMS has been challenging, but I’ve managed so far!
What are the main community areas or groups you choose to connect with, and how you incorporate these relationships into your series?
I don’t choose a particular group, but rather reach out to people within my community that I see regularly. This includes people at any local shops around the Kensington area, my piano students and their families, friends, and my own family. When we were first organising the FOMS concerts, I approached a lot of local businesses looking for sponsorship and support.
What do you feel the community looks for in a concert series?
The community enjoys seeing young musicians performing and sharing their music. Locals will rally behind local Melbourne musicians and support them in their musical journey. The musicians at FOMS have treated us to a variety of musical genres that has catered to most tastes in music. I believe that FOMS has also inspired other young budding musicians and given both performers and locals the opportunity to network with each other at the end of each concert.
Words of advice for young musicians looking to work in the area of community engagement with arts organisations?
I’ve worked incredibly hard over the last eight years since moving to Melbourne from country Victoria (Mildura). Pursing a career in music isn’t always easy, but it comes with great personal satisfaction knowing that you’re always doing something you love. Having grown up in the country, I was always involved in some capacity at local community events and playing my instrument. My advice for young musicians would be to play at as many local events as you can. Become involved in local events and volunteer to play. People love listening to music and a lot of the time won’t realise that there will be a musician who’d happily volunteer their time to come and share their music or help out. Once people recognise who you are and what you’re capable of, many opportunities will arise.
I know it’s completely cliché but the biggest advice I can give to young musicians is ‘follow your dreams and your gut’! Do what feels right musically, and don’t be scared to approach people within your local community.
You’re a piano teacher, and have said that you are passionate about giving your students access to performances by Australian musicians. Why is it important to you for these sorts of live events to take place in our national arts community?
Sharing music is of utmost importance to me. I believe that all students should have the opportunity to listen to and engage with live music as well as having the opportunity to share their own music. During a student’s lifetime of learning an instrument, they will spend hundreds of hours practising and learning. Usually this is done alone, and not many people outside of their immediate family would have the opportunity to hear them. I believe that when a student learns an instrument, sharing their music and listening to other musicians is of great importance for their development. It’s important not only for performance reasons, but for the emotional engagement that occurs when they listen and share with others.
Head along to the FOMS Concert 6 at 2pm, April 23 at St George’s. Full details online.