This week marks a special event for Melbourne’s Affinity Collective – the group journeys to the island of Tasmania, allowing its violist William Clark to perform for a familiar audience in his home state.
William completed his Bachelor of Music at the University of Melbourne, and studied for three years at the Australian National Academy of Music – on a scholarship at each institution.
An advocate for new music, William Clark has premiered many Australian works by composers including Don Kay, Melody Eotvos and Larry Sitsky. In 2015, William became violist with the Australian Chamber Orchestra Inspire Quartet, and Melbourne-based Affinity Collective Ensemble, with whom he toured Europe in 2016. He has also toured and performed extensively throughout China and Hong Kong.
William performs regularly with the Melbourne and Tasmanian Symphony Orchestras, Victorian Opera, the Australian Chamber Orchestra, and the Australian Chamber Orchestra Collective.
But here, he chats with us about what it feels like to come home with his Affinity family.
William, lovely to chat with you. Tell us how you joined the Affinity Collective.
While studying at the Australian National Academy of Music, I began performing string quartets with three other like-minded musicians. And when Mee Na Lojewski (cello) completed her study there, we decided to give it our best shot at allowing the group to continue and grow. She undertook a fellowship at the academy that allowed her to curate a series of concerts that showcased Affinity Collective in many different forms.
You grew up in Tasmania – at what point did you decide to leave the island?
I’m now based in Melbourne. I had an incredible viola teacher in Tasmania (Josephine St Leon) throughout high school, but eventually decided I needed to move away in order to continue further study, and also to meet a whole generation of new musicians!
What did Tasmania give you as a musician?
Tasmania was an incredible place to start a path as a musician. There wasn’t a huge amount of string students (particularly violists) when I was younger, so while at times this may have been musically isolating, it did mean that if you were lucky enough to find an inspiring teacher you were likely to demand a lot of their attention. The Tasmanian music scene is so vast in such a small city that, even from a young age, I was given opportunities that in many other cities would have passed me by – including a string quartet tour to France and solo performances with orchestras while I was still in high school.
Why did you leave the state? Do you feel it necessary for young classical musicians to leave?
As I finished high school, I was learning more as a violist than I probably ever have, but still wondered what might be out there. I think it’s important to go (or stay) wherever a teacher is that you truly connect with, but having grown up in Tasmania it was definitely eye-opening to experience the music scene of Melbourne.
That being said, I could definitely see myself back here one day. I regularly come back to perform with the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra, and am always warmed by the support of their audiences in such a culturally rich city.
You’ll be donating funds from your upcoming event to the Hobart Mission for Refugees. Why is it important for you to use your music for social change?
We often support a local fund on our concert tours. We find that as well as it being a way to give back to the community that has welcomed us, it can also help bring attention to a cause in a way that is more effective than a pamphlet on the street or an ad on TV. Refugee causes especially we often choose to support.
How are you feeling about coming back to Tasmania?
Nervous! We may have done concerts throughout Australia and Europe, but coming home to perform to my local town is quite a different challenge. Judging by the number of messages I’ve received from family and friends coming to the concert, I wouldn’t be surprised if I knew half the audience – much more nerve-wracking than performing to a hall of complete strangers somewhere in London! I’m very excited to be returning with an ensemble of this calibre and with a program this exciting – we’ll be performing what I think is some of the most challenging and evocative music written for string quartet.
Affinity Collective will perform Affine Territories: a program of Haas and Janacek at 7pm, November 24 in the Hobart Town Hall. The group will also perform in Melbourne and Sydney – full details on the website.