BY STEPHANIE ESLAKE
It’s learning your parts. It’s developing your technique. It’s rocking up to rehearsal. In fact, for some, it’s embarking on an eight-hour round-trip to rock up to your rehearsal.
This is life for the young rural musician. In our new series Rural Commuters, we interview performers who have chosen to dedicate their time to travel across the state of New South Wales to attend their rehearsals and concerts with the Sydney Youth Orchestras.
What motivates them to journey so far? Why are they compelled to leave their towns to take part in the youth orchestra experience? What do they do along the way?
Let’s find out.
Rural commuter Chloe Matthews (18), French horn
My name is Chloe Matthews, and I just joined Sydney Youth Orchestra this year. I come from Maitland, and travel to Sydney by car for rehearsals and performances. The trip takes two hours each way.
I joined SYO for the next step in my music performances. I was part of Newcastle Youth Orchestra, which was also a great experience, but I felt that to keep developing my skills in orchestral playing I needed the next level opportunity.
My dad drives me to rehearsals, because it takes longer on the train, and I usually study during the trip. It’s four hours of study with no distractions!
I am currently doing my HSC, so it is a big time commitment on top of studying and practising. But I plan to study music after I finish school, so I look at it as work experience!
I will move to the city when I leave school as there are far more regular performance opportunities, and I hope to work while I’m studying. I’ve been really lucky to have performance work in Newcastle, through organisations such as Opera Hunter, which has been fun and an invaluable experience.
In terms of study, the capital cities offer the best music performance degrees, so I hope to go to the best horn school. Newcastle is really lucky to have some great student ensembles and orchestras, including NYO, Hunter Wind Ensemble, where I started my ensemble playing; and performances through the Arts Unit in Starstruck.
There are theatre performances available if that’s the kind of work you like. But as for orchestra performances, they are not so prolific. Again, I have been lucky to get some opportunities through regional music organisations and that’s been great – and especially being a horn player in a regional area makes it even easier to get work. There aren’t too many of us!
How can we support young musicians living rurally?
I think that building and supporting young orchestras is so important: providing quality tutors, performances with strong audiences and developing technical and orchestral skills for playing. This is not only important for young musicians, but for the future of the music industry. Society is dynamic, and we always need to be thinking about how we can take our music to new audiences, and present it in new ways.
I was so lucky to have a public primary school with a strong band program, but this is getting harder to find. It is absolutely integral to the future of this industry that there is continued support and education for young musicians living in rural areas.
Being in SYO has given me a higher standard of playing with other musicians, I’ve been able to further develop my section skills while working with some of the best conductors and musicians. The skills I have picked up in playing and interpreting the music we’ve learned has been worth it all, let alone all the amazing performance opportunities and great people I have met. After I finish school, I hope to be offered a place at uni studying horn and music performance. Then, I will be playing music somewhere – either in Australia or, if I’m good enough, hopefully in Europe. That’s the plan.
Advice to fellow commuters
If you want to play with the best young musicians, under the best conductors and in the most dynamic concerts, you should consider SYO. It is worth the travel to keep learning.
Chloe Matthews is in her final year of high school at Hunter School of the Performing Arts. After taking up the French horn as an eight-year-old in the Maitland Public School concert band, she joined Hunter Wind Ensemble to extend and develop her skills in ensemble playing. This led Chloe on tour to the USA and ultimately, gave her the dream of being a professional musician in her life after school.
Since then, Chloe has been further encouraged by performing with some of Australia’s best
horn players, including the Sydney Symphony Orchestra’s Robert Johnson, and West
Australian Symphony Orchestra’s Francesco Lo Surdo during her time in the Australian
Youth Orchestra’s National Music Camp and Young Symphonists programs.
Joining the SYO’s flagship orchestra in 2017 has allowed Chloe to continue developing her experience and skills as a section player. Chloe hopes to study horn at university, and follow her dream of classical horn wherever it takes her in the world.
Join more than 500 young musicians and audition for the Sydney Youth Orchestras experience – wherever you may live in New South Wales. Applications open until September 22, more info on the SYO website.
Image of Maitland, NSW. Nomad Tales via Flickr, CC2.0.