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 Wynter Smith (17), double bass
My name is Wynter Smith. I am 17, and I live in Gerringong and have been playing with the Shoalhaven Youth Orchestra for about five years, now. I get to rehearsals by walking to school or driving, and I get home by getting picked up or driving.
It takes me 30 minutes each way to get to and from rehearsals. The reason I’m in the Sydney Youth Orchestra is because I try to be involved with as many things musically as I can handle, so I can have a better understanding of many types of music.
While I’m commuting, I usually just listen to music – whether it be walking, getting picked up or driving. I listen to a variety of music; basically, anything with a pulse gets me.
I dont think I’ll be physically moving towards musical opportunities any time soon. At least, not for another year-and-a-half when I’m done with school. After school, I might move up to Sydney, where there are a lot of orchestras and groups.
How can we support young musicians living rurally?
Australia can support young musicians who live rurally by providing public transport and a good musical education system. The public transportation system when you go south of Nowra is very poor, being only the occasional bus; and I imagine it is a similar case in other rural areas.
My favourite thing about being part of the orchestra would be the variety of music we play. We’ve played folk dances, romantic music, classical, baroque, modern art music, and soundtrack music. It really helps me as a high school music student to experience all the different types of music.
My musical dream for the future would be a composer or jazz player at any level. Both of these have quite a lot of musical depth, and are both interesting to do. However, being a composer is tough so I don’t that’ll happen – but it’d still be cool.
Advice to fellow commuters
My advice for young people – or, perhaps not so young – would be to expose yourself to as much music as possible. People say music is another language, and people also say that perhaps the best way to learn a new language is to immerse yourself in it as much as possible.
Wynter Smith saw his first orchestra performance at just four years old at the Wollongong Conservatorium Open Day. The Bluescope Steel Youth Orchestra was performing. He sat on the ground at the front of the audience, totally focused and engaged in the experience for the duration of the performance.
Soon after, he saw his first double bass close-up. He was five years old, and a young girl from the
Shoalhaven Youth Orchestra was warming up outside a performance venue in Nowra. Wynter went
up to her and said, “play!”. He sat cross-legged on the ground in front of her as she played for him.
From that day onward, he said he wanted to learn the double bass.
Living in Gerringong, it was a challenge to find a double bass teacher and the instrument was expensive to buy. But eventually, at the age of 10, it worked out for Wynter that the Shoalhaven Youth Orchestra had a 1/4 size bass for hire with a German bow. Their bassist at the time, Elliot Hitchcock was willing to teach him. He joined the the local Shoalhaven Junior Strings.
When the Peter Seymour Orchestra toured to Nowra, Wynter had the opportunity to play with the
PSO and John Ockwell. Wynter progressed to being the bassist for the Shoalhaven Youth Orchestra, with lessons from Abel Cross through the Wollongong Conservatorium of Music.
Wynter started lessons with Bonita Williams in 2016 and played with SYO’s Sinfonietta, making the commitment to traveling to Sydney on Saturdays. This year, he is working on Grade 8 with Bonita and he plays in the Peter Seymour Orchestra. He remains committed to the Shoalhaven Youth Orchestra.
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.