Spreading her wings: emerging conductor Nicky Gluch

A journey across Europe



We first heard from Nicky Gluch in February, when she blogged about chasing her dream of conducting. Now, she takes the plunge and tells us about her adventures.

There comes a time when any bird has to take its first solo flight. A wise bird hopes for good conditions, low wind, soft ground. But even with these, there will be always be something terrifying about taking the plunge.

I, the bird following my musical path, took this great leap in June. I had been lucky enough to be appointed conductor of the medical orchestra at UNSW, and for 12 weeks we had worked out how to make music within the scope of our time and resources. Come concert day, I was faced with a duality. On one hand, I was the proud mother praying that my babies would soar – and on the other hand, I was myself a fledgling.

I had never conducted a full concert. With heart racing, I gave the downbeat, and though there were some imperfections, we got through the first piece. With that confidence we continued, making better and more beautiful music until we reached the climax: Beethoven’s first symphony. I had told the students how Beethoven had broken ground in writing this piece; how he, in his young adulthood, had dared to change the musical world. Now, more than two centuries later, we were showing that his daring was not in vain.

Carried by this success, I boarded the plane to Europe the following day. A bird may follow a trail of breadcrumbs, but soon it will grow a taste for some things over others. I had found myself drawn to religious music, and finding that my winter’s teacher was to guide us through Mozart’s Requiem, I returned to Berlin.

What a wonder it was to work with a choir, to learn how to make music so ecstatic and transcendent. As in all workshops, I was fuelled by my companions. Through affinity or the opportunity to walk the gardens and speak of life, these moments provided nourishment to balance the critique we had come to face. Two pieces were divided across 15 conductors and so, as a group, did we feel elation. But then, as always, we had to return to our individual lives.

I could have returned to Sydney, but once on the other side of the world, it made more sense to stay. In Poland, I found there to be another workshop and, more interestingly, a novel competition. So I applied and hoped for the best. On my acceptance, I found myself with 16 scores to learn so I crossed to the Swiss border and studied amongst the vineyards.

Slowly, I made my way back to Berlin. I stopped in Wiesbaden and Leipzig to indulge in Europe’s rich musical history. From Berlin, I caught the train to Warsaw and from there, a bus to Radom.

It was time to go back and confront history

On any journey, we sometimes find ourselves returning home. I have Polish heritage and after 100 years, it was time to go back and confront history. I kept feeling that Shostakovich’s Chamber Symphony, Op. 110a had been chosen especially for me: a piece dedicated to the victims of fascism and war. Music to help me make peace.

The workshop was like and unlike anything I’d been to (but the hungry bird will grasp at anything), and the competition incredibly fascinating. Its novelty was that the judges were placed behind a screen. No prejudice could come in to the result, for all that could be assessed was sound. Forty of us were permitted into the experiment, and half made it through each day. Our fascination was in comparing what we saw to the judges’ verdict – our minds constantly ticking over as to what this said about the art we had chosen to pursue.

I am looking for that next tree and that soft landing

My breadcrumb trail has once more led to things beyond my imaginings. I have learnt so much and still need time to absorb all that I can. But while much fun can be had in adventure, it’s now time to lay down more concrete plans. Every first flight must be followed by a second, and so now I am looking for that next tree and that soft landing. A fledgling has to be brave, after all!



Read more of the journeys experienced by emerging artists as part of our Young Writers’ Month.


Images supplied. Featured image of a Polish sky by Jakub Jankiewicz via Flickr, CC-BY-SA-2.0.

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