BY STEPHANIE ESLAKE
There can be little more fulfilling than dedicating yourself to full time study of your instrument. But while a lot can be learnt through university tutorials and going it solo in the practice room, the opportunity to enhance your craft through a broader range of knowledge is invaluable.
This July, the Australian Festival of Chamber Music once again holds its Winterschool program in Townsville, and it will give you the opportunity to attend a series of masterclasses and performances with a range of leading musicians – one of which is violinist Michele Walsh.
Michele, who held the post of Associate Concertmaster with the Queensland Symphony Orchestra for a decade, has run the Winterschool for about four years. Through her time with the program, she’s seen young musicians transform over the course of just a few days.
“You always see an improvement – it’s natural because the participants are working very hard,” Michele says. “The confidence grows enormously. We have a final concert and the chamber students are playing very differently to the way they played at the start of the week.”
The effects can be lasting, and participants are provided with knowledge to take away and use in the longer term of their musical careers.
“They’re getting influences from different people, which presents different challenges,” Michele says. “But the biggest thing is the inspiration they get – they’re so excited and learning so much, and they’re excited by hearing these artists perform and have intimate sessions with them.”
The other musicians conducting the Winterschool are yet to be announced – but Michele says young performers will have access to talent from across the world.
“The festival is a very personal festival – the participants have access to these artists and get to know them as human beings, and that is a really special thing,” Michele says.
“When the participants hear these artists perform, they have had a masterclass with them so they know the sorts of things that person is thinking about or what they’ve worked on. I think that gives an enormous insight – the combination of lessons and tutorials plus attending the concert is invaluable.”
So is working with established professionals in a group of advanced young musos a scary thought?
Well, not really. In fact, Michele considers the environment “friendly and conducive to music making”.
“Young people can be intimidated playing for these fabulous international artists. But these people are handpicked by our Artistic Director Piers Lane – who is one of the most wonderful human beings – and so these artists are all very special people.”
It will certainly break the routine of musical study.
“Sometimes, we in our Conservatoriums at universities are a little bit too ‘hothouse’, and its wonderful for young people to get out of that environment.”
She knows the feeling well as the Head of Strings at Queensland Conservatorium, Griffith University. And while we have a lot to learn from her talent, she is open to hearing from the emerging musicians she gets to know, too.
“It’s a two-way thing when you’re a teacher,” Michele says. “If you ask me what I’ve learnt from young people, that’s endless – I’m still learning.
“Every student is different and there’s always a new challenge and new perspective. The world of music changes, so we’re always developing.
“I really like doing the festival because I like working with other artists. I always feel fresher when I come back from Townsville – it’s like a battery recharge. That form of work is stimulating.”
Apply today for the Australian Festival of Chamber Music Winterschool Program, Advanced Winterschool Program, or Young String Ensemble Workshop. Entries close soon.