In conversation with… James Farrough, trombonist and co-director of Jazz Melbourne

By Stella Joseph-Jarecki

I had the chance to speak to James Farrough, trombonist and co-director of emerging jazz arts organisation, Jazz Melbourne. James co-directs Jazz Melbourne with fellow musician Toshi Clinch, and together they run multiple youth Big Band programs, as well as numerous educational workshops with Australian and international jazz artists. It’s wonderful to see the vast range of opportunities they are offering to young and developing jazz musicians, out in the real world.

Jazz Melbourne have a number of events coming up: their major professional jazz ensemble, The Jazz Melbourne Orchestra, will be making their debut at Chapel Off Chapel presenting the music of Dizzy Gillespie. Performances on Feb 28th and 29th, tickets and more information can be found here.

Both Youth Studio Big Bands will be performing soon at the Paris Cat Jazz Club: Band 2 will be presenting a program of video game music arrangements on Feb 23rd and 26th, Facebook event linked here. Band 1 will be performing a selection of famous film music on March 6th and 7th, Facebook event linked here.

If you enjoy what you read in the interview below, you can sign up to Jazz Melbourne‘s newsletter by emailing info@jazzmelbourne.org

How did you find yourself playing trombone?

I started playing trombone because I was lucky enough to go to a primary school that had a fantastic instrumental band program. The director there at the time, Daniel Neal, was a fabulous teacher and he gave everyone the opportunity to start learning an instrument from grade 3. So I began playing the trombone in the school band program when I was eight years old.

I initially applied to learn trumpet rather than trombone, as being a typical 8-year-old boy, I thought it was the coolest instrument of the symphonic band. For whatever reason I ended up being assigned the trombone instead, but I think I was so excited to start playing an instrument that I didn’t mind not getting my first pick (and now I know that trombone players are in fact the coolest people in any band).

Did you have a moment, or series of moments, when you realised you wanted to pursue music more seriously?

I don’t think there was one particular moment for me that made me decide to take on a career in music. I certainly enjoyed playing trombone from the beginning, but it wasn’t until year 11, when I was really started to get into practising and improving on my instrument, that I felt like I truly had a passion for music.

There have certainly been highlights throughout the years which have inspired me to continue working towards a career in music. My high school, Eltham High, had a great instrumental music program, so I got to compete in Generations in Jazz every year, and go on international band tours with the school which exposed me to some amazing music and performers. The 2020 Australian Youth Orchestra National Music Camp was also a fantastic experience. Two weeks of meeting amazing musicians from all around Australia, working with inspiring tutors, putting on stellar performances, all while having a great time!

Saxophonist Drew Zaremba (centre) after performing two shows with Youth Studio Big Band 1 in June 2019

Can you describe the inspiration behind establishing Jazz Melbourne?

Jazz Melbourne began as an idea I had with my friend and fellow musician Toshi Clinch. We wanted to create a high level youth Big Band program, where the best students from Melbourne’s high schools and universities could come together to put on performances in a professional setting.

A key element of the program was that the students would get to workshop and perform with professional jazz artists from Australia as well as overseas. One of the international artists we brought to Melbourne was Rich De Rosa, Director of Jazz Composition and Arranging at The University of North Texas. While he was here, he worked with our youth bands and ran a personal development session on jazz improvisation which was very popular.

From the success of that workshop, we started hosting more educational courses. As the number of events in our calendar started to grow, we decided that we should become an official entity: Jazz Melbourne. From there we got involved with Ignite Lab, a great entrepreneurship program run through the University of Melbourne. After receiving a grant through one of Ignite Lab’s programs we were able to have a number of consultations with industry professionals on running a successful business model.

What kind of programs do you offer through the company?

Youth Studio Big Band Program:

The Jazz Melbourne Youth Studio Big Band program brings together some of Melbourne’s highest-level jazz students to work on professional sets of music, alongside local and international jazz artists. Currently the program includes two 17-piece big bands which are comprised of students ranging from the age of 16 to 21. The youth bands feature students from a wide range of schools and institutions around Melbourne, who are selected through an audition process.

Each band has five unique projects throughout the year, with each project including five rehearsals and two performances. This format creates a short time frame for the students to learn the required pieces, which lies between a normal school scenario and a professional scenario. Additionally, various projects feature local and international artists working with the bands.

Youth Studio Big Band 1 rehearsing Disney’s ‘Zero to Hero’ for their upcoming concerts of film music, 6th and 7th March at the Paris Cat Jazz Club.

Not So Big Band Program:

The Not So Big Band program is a scholarship program that features the top four students from the Youth Studio Big Band program, working alongside industry professionals in one small-group ensemble. Every month they play a different themed concert and to date have performed 12 different themes from Disney to Broadway, Classic Rock to Film Scores, and many more. In the summer of 2018/2019 the band recorded their debut album “The Hills are Alive”.

Educative Workshops/Courses:

Jazz Melbourne runs a number of different single workshops and short courses, ranging from Sibelius notation program workshops, big band arranging courses, music business skills workshops, to jazz improvisation workshops. A number of these are run by Jazz Melbourne’s staff, but we also aim to bring in high quality artists to share their knowledge in workshop settings. To keep up to date on the workshops running in 2020, sign up to our mailing list or follow our website to keep in the loop.

Jazz Melbourne Orchestra:

Like the Jazz at Lincoln Centre structure, Jazz Melbourne has aspired to create a world class professional big band ensemble that will regularly perform new and classic big band repertoire here in Melbourne. We are very excited to announce that the inaugural performance of the Jazz Melbourne Orchestra will be on February 28th and 29th, feat. Matt Jodrell playing the music of Dizzy Gillespie. The orchestra is made up of some of Melbourne’s finest jazz musicians including Ross Irwin, Nick Mulder, Rob Simone, and many more. Don’t miss the biggest big band event of the year: Jazz Melbourne Orchestra plays: Gillespiana!

What are some things you have learnt through running and organising the company?

One of the major things I’ve learnt through the process of starting up and co-directing Jazz Melbourne is to not be afraid of asking questions, no matter how silly they seem. When Toshi and I began the process of setting up Jazz Melbourne, there were so many logistical issues that we had had no idea how to deal with. But rather than be embarrassed or try to avoid the issues, we were honest about what we did and didn’t know and asked for help. We didn’t encounter a single person who snubbed us for our limited knowledge. Everyone we talked to was very generous with their support, which is a testament to the supportive arts network we have here in Melbourne.

I’ve also gained a new appreciation for the management teams of the music programs I’ve previously been a part of. It might seem obvious to us as musicians (and decent people!) that it’s important to be punctual, communicate absences and return release forms. But after working as the main manager for a youth band program and professional jazz ensemble, I’ve really come to understand how much of a nightmare it can be when people aren’t on top of these issues. I think musicians need to understand that if they are turning up late, or not communicating clearly with the management team, it doesn’t just affect the ensemble, but your employability in the eyes of the management. It’s something we’re told about in classes, but it doesn’t seem to carry the same weight until you’ve been on the other end.

Any projects coming up?

One of our first ambitions for Jazz Melbourne was to create a professional big band to eventually be similar in stature to the MSO. We are starting this process with the inaugural performance of the Jazz Melbourne Orchestra at the end of February. (More information can be found on Jazz Melbourne website here)

What do you love about the jazz scene in Melbourne?

I have found it really heart-warming to see how supportive most of the professional jazz community is towards younger players. From my own experience, as well as through watching professionals work with our youth programs, I’ve found that Melbourne’s professional jazz musicians are always ecstatic to hear young players play great music, which shows how genuine their love for music really is. Most great players have had great teachers who guided them. I think it’s so important to continue to foster positive relationships between students and professionals, not only for the current generation of students, but to maintain a tradition that can be carried on for when these students become teachers themselves.

James Farrough

Trombone, co-director of Jazz Melbourne

Born and raised in Melbourne, Australia, James Farrough is an emerging young composer, arranger, and trombonist. Drawing from his years of experience playing within various ensembles, James composes for a diverse range of instrumental genres from contemporary classical music to big band ensemble writing. Alongside his work as a composer, James has been involved in the Melbourne music scene as a performer for many years, playing in big bands, small groups, wind symphonies, and orchestral ensembles. James is actively involved in furthering the development of Melbourne’s music scene, having established and currently co-directing the jazz education and performance company Jazz Melbourne alongside composer and arranger Toshi Clinch. Currently studying Composition and Performance at the Melbourne Conservatorium of Music, James is working towards a career in film and video game composition.

In conversation with… Tom D'Ath, clarinet

By Stella Joseph-Jarecki

I had the opportunity to speak to Tom D’Ath, a clarinetist who is currently completing his Masters of Orchestral Performance at the Melbourne Conservatorium of Music. As part of this degree, Tom has had the chance to perform in several concerts with the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra.

In addition to playing in traditional chamber groups and orchestras, Tom performs newly composed works in six-four ensemble, alongside five other instrumentalists. Tom has amassed over 7,000 followers on his clarinetist Instagram page, where he chronicles his progress with repertoire and drilling his technique.

When did you realize that you wanted to pursue music a bit more seriously? When did you have a moment of realising, I want to do a music performance degree?

I don’t know if there was a specific point where I went, okay, I’m going to apply to a music degree… it was sort of just the thing to do. I went to Eltham High, which has a very strong music program.

So I got towards the end of high school and the decision was, was I going to take the jump into the music and study music properly, or follow IT, which was the other thing I could do. And really it came down to, I could do IT whenever I want… and I do. My IT job is the job that brings me money regularly. But I knew I needed to focus on music straight out of high school if I wanted to make it work.

In terms of when I got really, really serious about things- that didn’t happen until second year. After I went on a trip to the States to study saxophone. During that trip I met a whole lot of people that were really good at the saxophone and I made the assessment that I couldn’t do classical clarinet and jazz saxophone at the same time. So I had put the foot down on clarinet.

It was also around that time that I read Steven Pressfield’s The War of Art, which is the book that really made something click. It made me think, if I’m coming up with excuses to not work on the clarinet, then I shouldn’t be pursuing it. And that’s a book that I try to read once a year because every time you read it, you’re like oh, yeah, yep, just click that back into place it sets things off.

And so, once that happened people seemed to be like, ‘Oh Tom’s in practice rooms at dumb o’clock in the morning’. I’m a little more lax on it now that I’m further away from uni. But generally if I’m having a good day, I’m in a practice room at 7:00 a.m. And then I’ll clock off at midday. And then I’m done. It’s not necessarily that I’m insane and practising 7:00am till 7:00pm.

If you set your priorities, the practice comes first. Then you’ve gotten the stuff you need to do technically out of the way, and then rehearsals can come up in the evening after you’ve had a rest.

You play in orchestras, chamber groups which explore more standard repertoire, as well as an ensemble dedicated to playing newly composed music, six-four. Do you have an idea of how you might like to combine these different kinds of music performance in your future? 

I would hold some sort of orchestral position… To some extent, you have to take what you’re given. I’d love to take a principal clarinet job if I’m offered one, but I wouldn’t be against the idea of a smaller, second clarinet positon or bass clarinet positon. Or even a job in a smaller orchestra where I am not necessarily required full time, so that I can do things like travel, have a chamber music series, or put on solo recitals, or teach… I really enjoy doing all of them!

I don’t want to get ahead of myself, but there are things you need to be conscious of. Like getting a job in Melbourne would be very different to getting an orchestral gig in the middle of the United States, where there isn’t as much funding for the arts, or their aren’t tonnes of musicians around who are prepared to invest in a chamber music concert series with me.

In Melbourne, obviously, I can be like, ‘I want to do gigs, I want to have a weekly residency where I play chamber music outside of orchestra gigs’. And I’d say that’s a fairly tangible thing to achieve if I wanted it.

One thing that has been amazing recently is, alongside the Melbourne University orchestra and doing a bit of work with ANAM and the MSO, I’ve still managed to take part in chamber music gigs and solo recitals, with something almost every week. Which is really fun. How am I going to make it work long-term? I don’t know. Part of it is, how seriously do I pursue the orchestral job, alongside regular chamber gigs.

six-four in 2018. From left to right: Alex Clayton, Chloe Sanger, Oscar Woinarski, Ollie Iacono, Thomas D’Ath, Anna Telfer.

So you have a thriving Instagram account as a clarinettist, with around 7,500 followers. I’ve seen that you post videos of you playing, you’ve done question and answer segments, and its built up quite the community! Has that account challenged you in particular ways, or encouraged you to do things you wouldn’t normally do, or meet people you wouldn’t have met otherwise? How have you found the experience?

I would say it’s a double-edged sword. That’s not to say that I don’t like it, or don’t appreciate the fact I have a cool following of people that are interested in the stuff that I do… But there are definite challenges which come up, in choosing to be so public about everything that I choose to do.

If you read the description for that account, it’s a generally as a means for me to document the progress that I make on the clarinet. And already, I’ve found it very interesting, every once in a while a video will pop up that I posted a year ago, and I can go back and see how different my playing is… so it’s generally a bit of a selfish thing!

But then it turned out that people actually liked seeing stuff that I was working on, or the repertoire that was playing in orchestra or solo repertoire. And I started gathering a bit of a following, which was super cool.

And from there, things opened up, like when D’Addario, the company, sent me the new mouthpiece which they released at the start of 2019. Along with a couple of boxes of their reeds that I use, to try out.

The tricky bit, is because you essentially turn something like that into a brand which is your name, a lot of criticism starts flying around, am I getting paid to represent a particular brand… so you have to be conscious of that, of not coming across like someone who’s just shilling for a particular reed or clarinet. So I’m careful of that. So I have to try to steer clear of too much ‘gear talk’, even though I genuinely love talking about gear, anyone who’s sat down to chat to me about it knows that.

There have been a couple of teachers around the place that I’ve been able to get in contact with and just talk about things. Which may or may not lead to something in the future, but no guarantees there. And being able to speak to other performers about their craft.

I used to use it as something that kept me really honest, as I would be trying to post something before 8am… so I would get to a practise room, warm up for half an hour, then try find something to play and post before 8am. I’m a lot less regimented about it now!

And now that I’ve had that account for a little while, the question becomes, how do I differentiate myself? How efficient can I become in producing things are relevant and coherent? I’ve been thinking that over and I have a podcast in the works…

What is your take on where classical music in Australia sits? Do you think there are younger audiences naturally coming in, or do you think some things need to change?

So it’s a difficult question, and I don’t think Australia is the only one struggling with it. It’s really interesting to see how it functions over in the US, because it’s such a commercial operation.

The stats I will give for the symphony orchestras here: There are three types of funding that people get. You’ve got public funding from the government, you have got private funding from business, so philanthropic, commercial, sponsorship. And you’ve got ticket sales. Now the MSO are aiming for funding to be split equally between those three sources.

All of the state orchestras would have similar goals. The only orchestra in Australia that is different, is the Australian Chamber Orchestra. They are 90% privately funded.

But in saying that, it’s really interesting to go and take a look at all the US orchestras, because they are all privately funded. There is very little government funding available for orchestras over in the States. And so they have to take a very hard look at what is and isn’t working.

So there’s a clarinetist over in States, Zac Manzi, who has done a whole lot of design thinking around concerts and audiences. He’s posted some of his findings online, about designing concerts for audiences. I would say that maybe the problem we have, is that we take ourselves incredibly seriously. Most of our venues have a very formal atmosphere. I believe there is an audience out there, but I think we need to casual-ise at least some parts of the classical musical performance experience.

Six-four ensemble have experimented with this, we had some concerts at the Classic Cinema in Elsternwick. I’m going to try and make that happen a bit more. It’s a lovely space to play in, and it can be formal or more casual. For some of those concerts we had really great turnouts.

Developing your audience outside of the stage is imperative. Invictus Quartet basically sold out the place when they came to play at the Classic cinemas. So I’d say it’s a two-way street with individual performers going out of their way to engage with people to come to their performance, and organizations choosing to engage with audiences in a more casual way through their social channels. To focus on actually engaging with an audience, talking to them about things, actively cultivating the art… not just churning out a lot of content.

When I played Olivier Messiaen’s Quartet for the End of Time, we did a small explanation of some of the features of the work. Firstly, because it’s confronting and long. And because we wanted to contextualise the piece for the people who may only know it as the work that was written in a concentration camp. The instrumentation came from the instruments available, a whole lot of the thematic material came from the fact that Messiaen really loved birdsong. It’s not inherently that he was in that particular space, but it’s a feature of his composition. Talking to the audience about those facets of the work was really important.

So how do you persevere through self-doubt? And what do you think of the qualities that are essential to be a resilient musician and a successful musician?

I’ll take it back to that book The War of Art. In that book, Steven Pressfield explains what he does on a daily basis, the small things he does each morning before he commits to doing work. He has certain rituals, like pointing a toy cannon at his keyboard so it can shoot inspiration. And then he says that he sits down and writes, for a certain amount of time until the words stop making sense. Which is probably a little overboard…

His sentiment is, I don’t care what I’ve done, I purely care that I’m done. And that’s how I try to work through any difficulty that I’m having, and keep myself focused on ‘the game’.

I can be super excited about the concerts that I’ve done. And I am! The performances I have been a part of the last few months have been super fun. And I’ve been reasonably pleased with how I’ve been playing.

But at the end of the day, I have to get up the next day. And put my face up against the grindstone and keep improving. Part of me gets a little concerned that if I end up with a job, I might get a little lazy with trying to improve. Or the opposite might happen, that I might go way overboard and shoot myself in the foot.

I can have all the doubts in the world about auditions, but I know I will feel better if I know that I’ve done the work leading up to it. That’s what gets me through the darker periods. In terms of stuff on a micro scale, like messing up in auditions, you just have to let the mistakes go as they happen.

And breathe properly! If you breathe properly, you might have nerves but they won’t seriously affect you.

Tom D'Ath

Clarinet

Born in New Zealand before moving to Melbourne at the age of 5, clarinetist Tom D’Ath is currently studying a Master of Music (Orchestral Performance) at the Melbourne Conservatorium of Music, providing him with rich performance experiences with the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra. Tom’s rigorous and diverse musical experiences through his childhood at Melbourne Youth Music and Eltham High School has given him the flexibility to enter any musical situation.

As an undergraduate at the Melbourne Conservatorium, 2018 saw Tom tour to Singapore and Shanghai with the University of Melbourne Symphony Orchestra, attend the Australian Festival of Chamber Music Winterschool as a part of Ensemble Contineo, perform as a part of the Australian National Academy of Music Orchestra, and commission and perform new Australian works as a member of six-four. Outside of Tom’s busy performance schedule, he maintains a small private teaching studio, and records audio and video for many of his colleagues.

Method Behind the Melody: Bridgitte Arancibia

By Stella Joseph-Jarecki

Method Behind the Melody is a new series which will present stories and interviews from the world of music education. I had the opportunity to speak to Bridgitte Arancibia, a recent graduate of the Masters of Performance Teaching at Melbourne University. Bridgitte currently works full-time teaching violin at two Grammar schools in Melbourne. Bridgitte also performs in a violin and guitar duo with her husband and fellow Performance Teaching Masters graduate, Daniel Arancibia. You can follow their work on their Instagram page and Facebook page

How did you tackle balancing a Masters of Performance Teaching while working in the area you were studying in? I imagine lesson prep takes time, alongside assessments and classes at uni… what were some strategies you used to manage your time?

The most important things that helped, were making timetables in my diary and taking it with me everywhere. And good food and coffee!

My husband, then fiancé, went through the degree at the same time. So talking to him and my other classmates was so helpful, and provided a lot of emotional support.

Another strategy was having clear boundaries with setting aside time for each commitment, and not mixing them. When I was at work teaching, it would be about the work, the students, communicating with parents. Uni had to fit in around work. Work had to be a priority. It’s a big responsibility being a teacher and in the grand scheme of things, the students I teach are more important.

But I did have to occasionally have to say no to more work, so it was possible to complete the uni degree to the best of my ability. 

At what point did you realize you wanted to pursue teaching more seriously, as opposed to a purely performance-based path?

I started a casual teaching job at the end of my first year of university. I was working at Coles at the time and I didn’t really like it, and I thought that I should start doing something involved in music. When I started teaching it just felt natural. I’d always known I’d be a teacher, but I wasn’t sure if it would be the main thing I did. Towards the end of third year I started to realise I was leaning more towards teaching than performing.

I love performing but I knew for myself personally, it wasn’t really the road I wanted to take. You have to give up quite a lot of your life in order to be a performer purely, and I realised I wasn’t willing to do that. After my Bachelor degree I applied for the Masters of Performance Teaching. I knew it would help me build skills to be a good teacher but also the same time, a better performer. The degree seemed like a smart decision because it combined something I loved doing with ability to earn a stable income.

What’s the most rewarding thing about teaching music?

The most rewarding thing about teaching music is introducing a beautiful set of skills and experiences into my student’s lives. The process of learning music, teaches them to strive to do their best. Learning to play a musical instrument also helps them become aware of finer details and develop sensitivity, and see the greater impact that music has to those around them.

I love seeing my students work towards their goals and their reactions when they accomplish them, whether it’s a performance, playing in an ensemble helping others, or a tricky note they want to play well. They can translate these skills into everything in their life as they grow. So my hope is that learning music leads to my students becoming more inquisitive, creative, kind, intelligent and happier human beings.

One of the most challenging things you come up against as a teacher of young children, particularly of violin?

I would say one of the most challenging things is to teach a child how to take care of their violin, and how to produce a nice tone. Violins can certainly be nice and scratchy, particularly if you have a three year old playing!

That sensitivity towards the instrument is one of the trickiest thing to teach. But there are different ways of approaching it, depending on the student. The key is to be able to critically assess the student and their character as quickly as possible, in order to guide them in the right direction.

Do you find that you can get quite technical with some children, or with some children you have to keep things light and fun all the time, like a game?

Absolutely, every student is different. You might have one particular thing to teach them, but there are a hundred different ways you could teach that one thing.

Being a teacher, you have to learn to be student-focused. In lessons, you need to figure out their learning style as soon as you can, or try out different ways for them to understand. Because if they don’t understand you, that’s because you’re not explaining it in a way that’s right for them. Some students are very technical, some are very visual. Some students learn best by ear or through a mixture of methods.

How do you see yourself incorporating performance into a future career? If you could ideally dictate how much time spent on performing, teaching, etc?

Ideally, it would be full-time teaching, and doing my own projects around that. I’m still working out what those may be, but right now I’m a freelance violinist alongside the full-time teaching.

Ideally in the future, I would love to perform some small chamber works, the kind of music I enjoy. I prefer doing music that I enjoy. Growing up playing in orchestras and in the Melbourne University orchestra, I learnt that I didn’t enjoy those experiences as much as I thought I would. And that was a big reason in realising that the full time route of performing classical music wasn’t for me.

What pieces of repertoire would you like to perform in the future?

I’d prefer to do new works, and modern pop pieces! Pieces from movie soundtracks. Being a performer, in my eyes, we need to be able to relate to the non-musicians and merge our two worlds together… I myself enjoy modern takes on chamber music, acts like 2Cellos, Lindsey Stirling… Musicians who merge electronic with classical, the fusion repertoire. There’s a whole world of music outside of university.

But I do love the more classical repertoire alongside that. I love the Bruch Violin Concerto, the Korngold one…. I love Beethoven, Sarasate, I love Romantic, late-Romantic, late-Classical. But then I also love Bach as well! All its rawness.

I like to make sure my students aren’t exclusively playing classical… I ensure they have proper technique when they play, but that they’re able to play their favourite song, the songs they love doing. One student wants to learn the Titanic themes, and I’ll give it to them while they’re learning a Mozart! Or the soundtrack from Moana.

What do you think makes the violin unique as an instrument?

It has been written that the violin is supposed to imitate the voice. So we have a lot of freedom on the violin to create any pitch, we can create micro-tones, but also to be more expressive. With the strings, you can make a really harsh sound, or a ringing tone… we have that level of expression that we can convey, a bit more flexibility with the tone colour. The sound can be warm, bright, all different sorts of sounds. That’s what I really love.

Did you have any advice for a young violinist just starting out in their performance degree?

I would say, to try to think of themselves after the degree has finished. Where they would imagine themselves going, so they’re working towards that throughout their degree. Whatever they’re told in their degree, they know where they’re going personally.

Each violinist, each instrumentalist around them will have their own path. No one specific path is the one right path. Especially being a violinist, there is no way everyone is only going to become orchestral players. There are hundreds of different careers you can undertake as a musician.

So I’d advice that they have perspective on all the options they have. To know that all the skills they’re going to learn in the degree, will help with many different careers.

To do research on other musicians, and what they did after uni… many famous performers have done many different things, they didn’t just finish uni and then all of a sudden they were a full-time performer. It’s a process. And to know that it’s a process.

And to ask themselves, if they’re willing to not have stability in their first decade of life.

Do you have any pointers more specifically for anyone reading this who is considering the path of full time instrumental music teaching?

My first piece of advice is to get into teaching privately during their degree, so they’re getting experience. And to make sure that they know that they enjoy it.

After their music degree, to consider doing an education degree of some sort. Because having a knowledge of music alone is not enough to be able to teach well. You need to know the developmental stages of children, know how to approach them, you’ve got to be open minded. That’s what study in education can teach you.

So that’s what I recommend. Sharpen your skills in your instrument so you yourself are the best musician you can be, and then study further in education. You have a responsibility to teach a student well. Get it wrong, and you can make someone think they can’t learn music. All it takes is a teacher teaching their student they way they were taught, because that’s the only way they know how, and saying ‘oh well, you just don’t get it’ when the student doesn’t understand the concept.  

It’s so important to know as a teacher that you have to have an open mind, be willing to look at different perspectives, have lots of patience and understanding. If you know exactly why you are pursuing teaching, you will love it, and your students will love music.

Bridgitte Arancibia

Violinist, music educator

Bridgitte grew up loving everything creative, especially in music and art. Her passion for playing the violin lead her to study a Bachelor of Music and Masters of Music (Performance Teaching) with Primary Suzuki Violin Accreditation at The University of Melbourne.

Her fascination with music’s ability to inspire and bring joy to others as it did to her has influenced her career as a violin teacher and freelance performer today. She most enjoys teaching her students and developing their skills in music, knowing these skills also help in many other aspects of their lives. 

Voice Notes: Jordan Auld

By Stella Joseph-Jarecki

I had the chance to speak to soprano Jordan Auld, whose first year out of her music degree saw her tour China as part of the ensemble of Australian International Opera Company’s production of The Marriage of Figaro. During this tour she was also the cover for the role of Susanna. Jordan later performed the role of Musetta in BK Opera’s season of La Boheme.

Jordan will next be seen on stage during Opera Scholars Australia’s Opera in the Market event at Victoria Market on February 17th. She will be one of the three finalists competing in the Scholar of the Year Aria competition. More information and tickets can be found here You can follow Jordan’s projects through her Instagram and Facebook page.

When did you realise you wanted to pursue classical singing more seriously than a hobby?

It’s quite a funny topic, because when I think about going into music performance seriously, there was never really a definitive decision of ‘right, this is going to happen’. I was performing a lot as I grew up, after my mum put me into a little toddler class of dance, drama and music.

So I went to that class, I loved it, and I mellowed out a bit. I kept it up almost all the way through my schooling. So when it got towards the end of year 12 with talk of career paths, it was pretty inevitable… I was slightly leaning towards pursuing medicine, but really that was because I wanted to be on Grey’s Anatomy, as an actor!

With classical in particular, I came to classical singing really late. I got told at thirteen that I had a classical sounding voice, but I was pretty adamant that I would be the next Beyoncé because of my dancing. And my teacher at the time really thought I should look into classical, but me being a thirteen year old and feeling like I knew better, I danced around it and definitely didn’t come back to it until year 11. For the IB (International Baccalaureate) music subject, we had to present a wide range of genres. My teacher that time said if I wanted to do well, I was going to have to engage with classical voice. So I did, with a bit of reluctance at first.

But I feel like the more that you open yourself up to the world of classical music and opera, the more you fall in love with it. And it’s gotten to the point that there’s nothing I would rather do.  

What excited you about opera?

Everything about it! It’s the culmination of so many different art forms and the grandest form of storytelling.

While opera is carried by the voice, I feel like as performers, we are actors first. I feel like I have failed my job if I haven’t portrayed the events convincingly. You can sing through an opera, but if it doesn’t show the emotional side and the intentions of the characters, you’ve lost what opera is about. While you need to be convincing, you need to be vulnerable as well.

When it all comes together, as an audience member I almost feel fireworks in my chest.

So you’re currently working full time alongside performing with Opera Scholars Australia, how do you approach time management and self-care?

During year 11 and 12 I completed IB, the International Baccalaureate. IB is probably the biggest mammoth of a multi-task you can possibly endure at the one time. You’re juggling a lot of stuff for a really small outcome, which feels like the be-all and end-all at the time.

So in year 11 my parents sat me down and instilled in me importance of time management. Prioritising things that were due the next day over things that were due in a week. At the time I didn’t warm to it, because I was one of those people who thought I could do everything, all the time.

In regards to juggling performing and working, I got my first job at fourteen and have never not had a job. So the over time, balancing musical commitments with study and work has become a normal thing for me.

In regards to self-care- being a dancer, I’m able to listen very closely to my body and work out when I really need rest. I find small things like going for a walk or having a bath are helpful. Baths really help, that feeling of lying down and shutting your mind off…

Could you talk to us about the tour of China, which you undertook in March of 2019 with the Australian International Opera Company?

So we toured a version of The Marriage of Figaro, cut down from four hours to a ninety minutes. We took the show across China on a schedule similar to what you would see for a typical musical theatre season. For opera singers, that’s quite uncommon, as seasons normally have rest days between shows. And rest days are so important.

So it was a matter of trying to build up the stamina to be performing either once a day and having the following day off, or doing a double show… That was definitely a learning experience. And when you put travel on top of that too! You really learn that you have to pace yourself, because you can’t really sprint in a situation like that.

It got to a point where we surrounded by so many people all the time, and I’m such an extravert, but there were times where I just wanted a little time to myself… so I’d get up and go to the gym really early in the morning. Listening to what I needed was important. Because we were travelling together, performing together, going out together, explore the cities together… I did need a bit of extra time reading, having a bath, working out at the gym, going to breakfast early.

Looking back at it, during the tour you’re so in the thick of it, everything’s happening. But when a couple of months have passed and you’re looking back, it’s like, oh my god, I can’t believe we got through that and we were all sane at the end!

The beauty of opera and live performance is, depending on how everyone is feeling, each show will be different. When you are on a tour, you have a bit of movement for things changing and adapting. Coming straight out of university, it was such an exciting time to have that as my first big professional engagement. 

It was an insanely packed six months… I basically had about a month and a half to learn Marriage of Figaro, which we then performed for about a month, while I was simultaneously learning Musetta from La Bohéme.

What were some of the most challenging moments of your Bachelor of Music and Honours year?

The transition from high school to university can be quite challenging. You get to the end of year 12 and you feel like a big fish in a small pond. Then you get to university and you notice that your pond has expanded… it’s a bit of a cultural shock, but it’s a really healthy thing too. So navigating that and allowing myself to step back was a challenging thing. Especially as I moved down from Sydney, I knew it was going to be hard in some ways.

I remember in second year, I was becoming so emotionally attached to my music, that it was hindering my progress because I was becoming so possessive of what I was producing. And it was becoming quite detrimental and unhealthy. So I realised I had to reach out, and I had a chat to Dr. Margaret Osbourne, who runs the subject Peak Performance Under Pressure. And that was when I noticed I had to step back and realise who I was, outside of a singer.

Because when you are at school, you try so many subjects and you also have extra-curricular stuff. And from that, you pick your favourites, and your favourites become your career, and it’s almost as if you’ve lost that extra-curricular element because that’s now your life. And sometimes you need to take a break and do something else.

And what were some of the most rewarding moments of your degree?

I did the Chamber Ensemble performance subject during my Honours year, and I absolutely cherished being able to work intensely with instrumentalists. When you’re making music with a small group, the sensory experience is so heighted. For me that was really rewarding.

In semester one I got to work with a cellist. I remember there was a time the group was rehearsing and there was something I wasn’t communicating musically. And Andrea said, put your hand on the back of the cello, sing and then listen to Josh while he’s playing. And it completely changed how I was looking at the piece.

A bit of a mean question, but could you tell me some of your favourite composers for the voice?

I’ve been listening to a lot of bel canto opera lately, which I’ve been loving. It can be a little daunting and scary to listen to because there’s typically a lot of coloratura! (Fast-paced virtuosic vocalisations) I’ve really warmed to Rossini in particular. I love Il Viaggio a Reims, which I saw here and I felt like it really changed me. His style is florid and virtuosic, which I see as a bit of a challenge.

I am a sucker for Puccini. I think every soprano is! He writes such beautiful music. And all of his operas somehow connected in a way, so listening to La Boheme and going back and listening to parts of Suor Angelica, there are elements that are really similar. I really love how connected they are. Those are the sort of things you only find out when you get to perform a lot of his works.

Another composer I really love, but haven’t had the opportunity to perform much of his work, is Fromental Halévy. I saw his opera La Juive in Munich and it was life-changing.

Do you have a handful of dream roles?

It’s funny thing, actually thinking about dream roles. During uni I went through a period of having to find out who I was apart from a performer. So you start to detach yourself a little and come to peace with the idea that some things may not happen for you.

I think a dream role would be Rachel in La Juive, that would be amazing. I would love to do Violetta from La Traviata. She’s such a multi-dimensional character and to bring her to life requires so much… I really see that as brilliance.