8 emerging musicians will perform with this world-class orchestra
By Stephanie Eslake, April 2021

“Playing with musicians who are much better than yourself always pushes you to the next level. So I am a firm believer in grabbing these opportunities by the horns.”

Rachel Kelly couldn’t have said it better. The premier tuba player of the Australian National Academy of Music will perform alongside seven colleagues – and members of the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra – in Mighty Brass & Percussion II.

The event is one of many collaborations between ANAM and the TSO. Each institution has a long history of inspiring Australia’s musicians to achieve their dreams, and giving them the practical tools to do so. This partnership offers emerging performers a direct pathway from academia to the concert hall.

Presenting new players to Australian audiences

Though ANAM is a training institution, it’s highly selective about the language it uses to present young talent to the world – opting for the title “ANAM Musician” rather than “student” when describing its players.

It’s a subtle play on words, but one that sets a tone of development, fostering confidence, passion, and professionalism among those still learning.

These are necessary qualities when sitting alongside the best. And in their upcoming concert, ANAM Musicians will sit alongside world-class brass players and percussionists of the TSO.

Still, the educational experience goes both ways. ANAM Head of Brass and TSO Principal Trumpet Yoram Levy says “it is always amazing to hear and observe how good young players are sounding”.

“For the student, it is knowing they are on the right track, and have the trust of the teachers and section members. For the section players, it is an opportunity to help, and to know there are young musicians who can step in when needed.”

Yoram had his own opportunity to perform with an established section when he was just starting out, and says he “cherished it forever”.

ANAM Head of Brass and TSO Principal Trumpet Yoram LevyANAM Head of Brass and TSO Principal Trumpet Yoram Levy

Telling a story through music

Collectively, TSO and ANAM Musicians will perform a varied program. The titles of the music hints at their shared characteristic: “Each tells a story.”

Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition depicts artworks by Viktor Hartmann. After witnessing Hartmann’s posthumous exhibition in Saint Petersburg 1874, Mussorgsky was moved to set these pictures to music – composing the sounds of a mysterious old castle, the Paris Catacombs, and other scenes between.

“A backstory is always important and fun,” Yoram says.

Anthony DiLorenzo’s piece Of Kingdoms and Glory – which Yoram believes “shows deep knowledge of brass and percussion writing” – harks back to the legends of King Arthur and Sir Lancelot; while Minoru Miki’s Marimba Spiritual pays homage to those who were victims of famine.

Perhaps the most unique piece on this program for performer and audience is The High Priestess, composed by none other than TSO Principal Tuba Tim Jones. Brass players like Rachel will have the rare chance to work with the composer himself, quizzing him about the music and the way it should be performed.

Rachel says: “It is always great to play pieces written by tuba players as they really understand how to write for brass instruments and, in particular, how to get the most out of the tuba.”

“I will definitely be listening to and absorbing as much of Tim’s sound and style when I’m playing with him – and asking him questions about tuba playing, but also about his own journey that took him to where he is today.”

TSO Principal Tuba Tim Jones

Breaking into the Australian music industry

In her first year at ANAM – and as the school’s only tuba player – Rachel is forging her own bright journey. She has also performed on stages with the Australian Youth Orchestra and Queensland Symphony Orchestra.

In 2020, Rachel made her solo debut, performing a concerto with the Queensland Conservatorium Symphony Orchestra and picking up the Beta Sigma Phi Brass Prize. Yet these experiences have only taught her how much more there is to learn.

“I’ve been lucky to have had many performance opportunities throughout my studies to date. However, nothing is quite the same as stepping into a new professional environment where the pressure is on and you’re learning how to fit in musically with a new ensemble,” Rachel admits.

“I find, though, the best preparation is to know your part back-to-front. Play with confidence, but always be ready to be adaptable.”

Adaptability is a quality that unites Rachel’s generation of musicians. As she and other ANAM Musicians work hard to enter the music industry, they have been forced to adapt their goals to match its ever-changing environment. Living through a pandemic, Rachel no longer takes live performance opportunities for granted.

“It still seems slightly unreal that we will be travelling to work with these musicians, especially after the past year – which definitely did not include any travelling!” she says.

“Many of my fellow music students and I spent a large portion of last year playing in our living rooms, performing recitals and auditions to a smartphone camera ‘audience’. So it’s really thrilling to be back performing with others and to a live crowd.”

Rachel and seven other ANAM Musicians will travel to Tasmania for the event, having already spent many hours together in rehearsals.

“I find student rehearsals to be quite professional. When we have a faculty member working with us, we rely heavily on their guidance. But if we work alone, we all offer musical suggestions to each other whilst always being hugely respectful,” Rachel shares.

“That being said, we definitely don’t hesitate to have a laugh when the time is right. We are brass players, after all!”

Rachel will not only perform alongside TSO players, but also with her school’s Head of Brass. So far, she hasn’t worked directly with Yoram, and it’s an event in itself she looks forward to.

“Yoram has such a wonderful reputation amongst professionals, teachers, and students that I’ve heard so much about, so I’m very keen to learn from his wisdom whilst I’m at ANAM.”

Yoram reciprocates: “It is always a pleasure to collaborate with one’s students.”

“I find it joyful and educational to share this knowledge with students, and get their feedback through their playing,” he says.

Watch Brass & Percussion of the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra, musicians from the Australian National Academy of Music, and conductor Peter Luff in Mighty Brass & Percussion II.

The event will take place at 8.30pm May 22, and can be heard live in the Federation Concert Hall or live-streamed to subscribers on TSO Online.