It takes a (tso) village to raise a child

As musicians of the TSO, our players are committed to a life of continuous learning. They strive for excellence daily, spending hours rehearsing and perfecting their craft. Many of our players are also committed to the development of other musicians (of all ages, and all abilities). One of our dedicated teachers is David (Dave) Robins, TSO Principal Trombone who spends his time jumping between his own practice and mentoring young upcoming Tasmanian brass students.

Cath spoke with Dave about how he got his start, and why he chooses to teach.

Hi Dave, tell us a bit about your early career and your role with the TSO.

I grew up in Brisbane, and completed my undergraduate degree at the Queensland Conservatorium. After a number of years freelancing, teaching, and serving in the Australian Army Band Corps, I undertook postgraduate studies at the Royal Northern College of Music in Manchester, UK. I have worked with a number of orchestras in the United Kingdom including The Hallé, BBC Philharmonic and BBC Symphony Orchestras and Orchestra of Opera North; and in Australia with the West Australian, Melbourne, and Queensland Symphony Orchestras, and Orchestra Victoria. I began with the TSO in late 2012 on a contract, and shortly afterwards in early 2013, I auditioned for the Tutti Trombone position to which I was appointed.

The role of TSO musician is full-time, but so many musicians also juggle other commitments including teaching and ensemble work. What does your work life look like?

Many people often ask the question of what we do other than being a TSO musician, for those not in the industry it can be difficult to appreciate the level of commitment and time it takes to be pursue a career at this level. There is a lot that goes on behind the scenes which people don't see - they generally see the end performance - but there is also teaching, mentoring, many hours of practice and sectional rehearsals.

Can you tell us a little more about your role as an instrumental teacher?

The majority, if not all musicians currently teach, or have taught at some point.  Juggling a playing career with teaching can sometimes be a challenge, finding a balance between the two is important in my opinion. I really enjoy teaching, and value the opportunity to support the next generation of musicians.

I am the Coordinator of Brass and Percussion, and Tutor of Trombone at the UTAS Conservatorium of Music. I recently took on the role of Coordinator from my colleague and TSO Principal Trumpet, Yoram Levy, who is now Head of Brass at the Australian National Academy of Music in Melbourne. My first semester felt a little like being thrown in the deep end, learning to deliver content online with the challenges that COVID posed - it was a daunting process! Our students were learning, re-learning and creating new pathways of learning all at once. Thankfully for Semester 2 we are now back in the Hedberg (new home of the Conservatorium in Hobart) and it’s a wonderful facility.

You clearly love teaching, what do you enjoy most about it?

It depends on what stage of development the student is at. If they are a young amateur or school student, I get real fulfillment witnessing them make sense of a technique or piece of music that previously challenged or frustrated them. You see a light in their eyes, and know that a love for their instrument is beginning to take shape. At tertiary level, the enjoyment comes when you impart your hard-earned knowledge and experience to a student, and have them enthusiastically go and apply it. Nothing gives me greater joy as a teacher, than having a student come to a lesson prepared and full of questions, it makes the job very easy.

Any student that particularly stands out for you?

Two students spring to mind. One is Toby Sward, a first-year trombonist who studies with me at the UTAS Conservatorium. I have taught Toby since he was a young teenager, and he is also the first student of mine who has pursued tertiary study. Watching his development over the years has given me a great sense of pride. The other is Nic Lord, a Year 10 student from Launceston. Nic is one of our first recipients of the inaugural TSO Aviva Scholarship. The scholarship rewards the recipient with ten fully funded lessons with the TSO musician who plays their respective brass instrument. These lessons are in addition to Nic's ongoing tuition with Launceston-based trombonist, educator and conductor, Monte Mumford. Monte is a legend in the world of music education, so Nic is in very good hands! Nic is naturally gifted, and I get a big kick out of his enthusiasm. He is very musically mature for his age and I am excited to see where his journey takes him.

David (Dave) Robins, TSO Principal Trombone