Why our new Director Artistic Development Kim Waldock thinks music education is a lifelong process

By Stephanie Eslake

Australia’s music industry is an ecosystem. TSO Director, Artistic Development Kim Waldock would even use the term “food chain” to describe the way artists are positioned in their classical music careers.

But this doesn’t make it a grizzly competition. Instead, Kim believes, it’s about providing everyone with the resources to evolve through their own creativity – from kindergarteners tapping at a tambourine right through to fully fledged orchestral musicians, and “the Simone Youngs” of the world.

Kim likes to think of the music industry as “one big continuum”, and believes “there are very few people who think that they haven't got something still to learn”.

Kim is a former classroom music teacher who this year commenced her TSO leadership role. With more than 20 years of experience in the education system – and positions with the Royal Opera House and Sydney Symphony Orchestra – Kim believes in “feeding people what they need as they grow”.

“That's what good teaching is.”

Music education is for everyone

“Listening to music does good things to your brain,” Kim says. “But it does good things to your heart as well.”

Kim is now working on TSO projects that connect the state’s orchestra with people of all ages. Initiatives like Mini TSO, Community Rehearsals, and the upcoming Deadline to Showtime can help listeners understand how classical music works – and inspire joy in the process.

“There are three things that make me excited about Deadline to Showtime. One is that it’s a world premiere. To be the organisation delivering a world premiere of anything is a privilege,” Kim says.

This action-packed production is the brainchild of creative thinker and former TSO Learning and Engagement Executive Jenny Compton (also behind the Violin Stories, Recorder Lift Off, and UKE BOX projects).

It features award-winning Tasmanian actor Jane Longhurst, and that’s Kim’s second point of interest – “the fact that it’s been created by Tasmanians”.

“It’s a chance for Tasmanians to really show what they can do as a creative team.”

The third exciting element, Kim reckons, is conductor Carlo Antonioli. Not only will Carlo lead TSO instrumentalists through this music – he’ll act and change his costume, too. Deadline to Showtime is not a typical listening experience; it combines action with music, story with sound.

Kim sets the scene: “We’re on holidays – and suddenly, the assistant to the orchestra gets a phone call saying, ‘Hang on, you’ve been offered a place in the festival of the world! And the orchestra is required tonight if you’d like to do it!’.”

So begins the story of Deadline to Showtime, and what happens next is a grand tale in which the orchestra comes back from holidays – starting with just a few instruments, growing to a larger group of strings and winds, and eventually uniting the entire collection of players.

But it’s not just the orchestra that will return to the Federation Concert Hall for this fictional festival. You’ll be able to join in when you attend, too – because the concert features a piece of music you can learn in advance, then play when you arrive. It’s called Power Up by Australian composer Holly Harrison. (It’s a novelty I’ve tested out in the past – and don’t worry, the piece is plenty of fun, and the only instrument you’ll need to bring along is yourself!)

“It’s a body percussion piece…a series of repeated patterns that you play using different parts of your body to make slightly different sounds,” Kim explains. You can learn it online before you come, and play along with a recording of the TSO to help build your confidence and get you in the mood for the performance. (It’s also a great opportunity for young concertgoers to develop their spatial awareness, reaction speeds, and hand-eye coordination!)

“When you learn music, it's great because it helps you think more clearly and in a more structured way,” Kim says, also noting the value of teamwork in music.

“But I think that's all secondary to the fact that music is an aesthetic experience that's really gratifying…and people often feel good after experiencing a performance.”

When music lovers come full circle

Some people feel so good after a TSO performance, they want to get involved again. And through events like Deadline to Showtime, the orchestra nurtures these people every step of the way.

Professional conductor Carlo Antonioli is returning to the orchestra after he participated in the 2015-16 Symphony Services International Conductor Development Program, which saw him work with the TSO along with other major orchestras across the country. He also took part in the Australian Conducting Academy 2018 Summer School, an educational program presented by the TSO in partnership with the University of Tasmania.

Composer Holly Harrison returns after her involvement in the TSO’s educational programs. In 2018-19, she participated in the Australian Composers’ School, and in 2020 was named ACS Composer in Residence (through which she wrote Power Up, which Kim notes is “getting a bit of traction around the world”).

Carlo and Holly’s achievements are examples of the TSO’s contribution to the “food chain” of the classical music industry. Kim is happy to help foster this culture of creativity.

“Knowing the TSO's track record in artist development, for composers and conductors in particular – and knowing the strategy that CEO Caroline Sharpen has formed with the board – really got me enthusiastic about the possibilities,” Kim says of joining the team.

Because of the size of the island’s orchestra, Kim thinks it’s well placed to start “changing the industry, or think about sustainability from an artist development level”.

Of course, not everybody who attends concerts like Deadline to Showtime will want to become a conductor or composer in their professional lives, as Carlo and Holly did. And that’s okay, too. Because at the end of the day, the most important thing is for a child to come along to the concert and feel like “letting go and dancing”, or for their parents to “relive that experience of being a child, listening to music for the first time”.

“That's going to be quite a special thing for this concert.”

Experience the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra as they present Deadline to Showtime in the Federation Concert Hall, 6pm June 16. Book your tickets online.