What year are you in, and what is your involvement with the Music Academy?
Emma McMaster: I’m in Year 10 – I play guitar and trumpet I sing, and I compose music.
Alix McRae: I’m in Year 9, I play alto saxophone and I produce music.
Yiping Yu: I’m in Year 12; I sing, I play handbells and guitar, and two other Chinese instruments, called gǔzhēng and zhōngruǎn.
Ella Borgo: I’m in Year 10. I play tuba, piano, I sing and play the trombone as well.
Jasmine Bagnall: I’m in Year 9, and I play saxophone, violin and I also do Audio Production.
What’s the best concert or performance you’ve done? What made it your favourite?
EM: Probably Euphony and Ambrosia (July 2019). It was at Pialligo Estate and it was gorgeous, the sun was setting, everything was so beautiful. We had a bit of a struggle setting up lights! But we got it – and it was a gorgeous concert and I was very proud of everyone who was in it.
AM: My favourite concert was probably Euphony and Ambrosia. Not only the environment, but the way the girls were playing was so beautiful. I was there recording the concert, and it was just – ah! Chills!
YY: I organised my own 16th birthday concert when I was in Year 10! I combined Chinese and western music styles. So many friends from school helped out – we played eight pieces, and then – because that day was actually my birthday – everyone did a surprise birthday song for me, which was really nice. It meant a lot to me because my English was still developing back then, and yet I organised everything myself. I arranged the music, because I knew no-one had done it before – I wrote a little contract too, to make sure the performers showed up!
EB: I remember one time playing in an exam, and I was actually enjoying it so much I didn’t realise I was in the exam. Normally I’m a bit stressed in exams, but I remember this one exam, I just wasn’t stressed and I just enjoyed playing.
JB: I would probably say my in-class music performance from Semester 1. I remember leading into it, I was so, so nervous. It was the first major solo performance I’d ever done that really counted towards anything, and just finishing it, I was so happy, and hearing all the feedback from everyone…was really nice. It built confidence in my abilities to play and my abilities as a musician.
What’s your favourite CGGS ensemble or class? If you could create a brand new one, what would it be?
EM: If I choose my favourite CGGS ensemble, I’m going to break some people’s hearts! It would probably have to be the Glanville Hicks Symphony Orchestra…although I love Adelaide Avenue Jazz Band and Empire Concert Band…actually no - I love my jazz band - it’s jazz. If I could create a new ensemble, it’d probably just be more jazz ensembles!
AM: Audio Production – it’s a side of music most people don’t get to see, so it’s great to engage in that and learn all about it. And as for a new ensemble, probably a marching band – I’ve been wanting to do that forever!
YY: My favourite CGGS ensemble is…every ensemble I’m in! That’s a perfect answer! If I were to create one, I actually want to learn to whistle, or do a bird call, so I’d make a whistling and bird call ensemble…
JB: Definitely Audio Production. It’s just so much fun and we’ve created this little family – it’s a bunch of girls from a few different grades, and now we’re friends outside of music. We’ve learned so much and the way that I listen to music has changed completely. It may sound like something that just wouldn’t complement classical music or learning [instrumental] music, but the skills I’ve learnt from it have been so vital to the way I analyse music now.
EB: I don’t have a favourite, I really like them all. Although, Symphony is really fun – the lower brass section is really good, and we have a lot of fun as well as playing well.
What musical experience are you proudest of?
EM: At the Combined Bands Festival we had with Radford College and Canberra Grammar School, it was definitely one of my proudest moments playing trumpet solo. Definitely one of the hardest things I’ve ever done, playing solo in front of such a big audience, and I’m pretty proud of it!
YY: The first year I started playing gǔzhēng, I was 5, and I was really struggling in class. But I didn’t give up – that’s the thing. I’m proud of that 5-year-old little Yiping – I practiced really hard, I tried to remember everything my teacher said to me, I clapped the rhythm, I did everything I could do – I’m just so proud that I didn’t ever think of giving up.
EB: Performing in places I never thought I’d perform in – when we went to Europe, we performed in some of the best places ever, and even in tiny little churches, I never thought I’d perform there! I also got invited to play tuba at the Sydney Conservatorium, which was amazing. I’m hoping to play there again by going to university there!
What advice would you pass on to a new student of your instrument?
AM: If you’re behind on the knowledge, don’t worry, continue faking it.
YY: For handbells, probably that it’s actually not embarrassing to highlight your notes at all – and that it’s really important to be able to count to four, trust me!! And for guitar, write your fingering on your page. Please. Do not try to test your sight reading skills – according to my own experience, it will surprise you! A quote from my guitar teacher is, “Life is like a box of chocolates: you never know what note you’re going to play next.”
JB: Be open to opportunities and experiences, and learning new things. When I started learning saxophone, I just wanted to do classical. And then I started jazz, and I love it so much. You just really need to trust that your teachers and mentors know what they’re doing. Have faith in them and faith in yourself.
EB: Keep continuing, even if you doubt it, because eventually you’ll get to a really good level. Keep going, and keep practicing. And have fun as well. I used to get really stressed out, “Oh, I need to do this, and get an A+ on my exam,” but if you just chill out a bit, [all of that] is easy.
Thank you Zoe Cameron, Music Academy Assistant, for conducting this interview and bringing out each student’s personality!
Photo above: Ella Borgo (right) performing in Austria earlier this year as part of the Music Academy choral tour.