Australian composer Lachlan Skipworth attended the AYO National Music Camp Composition program over a decade ago. Earlier this year he returned to where it all began to hear his Clarinet Concerto performed by the next generation of young Australian musicians. Lachlan reflects upon the past ten years, and describes his journey as a composer since starting out at camp in 2007.
My attendance at the 2007 National Music Camp in Adelaide changed my life.
The sparks of creativity, friendship and collective hard work shone dazzlingly bright, giving me the first glimpse of a concrete dream and a taste of the harsh realities that go with it. The impact though, was a slow burn. There were lessons learned that only years later I realised took root in the vibrant camp experience.
My personal composing dream progressed in parallel with various other pursuits, and at that particular time it was in competition with my shakuhachi playing (I was conscientiously burrowed away in Japan memorising music with my master). Camp instigated a distinct pivot towards composition, offering me my first big ‘premiere buzz’ – a performance in a large hall in front of an audience not comprised solely of friends and family. I learned from mentor Graeme Koehne the responsibilities of communicating my ideas clearly and efficiently to high-calibre musicians. I met a whole generation of musicians at a similar career stage as me, many of whom continue to pop up in performances of my work around the country. And who better to share this with than my partners in compositional crime, Joe Twist, Alex Pozniak and Rebecca Harrison, still three of my favourite musical minds. (However I have not forgotten their lack of support when I was tasked with opening the bowling for the staff/student cricket match. Where’s the composer love?)
Camp set me on this path, and a year later I had relocated to Sydney to start a masters with Anne Boyd at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music. Composition became my main focus, and I had a clear head-start thanks to Camp. In addition to the technical knowledge I had picked up, the personal connections were invaluable. I was still in contact with Alex Pozniak, whose Chronology Arts project (in combination with Andrew Batt-Rawden) was just starting out. They eventually performed 4 premieres of mine in the coming years, and even tolerated my conducting on a number of occasions. These experiences snowballed into further networks and opportunities, and the subsequent years have found me presenting my music in Europe, Asia and North America, as well as orchestral premieres with the Sydney, Melbourne and West Australian Symphony Orchestras.
Fast-forward to 2017, when it was proposed that Ashley Smith perform my Clarinet Concerto at the 2018 AYO National Music Camp (also in Adelaide!) – I couldn’t wait for the chance to return! I was equally inspired and awed by the energy of the participants; their talent, awareness and gumption was amazing. The pleasure of them really believing in my music and playing it like it mattered; that was particularly special. And to be honest, camp looks to be even better still than when I was there in 2007, a testament to the hard work of the AYO team. Actually, what’s the age cut-off? Maybe they’ll let me into Words About Music next year!
– Lachlan Skipworth, composer