Profile with Raphael Masters and Stefanie Farrands
If you were lucky enough to attend the AYO Young Symphonists concert at Federation Square recently, you would have heard a beautiful viola solo during Puccini’s Manon Lescaut, played by 16-year-old Principal Violist Raphael Masters. Over the course of the program, Raphael received tutoring from Stefanie Farrands, Principal Violist of the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra. We chatted to Raphael and Stefanie about their Young Symphonists journey together, from meeting so many new faces on the first day, to ‘jumping over the cliff’ to perform the triumphant final concert.
What is inspiring and unique about AYO Young Symphonists?
Raphael: AYO Young Symphonists opens up a whole new world of what’s out there, who’s out there and the opportunities that can come up. You get to meet an amazing bunch of tutors and learn so much from them in such an intense environment. It’s inspiring to work with these tutors, many of whom are AYO Alumni, who are taking the same career pathways as you are. It’s also great to meet so many people of your own age, who become friends, and to know that there are so many talented and like-minded people out there. Young Symphonists is so much more than just a music camp!
Stefanie: It’s such a rare and incredible opportunity to live and breathe music ten hours a day. At Young Symphonists the musicians work so intensely in every facet of symphonic music-making; they form various chamber music ensembles, they learn in instrument sectional rehearsals, they have professional development sessions, and all grow together. The chamber music work is so beneficial, because it gives everyone a voice and shows everyone, they have a voice when the musicians come together in their big symphonic form.
Young Symphonists gave me life-changing opportunities myself when I was starting out; I’ve felt humbled and honoured as a tutor to be able to give back what I’ve learnt and experienced. We were all immersed in an atmosphere of energy and passion that I found incredibly inspiring. It motivated me to give as much as I could to the musicians.
Tell us about working with each other during the program.
Raphael: Stefanie was really great. The violas did sectionals with Stefanie where she helped us learn the repertoire and took us through new ways of interpreting the music. We learnt so much from her. For example, she taught us very effective methods for how to learn lots of notes quickly to cut down on practice time; this will help us all become better players.
Stefanie talked to us about her time with the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra and Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra. She gave us insights into how we can aspire to play as these orchestral musicians do.
I also had a one-on-one session with Stefanie, which was invaluable. She helped me understand the music I was playing, how to convey ideas and techniques to get around my instrument better.
Stefanie: Raphael is a wonderful person and player. It was fantastic to see him grow throughout the week. He took advice so well and was very approachable and easy to work with; he was very respectful towards me and the other musicians.
Throughout the week Raphael learnt to trust himself and the concert in particular gave him the chance to develop leadership skills, with less pressure than other programs. The musicians in his section were all very open to learning from him and each other, which was fantastic.
How did you see yourself/the musicians grow during the program?
Raphael: I learnt how to diversify the way I play to suit the style of the piece. I came to understand how a lot of the context of a piece of music is reflected in the way we conceptualise it; when you play a lot of different pieces you have to understand the context to fully grasp and give justice to the music you’re playing.
As an orchestra we really came together on the day of the concert. Things felt a bit shaky leading up to the concert – we all had nerves – but suddenly we were sounding great and everything clicked. It was fabulous and rewarding.
Stefanie: I think it was overwhelming for the musicians at the beginning – there were so many notes and new faces. However, I could see the musicians dip and peak a lot more quickly than you see in professional life. They all grew to form one school of fish that moved and breathed together – as players, as tutors, in chamber music groups, etc. We all climbed Everest and then the musicians walked on stage and played their hearts out. It was an incredible journey and amazing to watch.
I could see the passion for music so strongly in the participants. I hope we can all hold this flame inside ourselves for as long as we play – I think that’s why we become musicians.