At AYO National Music Camp this year, five intrepid writers took part in the Words About Music course. This passionate group got to work capturing the flurry of activity at camp with a range of interviews, articles, and opinion pieces.

We are happy to present a collection of these works in our WAM Wrap-Up series!

Read the other pieces in the series here:

The Future of the Symphony Orchestra: The Place of the Orchestra in the Modern World by Miranda Ilchef

Porque no los dos? It’s not so simple in classical music by Emily Dodd

Musical Memories by Molly Jenkins

A bird's eye view of an AYO's Alexander Orchestra rehearsing in a large auditorium.
Alexander Orchestra rehearsing under the baton of Brad Cohen, AYO National Music Camp 2022.

AYO National Music Camp is always a great convergence of stories and talents. Some campers are well on their way to a performing career, while others pursue music on the side. From first-time campers to last-time campers, part-time novelists to full-time coffee addicts, hi-vis enthusiasts, Ray Chen wannabes, hotel lift-hack experts, and those on a mission to crack the ultimate ramen-to-rehearsal ratio – they make a mixed bunch.

Get to know four of the 2022 AYO campers as they share their musical experiences, why they do what they do, and some surprising pastimes. 

NATHANAEL DUFFY

Hailing from small-town Traralgon in Victoria, Nathanael Duffy moved to Brisbane to study clarinet at the Queensland Conservatorium in 2021. Returning for his second AYO camp this year, Nathanael describes his experience growing up with music, and discovering the joys of playing second clarinet.

Four woodwind musicians dressed in concert blacks perform in an auditorium.
Performing Jean Françaix’s Quartet for Winds during the chamber music showcase at AYO National Music Camp 2022. From left to right: Isabeau Hansen, Phoebe Xu, Peter Lavilles, Nathanael Duffy.

When did you start learning the clarinet?

When I was eight, so Year Three at school. I originally wanted to play saxophone but according to our music director I was too little. So I started on clarinet and have just loved it since then. 

And you’re originally from Traralgon, which is a small town two hours’ drive East of Melbourne. Was there much music growing up in your hometown?

No, not really. We had a sort of town orchestra which I was part of for a bit, and some little chamber music projects here and there, but I went to Melbourne a lot for music. 

In Year 10 I started learning from Lloyd van’t Hoff. I went to see him in Melbourne on Saturdays, sometimes every fortnight, sometimes a month or a week apart. I was part of some Melbourne Youth Orchestra programs, which were also on Saturdays, which involved a lot of travelling to Melbourne. I did that most weeks. 

How have you found this camp compared to your first one? 

I wasn’t expecting it to be as good because it’s only a week this time, and at my first camp I’d never played a symphony before. Last time I went, I played Shostakovich 12 as my first symphony. The repertoire was just out of this world; it was so new and I was like a little kid there. It was mind-blowing. I wasn’t expecting this camp to live up to that because that’s a very difficult standard to top. 

But this has been phenomenal still, in a different way. The standard is really high and I know a lot more people now, so socially it’s very different.

What’s been your favourite part of this week?

The chamber music has been a real highlight this week. Jean Françaix’s Quartet for Winds is such a sick piece, I just love it. It’s hilarious and beautiful and heartfelt. Quirky. If you don’t smile when you listen to it, then you don’t have a personality. 

I’m learning lots as well. There’s a real art to second clarinet playing which I’m learning to appreciate. Like, how can I play everything as beautifully as possible, and with maximum intensity and intention, without overpowering the first player? There’s such subtlety to articulation and volume and phrasing. It’s very difficult actually. 

Do you have an idea of what you want to do in the future after uni?

I’ll definitely do music. I think a portfolio career is the most appealing to me because I love chamber music and I want to do that to a very high standard. I also love the idea of being a great teacher who can really inspire and help people. Orchestral playing is great too, but I might not enjoy doing that every day. I’m scared of losing the magic of it if I just get a job doing it.

Members of the woodwind section of an orchestra stand for applause at the end of a concert.
Members of Bishop Orchestra at the end of their concert program, broadcast on Australian Digital Concert Hall, AYO National Music Camp 2022. Nathanael Duffy pictured in top left-hand corner.

IN A NUTSHELL

Save the world with one piece of music:
The opening chorus of J.S. Bach’s St Matthew Passion is one of the greatest creations in human history.

What do your practice breaks look like?
Walking by the Brisbane River.

If you were a kitchen utensil, you would be:
A potato masher. I like potatoes, so I want to get close to them. 

Name your musical superpower.
Timbre-discoverer! I just love the challenge of seeing how many different colours I can get out of a piece of music.

JADE PARK

14-year-old Jade Park is a trumpeter from Sydney. Currently in Year 11, she has won numerous competitions around Australia and internationally, playing both trumpet and oboe. This is Jade’s first AYO camp, and she has loved the immersion in orchestral playing, as well as making the most of the hotel ovens.

Three trumpet players stand in front of a flowering bush. They are dressed in concert blacks and are smiling at the camera while holding their instruments.
The trumpet section of the orchestra, AYO Young Symphonists 2022. From left to right: Jade Park, Jay Lee, Xavier Wiencke.

You’d have to be one of the youngest trumpeters to ever do NMC. How long have you been playing the trumpet? 

Ever since I can remember. My brother plays trumpet, so he has been an inspiration for me. I started when I was three, so eleven years now. 

How do you even start trumpet as a three-year-old? 

I think it was just with the mouthpiece. I was just buzzing a bit from time to time. I got more serious around four or five, when I could hold the trumpet. 

Back then obviously I didn’t think ‘oh, I’m playing the trumpet’, I just thought it sounded really amazing. So I picked it up and just continued to develop. 

My brother is the biggest inspiration of my life. He’s 24 and studying trumpet in Switzerland. My sister also plays trumpet as well.

That’s a lot of trumpeters in one family! Do you play any other instruments?

I do oboe quite professionally. I used to play the clarinet and piano, but oboe and trumpet are my main two. 

How have you found your first camp with AYO? 

It’s been amazing. One week has gone so quickly – I feel like I just arrived yesterday. All the people are so nice, the conductors are really nurturing and have helped us improve so much. It’s just amazing to see all the individuals who have been practicing so much to come together, especially after COVID. 

It’s like a… cacophony of amazingness! 

Do you have a highlight from camp?

I think watching the chamber concerts was really exciting, and performing in our brass ensemble. We actually played a composition by my trumpet teacher Paul Terracini, which was a coincidence, but I think that was the most interesting and enjoyable thing for me. 

I’m sure the orchestral concert tonight will be the biggest highlight though.

Do you do see trumpet as being part of your future?

Definitely. I think my main goal is to be a double soloist. So, oboe and trumpet. After school, I will most likely go overseas to study, probably in Europe or America.

Three trumpet players seated during an orchestral rehearsal.
From left to right: Jay Lee, Jade Park and Xavier Wiencke rehearsing at AYO Young Symphonists 2022.

IN A NUTSHELL

Save the world with one piece of music:
Astor Piazzolla’s Oblivion

What do your practice breaks look like? 
I love cooking, I love baking. It’s my favourite thing. Even here, I baked cookies for the woodwind section and the brass section, sometimes strings. We have an oven in the hotel!

If you were a kitchen utensil, you would be:
An oven. I get stuff done. I actually get the finished product. 

Name your musical superpower:
I really like triple tonguing. But someone asked me the other day if I could do double-stops on the trumpet and I was like, I wish. I really wish. 

DAVIS DINGLE

Davis Dingle is pursuing an acting career in Brisbane (catch him playing bass drum in Dwayne Johnson’s new sitcom Young Rock now streaming on Binge. You can follow Davis’ acting work through his website). Davis has been playing percussion for 13 years, and this is his first camp with AYO. A jack of many trades, Davis also has a degree in Economics.

A young man wearing concert blacks performs on copper coloured timpani drums. He is looking intently at a music stand.
Davis Dingle performing in Brisbane Philharmonic Orchestra’s performance of Gustav Mahler’s Symphony No. 4, June 2022.

So this is your first AYO camp – has it lived up to expectations?

Definitely. It’s been awesome.

Obviously there are a lot of people here for whom music is their full-time study, but you’re doing something different, with acting and economics. How do you juggle percussion alongside your ‘main’ work?

I work two days a week as an economics tutor at University of Queensland. Then I have Wednesday nights and Saturday mornings for two different orchestras: Queensland Youth Symphony and Brisbane Philharmonic Orchestra. So I just keep doing that, twice a week every week. I keep practicing when auditions roll around, making sure everything’s high quality.

Are there any surprising crossover skills between percussion and acting? Does the fact that you play percussion give you an extra edge as an actor? 

Other way around, I think. Actually, both. 

As an actor it can help to play musical instruments. To say that you play percussion or timpani or even just drum kit – usually the most useful one – is good, because maybe a character needs to be a drummer on film.  

It also works the other way around. Being an actor as a percussionist is really helpful because when you get on stage, you need to be able to act. Whether or not you’re having a bad day, or whether you need to be still to make the audience feel still, or whether you need to be expressive to make the audience feel expressive. You need to have that comfort on stage to make the audience feel content. 

A young man wearing concert blacks and a black face mask performs on timpani drums. Behind him there is a pale yellow background.
Davis Dingle performing in Brisbane Philharmonic Orchestra’s performance of Edward Elgar’s Enigma Variations with Simon Hewett, July 2021.

Have you ever been a drummer on screen?

I played a bass drummer in a marching band in Dwayne Johnson’s new sitcom, Young Rock. They needed musicians, so Stan – the tuba player from Alexander orchestra – and a few other people back in Brisbane were in it. 

Season Two’s out on Binge. I think. Maybe not. I haven’t seen it, I was just an extra. 

What was your hook into music? Why did you start playing?

I think I’ve just always been a musician since I was young. My uncle was John Dingle, and he was Chorus Master of Opera Queensland and worked for Opera Australia and Victorian State Opera, so I’ve always had music in my family. Mum just put me in an early age, made me learn stuff. I did clarinet in Grade Five and then percussion in Grade Six.

What do you like about playing percussion?

It’s very cathartic. I enjoy how physically demanding and holistic it is, how ‘whole-body’ it is. 

I think it’s a very expressive instrument – or set of instruments – despite people seeing it as this very structured thing that has less expression. But there is quite a lot in there. It’s just on the minute levels, I suppose. 

IN A NUTSHELL 

Save the world with one piece of music.
Gustav Mahler’s Symphony No. 2.

What do your practice breaks look like?
I’m usually alone in the old museum building, it’s a very large building and it’s very solitary. I just kind of sit there on my phone.

If you were a kitchen utensil, you would be:
A wooden spoon. A nice, wooden spoon. Down-to-earth. Useful. 

Name your musical superpower.
Extraneous arm-flourishing. 

CHARLOTTE MILES

Charlotte Miles is a cellist from Melbourne. She completed her studies at ANAM last year and is currently finishing off a Bachelor of Music at the Melbourne Conservatorium. [Since this interview was conducted Charlotte has graduated]. Charlotte has travelled the world as a performer, playing in countless masterclasses, festivals, and competitions. An AYO veteran, this is her fifth National Music Camp. 

 A young woman with short blonde hair and red lipstick performs on a cello. She is seated next to a male violinist and is leaning back to look at a performer behind her.
Charlotte Miles performs alongside Robert Smith at AYO Chamber Players 2022. Credit: Renee Brazel.

National Music Camp number five! What keeps you coming back?

Every camp you just have so much fun. You spend your entire day immersed in music and it’s quite an intoxicating experience. You get to watch the tutors work the way they normally would work in the profession. Everyone’s love for music just bounces off each other. 

Do you see orchestral playing as a big part of your future? 

I think so. Every time I’m in the chamber orchestra, that’s the kind of a future that I envision for myself. 

Of course, all orchestral playing is really large-scale chamber music. I find it rewarding to look for passages in the wind and brass that we are echoing in the cello and seeing if we can match them exactly. Obviously we’re following the conductor, but beyond that we’re actually trying to emulate the sounds of the other instruments. 

And it’s just such a joy. It’s almost meditative how much focus you can bring when you are really curious about what other sounds are going on around you. 

You talk about orchestral playing as ‘large-scale chamber music’. Does this influence the way you lead your section? 

When I’m leading the section I try to look at whoever I want my section to be listening to along with me.

If we have a moment with the bassoon, I’ll make a conscious effort to look at the bassoon. I won’t do it in the concert, but in all the rehearsals I’ll look at the bassoon because I want my section to respond and feel that joy of making large-scale chamber music. 

It’s almost like a jigsaw puzzle, trying to find all the other places where another instrument has something with you.

A young woman with short blonde hair in a blue dress laughs with a young man with short black hair and glasses during a rehearsal. They are both sitting down, she holds a cello and he holds a viola.
Charlotte Miles during rehearsal for AYO Chamber Players 2022. Credit: Lachlan Bramble.

Have you got a highlight from your years at Camp? 

I mean, cricket night back at Elder Hall was always a highlight!

I’m hearing about so many traditions from camp when it was held in Adelaide… how has it been seeing the camp adapt over these last few years? 

These last two camps feel very different. But it’s perhaps in that context difference that you feel the spirit of the AYO remains the same. Like when Colin got up in front of us all at the Chamber concert and we were all doing the classic big football match cheer. 

It’s a kind of youth orchestra mentality. I think as people get older and more experienced and more financially-minded with their music, it becomes less this sheer joy of discovery.

IN A NUTSHELL 

Save the world with one piece of music.
Gustav Mahler’s Symphony No. 4.

What do your practice breaks look like?
Honestly? TikTok. And doing my degree.

If you were a kitchen utensil, you would be:
A spatula: colourful, flexible and efficient.

Name your musical superpower.
Eyebrow interpretation. I had a moment in a concert recently where one of my colleagues did something with his eyebrows that told me that he was going to put the pizzicato just a fraction of a second later than when we’d ever rehearsed it. It was two pizzicati – and he did something in the middle with his eyebrows – and it was perfectly together. 


Lily Begg is an alumni of the 2022 AYO National Music Camp Words About Music Program.