Momentum Ensemble bassoonist Emma Morrison talks about her week working alongside students at Peninsula Specialist College, and their collaborative performance at Melbourne Recital Centre.

Momentum Ensemble musicians play instruments with students from Peninsula Specialist College in a classroom
Bassoonist Emma Morrison during the Momentum Program at Peninsula Specialist College (centre)

I had no idea what to expect when I found out about AYO’s Momentum Ensemble project in May. I was definitely thrilled to be a part of the upcoming experience; but aside from learning my part I had no idea what to expect when I entered Peninsula Specialist College. Bassoon in hand on day one we entered the school and were immediately embraced by the students and teachers; there was a buzz in the air – this wasn’t going to be a usual orchestral experience!

As a musician I was hesitant to step away from the score at first, but hearing the students crafting original sounds on their instruments with the help of William Barton, I felt free to take risks too. I had the honour of working with the ‘coolest’ group of students from the didgeridoo club, and our task was to make the Catacombs movement from Julian Yu’s orchestration of Pictures at an Exhibition our own. Over the week our group created a dramatic story including bat sounds, car chases and evil laughs; everybody contributed to make a complete piece and it was great fun to play! Paul Rissmann and Belinda McFarlane were inspirational mentors and visionaries who helped to guide us throughout this profound experience.

Momentum Ensemble musicians play instruments with students from Peninsula Specialist College in a classroom

Throughout the week I increasingly felt the significance of music, and the importance of making it accessible and relevant to everyone; especially those without pre-existing musical knowledge. The students of Peninsula Specialist College were refreshingly honest and bursting with excitement to be involved in this project, and at the end of each day the AYO musicians had many stories to share. A standout experience was when Joey, a student who hardly spoke at school, started yelling out requests for Beethoven and Vivaldi – it brought his teachers to tears to hear him suddenly share his spark for music. I left feeling inspired, and keen to explore ways that I can continue to ignite a sense of belonging in others through music-making beyond the concert hall.

Finally it was concert day in the ‘big city’ and our collaboration had come to fruition. A performance experience that we as musicians may sometimes take for granted was an adventure for the incredibly excited students! Throughout Yu’s Pictures Momentum Ensemble interweaved our own creations with the students’. It was one of the most electric performances I’ve ever been involved in, and a significant event for all who witnessed the product of an extraordinary week.

Momentum Ensemble musicians perform at Melbourne Recital Centre with students from Peninsula Specialist College

At the end of our performance – before the music had even faded away – Sebastian, a student who I had been collaborating with throughout the week, turned to me and whispered “we did it Emma!”. Words cannot explain…

By Emma Morrison