Every year, ten string musicians on the cusp of their professional career attend a week-long program receiving intensive coaching from the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra, as part of AYO’s Orchestral Career Development. Once they have completed the mentoring stage, which culminates in an audition for MSO as a casual musician. Meet two of the participants this year and see what they got up to.

AYO violinist Phoebe Masel performs on stage.

Phoebe Masel 

Phoebe is currently completing her studies at the Australian National Academy of Music (ANAM) and residing in Melbourne where she often attends MSO concerts as an audience member.

“I knew the MSO fellowship would be a wonderful opportunity to be immersed in one of Australia’s finest orchestras. I was also really excited to do my first casual audition under the expert guidance of an MSO mentor.”

Planning to eventually study her Masters overseas, Phoebe is continuing to make music with AYO, ANAM and now as a casual violinist with the MSO.

“My week at MSO was an incredibly positive learning experience. I had two fantastic lessons with my mentor, Freya Franzen, and learnt a lot from our violin class with MSO concertmaster Dale Barltrop. I also got to play alongside my mentor inside the second violin section during an MSO rehearsal at Hamer Hall, under the baton of Jakub Hrůša.”

What was it like being coached by a Melbourne Symphony Orchestra musician?

My mentor Freya, the head mentor Matthew Tomkins (Principal Second violin of MSO) and concertmaster Dale Barltrop, all played a crucial role in mentoring and coaching me throughout the week. They were so encouraging and always willing to help. Having coaching from members of the orchestra was invaluable and made preparing for the audition a lot less daunting.

What advice would you give to string musicians starting out on the road to professionalism?

I’m not an expert by any means but I have been lucky to learn from many people who are experts! A common thread in the advice I’ve been given is that failure is normal and should be welcomed as an opportunity to learn. Failing auditions in the past has taught me the skills I need to prepare better mentally, physically and musically for future auditions. My UQ violin teacher turned life coach, Associate Professor Adam Chalabi, always reminds me to “keep going!”, to be resilient and to never let someone tell you that you can’t do something!

AYO violinist Hayasa Tanaka holds her instrument as she looks at the camera.

Hayasa Tanaka

A graduate of a Bachelor of Music (Performance) at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music, Hayasa is set to fly to Japan this month to participate in the Pacific Music Festival.

“It was a very independent week compared to previous AYO programs I’ve done, and it was great to be able to set your own pace and do things whenever you wanted to. Being around the MSO was nice as well – I already knew a few players so it was nice to see them in Melbourne.

Everything was a highlight in their respective ways! It was fun to sit next to players in the MSO for the side-by-side rehearsal and to meet the players in the section.”

What was it like being coached by a Melbourne Symphony Orchestra musician?

My mentor Chris and I met each other at National Music Camp many years ago – he was Principal Viola in the Chamber Orchestra and I was very intimidated by him (especially as I was sitting directly behind him)! This week it’s been lovely to work closely with him and to find out that he isn’t as scary as I thought he was many years ago.

What advice would you give to string musicians starting out on the road to professionalism?

Few things: Everybody faces challenges and struggles and it’s not an easy road to become a musician. Take everything as a learning opportunity – even if something doesn’t work out in your favour! Remember to take care of yourself.

Both musicians say they benefited from the personal development sessions and delving into the Alexander technique – combining the mental and physical aspects of playing in an orchestra

Reflecting on these training techniques, Hayasa says the one-on-one mentoring was most insightful.

“The instrumental sessions were similar to regular lessons, but having the Alexander Technique one-on-one sessions was very helpful. There are so many simple things that we don’t do in an ergonomic fashion (like sitting down on a chair!) and it was eye-opening to receive personalised tuition about it.

It was meaningful to learn that music-making isn’t just about ‘hitting the dots’ and there is a lot of physical and mental/ psychological self-care that one must pay attention to in order to have a sustainable and healthy career in music.”

MSO musicians pose with AYO violinist Hayasa Tanaka on stage after a performance.

Phoebe says the highlight of the whole program for her was the Alexander Technique sessions with Ann Shoebridge.

“After our group session early in the week, we then had two private lessons each with Ann. Prior to the MSO fellowship, I had heard bits and pieces about Alexander Technique but it was with Ann that I really felt the incredible physical and mental benefits of this training.

Alexander Technique teaches you how a dynamic and relaxed posture encourages free and uninhibited movement. The principles that Ann taught me became a fundamental part of my practice throughout the week and helped me feel grounded and controlled in my audition. I look forward to exploring Alexander Technique further in my career.”