Question: Can you tell us a bit about you, and what you are up to these days?

Answer I turned 70 in 2022 and retired from neurosurgical practice about two years ago. I’m still teaching at the hospital, mentoring young doctors and neurosurgeons, and doing research. But I’m no longer operating or taking on patients, so that has given me more time to do other things. <br> <br> One of things I have been doing since I retired is a Graduate Diploma of Music at the Melbourne Conservatorium of Music in clarinet performance. That’s like cramming a Bachelor of Music degree into in one year, it’s very intense! I did units on conducting, counterpoint, history of early music, Baroque performance, as well as the practical performance subjects on clarinet. <br> <br> And the last two years I have been doing my Masters of Music Research degree. I’ve just completed my Masters! I’ve submitted my thesis on the early development of the classical clarinet, and I’ve described in my thesis my process of learning this instrument. Entitled: Development of a Performance Companion to the Third Clarinet Concerto of Carl Stamitz: An Analysis of Technical Capability and Performance Style Through Practice-Led Research. <br> <br> I’ve kept my music up all my life even though I’ve been a doctor. I’ve played in various orchestras over the years. The orchestra I play in mainly now with modern clarinet is Corpus Medicorum. Corpus Medicorum is a full-size symphony orchestra made up of mainly of doctors, but also medical students and some nurses. And one of the violinists is a lady who played in the La Scala orchestra from many years who is now a, we’re so delighted to have her, she’s such a fantastic player with her experience! We do all of the major orchestral works – we do four to six concerts a year to raise money for charity.

Question: How or why did you first choose your instrument?

Answer I started playing the recorder when I was about five years old. I was given a recorder in school and rapidly developed a lot of facility in playing the instrument. I used to play the recorder in the car, accompanying pieces of music on the radio from the backseat! <br> <br> My music teacher in primary school, Mrs Stanley, knew I played the recorder well. In class she would get me to come up and accompany her on piano while the class was singing. <br> <br> So then my parents were thinking, what serious instrument are we going to get Jeffrey to play? Because to them the recorder was a school instrument. They thought I should stick with a woodwind instrument, so they bought me a clarinet with I was eight. And it went from there!

Question: What was a highlight of your time in AYO programs?

Answer The highlight was to be able to play in an orchestra of such a high standard made up of young musicians all coming together to produce a fantastic quality of sound. It’s an unexpected sound for such a young group of musicians to produce such a mature sound, showing technical expertise in all the instrumental sections. <br> <br> It’s an atmosphere of excellent and enthusiasm, and passion for music that is infectious! It only enhances your own ambition in music because you’re playing with all these wonderful young musicians and it encourages you to do better and make a serious contribution to music in Australia and beyond. I’m sure that’s why quite a few of the players go on to very successful careers in music, because they’re driven people and when they play in an orchestra like AYO it excites and empowers them to reach even greater heights in music. <br> <br> I remember so many things about playing in the orchestra even though it was many years ago. The conductor we had was an Israeli conductor, Moshe Atzmon. He was a world-class conductor. We played Brahms’ Second Symphony. There’s a section in that where the clarinets are playing in thirds and it’s very exposed. The clarinets sound so beautiful, and it’s marked <i>piano</i>. And we were playing what we thought was <i>piano</i>, and he said, ‘No no no, it has to be really quiet!’ and we played it softly, and it sounded even more beautiful! Just those moments of the conductor working with the orchestra to produce this very beautiful sound, which just unforgettable for me. It was a magical experience!

Question: Why do you think AYO is important to the Australian cultural landscape?

Answer AYO has such a strong reputation for excellence in music, not only in Australia, but overseas! It’s such a great ambassador for Australian music and Australian young people, to show that Australians are not just good at sport. Here’s something they do really well: playing classical music in a very well-disciplined, exciting young orchestra! <br> <br> It’s vitally important because classical music is going through tough times at the moment. Particularly with covid cutting down numbers going to concerts, young people not getting a good education in music at schools, etc. <br> <br> I think we need to do all we can to boost the profile of classical music in Australia and particularly with young Australians. By having young people playing in an orchestra at such a high standard, it encourages other young people to play their instruments! It encourages young people play music seriously, it encourages them to maybe go on to a professional career, and it increases the community knowledge of and love for classical music through the live broadcasts of the concerts with the ABC, which is an important tool in getting the message out there. <br> <br> Classical music is by no means dying, it’s actually growing! It’s growing in importance and in involvement by young people who continue to complete for places in AYO and in their state orchestras.