On a normal day, you may find Claire Litwinowicz rewatching Avatar: The Last Airbender, drinking copious amounts of chai and recycling everything in her household, but outside of this, she dedicates most of her time to music. As a violinist, Claire has extensive experience as a solo, chamber and orchestral musician from her studies at the Queensland Conservatorium and involvement with the Australian and Queensland Youth Orchestras. She is driven by the power of connection, and aims to highlight the voices of those who aren’t always heard, while continuing to expand her musical horizons. At present, you can hear Claire performing at QAGOMA as part of its current exhibition, or attempting to play percussion for her local community band.
Q: What made you decide that you wanted a life in music? Was there a particular moment (an epiphany, if you like) that led you to this decision, or was the process more gradual?
A: I often think of my journey with music as a kind of accidental one. I don’t come from a musical family, but as a kid my mum started me and my sisters in piano lessons as one of the many hobbies we tried out. The piano quickly became my ‘first love’, but not long after that I was also drawn to the violin, after being awestruck when hearing it for the first time. Following many pleas to my parents, I was lucky enough to start violin through my primary school music program.
Ever since, music has felt like home to me and when I finished school the question wasn’t whether or not I would pursue music, it was which instrument I would choose. After being accepted into the Queensland Conservatorium on piano and violin I had to make the most agonising decision of my life, and ultimately chose the violin. At the end of the day, I couldn’t imagine myself doing anything other than music; I feel so privileged to be able to spend my time connecting with people by creating, experiencing and discussing music.
Q: What sort of working life in the profession are you aiming for? Do you have a picture of what you’d like to be doing in the short term? And beyond that? Has the pandemic affected the decisions you’ve made?
A: In all honesty, I have no idea! I think I speak for many 20-somethings when I ask: does anyone know what we’re supposed to be doing?
Unfortunately the p**demic has turned what should be a time of exploration into one of daunting uncertainty and, like all musicians at the moment, I have had many opportunities cancelled. So, my goals for the moment are to prioritise my mental health and continue honing my craft.
In the future I’d love to have an interdisciplinary career in which I can explore my interest in performing, creating, curating and collaborating. I’m not totally sure what this will look like just yet, but I’m open to where the wind takes me!
Q: Can you tell me about one of your favourite classical pieces, in your capacities as performer and/or listener? Can you tell me why you love this music so much? (You’re allowed to choose more than one piece!)
A: Entr’acte by Caroline Shaw blew me away the first time I heard it, and is one of the most challenging but rewarding pieces I’ve performed. Shaw creates unique sounds and images in her writing, unlike anything else I’ve heard before; the intricacies of this piece in particular are enchanting. The Attacca Quartet has recorded Orange, an album of Shaw’s string quartets, that is absolutely worth a listen.
And because I wouldn’t be a violinist if I didn’t include one of the infinite number of violin concertos, another piece that lies close to my heart is Prokofiev’s First Violin Concerto. I feel like this concerto stares directly into my soul, and to me it sounds like magic brought to life. I’ve played both the solo and orchestral parts for this piece, and each performance has been an ethereal experience.
Q: What kind of role do you think the virtual space will play in the world of professional music-making in the next few years?
A: I hope we’ll start to see a worldwide interconnectedness in the classical music industry, like we’ve seen in other industries such as film and ‘mainstream’ music. I think there are opportunities for collaboration which we may not have tapped into yet, whether that’s recording projects, zoom lessons or other yet-to-be-discovered ideas.
For now, virtual spaces like Melbourne Digital Concert Hall or ACO HomeCasts are the classical music industry’s saving grace amidst constant cancellations. Services such as these are going to be crucial in our industry’s recovery.
Claire Litwinowicz is an alumnus of the Words About Music program, AYO National Music Camp 2021.