Miranda Ilchef has participated in AYO programs three times as a violinist, and in 2022 she returned to AYO National Music Camp with a new challenge: participating in the Words About Music program. In addition to her performance work, Miranda is a lead writer at independent music magazine Cut Common, and has reflected on the role of classical music in the 21st century with pieces such as 7 Skills All Music Graduates Should Possess and Why the Future of Music is Collaborative.
Miranda has written a short and sweet reflection on her time as a WAM-er. You can keep up with Miranda’s creative pursuits at @mirandailchefmusic.
We often describe music as a universal language that wields communicative power far greater than that of words. This is precisely what makes music so challenging to write about. But music has always needed people to write about it: we need program notes to explain and give further insight into the music, advertising copy or artist interviews to get people interested and excited for concerts, or reviews for performers and audience members to reflect upon. It was the pursuit of this craft; writing about music, that brought me and four other participants to AYO National Music Camp’s 2022 Words About Music program.
While I have always enjoyed the intense atmosphere of National Music Camp programs as a violinist, with its tightly packed schedule that allows for maximum music-making, the relative freedom of the Words About Music program was an enjoyable new experience. Projects were undertaken mostly on an individual basis with a schedule of interviews designed by the participant themselves. Under the expert tutelage of Philip Sametz, we pursued stories at our own leisure while surrounded by so many expert musicians and enthusiastic students to use as interview subjects.
I chose to power through my ‘set work,’ which comprised of program notes, in the first few days. Philip showed us how to make these notes clear and accessible while maintaining a sophisticated tone that didn’t pander to or patronise the audience. As the week went on, I carved time to go and speak with many outstanding performers, conductors and teachers about the changing face of the symphony orchestra. I heard some remarkable insights from students about their experiences of starting out as hopefuls in the music industry.
It was these conversations, both formal recorded interviews and casual hallway chats, that formed a lot of ideas for me to go and stew upon to produce content later in the year. It was also interesting to chat to Philip and the Words About Music cohort about what had brought them there. Many had performing background or, like me, continued to perform as a source of income but recognised that cultivating a diverse skill set is useful in the face of changing industry.
The Words About Music program reignited my love of writing, which had staled slightly in the creatively barren landscape that was Sydney’s long lockdown of 2021. I’ve never thought to approach writing with the same calculated intensity as I do violin practice, but the program has inspired me to move towards that. When I returned home, I found myself reading much more, about music or otherwise, and noticing the little details that Philip had pointed out as either helpful or hindering to a piece of prose. I’ve been writing more since then, both for work and for the sake of developing my skill.