Richard Pollett, a former violinist of the Australian Youth Orchestra, died tragically at the age of 25 on 27 September 2011. The Richard Pollett Memorial Award has been established by Richard’s family and close friends in association with the Australian Youth Orchestra to honour his memory. Discretionary awards are made annually to provide support and encouragement to young violinists who display outstanding personal and musical attributes.

Rollin Zhao has been named the 2015 recipient of the Richard Pollett Award. The Victorian violinist has participated in a range of AYO programs since 2012, including the 2013 International Tour. This year, Rollin is participating in AYO National Music Camp, AYO February Season, and the AYO International Tour. Rollin took some time to tell us about his experience with the AYO so far, and where he hopes to take his music over the coming years.

AYO violinist Rollin Zhao pictured during a rehearsal.

I joined AYO in 2012. I did my first camp that January and my last this January. In this time, I’ve also been privileged to have taken part in the AYO Seasons, the 2013 International Tour, Chamber Players and the MSO Fellowship. Many of these programs were very special experiences for me.

The AYO is a fantastic opportunity to simply make music, which in itself is an incredibly worthwhile and, in many ways, a life changing experience. It is said that music is a medium to experience and express that which cannot otherwise be experienced or expressed in any other way. As a person who has struggled a lot socially in the past, music has very much given me a voice, and in the case of the AYO, it has made me realise how social the process of music making is. Playing in the AYO has given me the chance to let go and experience the delight of ensemble music. Participating in the wonderful exchange that brings this kind of music alive is a real privilege that I will continue to seek and cherish for the rest of my life.

I am deeply honoured and humbled to be recipient of this award in memory Richard Pollett. We have all been touched by his music and deeply affected by the tragedy of his passing. Already I feel that my outlook on music has changed from something that I just happen to like a lot, to something of deep human significance. The fact that we continue remember and celebrate the life of Richard through music is a testament to the power of this mysterious thing we happen to do, and keep doing.

In the next few years I intend to undertake postgraduate music study overseas in Europe. Spending time there will be a great opportunity to get immersed in the deep cultural background and musical environment there.

In 2016, I will be travelling to Europe to visit a couple of music institutions and get to know some of the teachers there. I have found the prospect of travelling overseas alone to be quite daunting, but I feel more committed than ever before to take music as seriously as I can, and make the most of my years of study. The Richard Pollett Memorial Award has not only helped me to support my goals financially, but has also been a great encouragement for me to pursue this great privilege of music. I am incredibly grateful to be a recipient of this award.