This year we have been inspired by the messages of support and been reminded how much AYO’s return to in-person programs has been uplifting for our musicians and the whole AYO community. Hear about AYO clarinettist Oliver Crofts‘ life-changing experience at his first National Music Camp this year.
Hi Oliver! Could you start by telling us a bit about where your musical life began?
It’s hard to pinpoint where it all began, because music has always been a part of my life. From my earliest years of childhood, my parents remember me singing around the house and tapping rhythms on any furniture I could get my hands on! This prompted my parents to enrol me in a children’s choir and music class at the UWA Junior Music School. I was about five when I started learning my first instrument, the piano!
I will never forget the excitement of coming home from school to see a piano in the living room. I don’t think my parents could get me off it! My earliest musical experiences were fostered at this music school, where I proudly gave my first piano performances at the annual Christmas concerts and sung in Carmina Burana with a full choir and orchestra. When I was in Grade 5, I was fortunate to be introduced to the clarinet as a secondary instrument. The rest is history!
What made you choose the clarinet?
It was one of the instrumental lesson options offered at my primary school. I guess I chose it out of curiosity and excitement, knowing it would open up opportunities to play orchestral music. When I was singing in orchestras as a young child, the clarinet always struck me as a very beautiful instrument. There was something about the clarinet and learning a new instrument that intrigued me. I followed it all through high school and studied Clarinet Performance at the University of Western Australia. I am currently training at the Australian National Academy of Music, with substantial opportunities to perform solo, chamber and orchestral music.
Music is the best part of my life and I’m so excited to see where it takes me!
With Autumn Music Camp this year being your first ever program with AYO, what was it like for you?
It was such a great experience to collaborate with musicians my age and see the music transform to another level in the space of a week. It gave us an insight into the fast paced professional side of the music industry, with daily orchestral rehearsals, sectionals, chamber music and professional development sessions. I’m incredibly grateful to have been a part of this.
What was the biggest highlight of your Camp experience?
For me, the highlight was getting to perform with a full size symphony orchestra and triple winds for the first time in over a year. It was quite a remarkable feeling being surrounded by so much sound and talent! I really enjoyed playing the big symphonic repertoire, particularly Ravel’s La valse and Shostakovich Symphony No.1.
Could you tell me about taking part in the Chamber Music Showcase during the week, what was it like performing in a nonet?
For my chamber music ensemble, we were assigned Louise Farrenc’s Nonet. I was not aware this piece existed prior to camp and I found the instrumentation fascinating.
Farrenc’s Nonet is written for wind quintet and a quasi-string quartet ensemble, albeit with double bass. This was one of the many highlights from camp, getting to work closely with interstate musicians who I’d never worked with before. It was also wonderful hearing all the other ensembles perform in the Chamber Music Showcase.
Finishing off Autumn Camp with a concert broadcast, what was the highlight of your performance with the Alexander Orchestra and Fabian Russell?
I really enjoyed playing the bass clarinet in Ravel’s La valse. It’s a very difficult part, but with Fabian’s direction, I gradually saw it more as a musical challenge rather than purely technical.
This greatly helped with my interpretation of the solos and my overall enjoyment of the piece. For me, the climax of the concert was in the finale of Shostakovich’s Symphony No.1. Shostakovich is one of my favourite composers, the sheer power of his music is quite overwhelming and it’s also incredibly virtuosic.
Why do you think programs like this are so important for a young musician?
It gives a complete insight into orchestral performance and provides an opportunity for young musicians to experience a very high standard of music making. Not least, it’s a great achievement to be accepted into the orchestra. It’s a very well-rounded program with a broad range of professional development opportunities.
Are you excited to come back and make music together again at AYO Winter Season?