Ahead of the opening performance of Mood: Mahler and Wagner in Geelong, we spoke to Wendy Galloway OAM: an AYO alumna who now calls this city her home. Wendy’s Medal of the Order of Australia was in acknowledgement of her contributions to the musical life of the Geelong community. Currently she is the President of Geelong Symphony Orchestra. 

A woman sits with a violin on her lap
Image: Pam Hutchinson

How did your musical journey begin? 

I started playing the violin at the age of six after watching a trio of musicians who played regularly on the Manly Ferry! I loved watching the violinist and he knew I was watching. I asked my mother if I could have a violin and learn to play like that. She took me to a violin maker in Sydney called Mr Yakimov and we bought a beautiful quarter size violin. Then my mother enrolled me for lessons at the Sydney Conservatorium with the beautiful and kind Georgina McLean. I knew that practising was part of the process and gradually became proficient. I did regular AMEB exams and also the City of Sydney Eisteddfod every year. I always had a new dress for that! 

Tell us about your experiences and memories with AYO. 

My first Music Camp was an overwhelming experience. Being a boarder was new and living in a dormitory with other young musicians was unsettling but exciting. I went to three music camps – Frensham NSW, Geelong Grammar School, Vic and St Peters, Adelaide. The first AYO came out of the Music Camps. I remember playing at the first Adelaide Festival in 1959 and some concerts in the Sydney Town Hall. 

John Bishop and Ruth Alexander were inspiring figures and I was in awe of the more senior and experienced students who seemed very worldly and sophisticated.  

Georg Tintner was an inspiring conductor. In 40 degree heat in Adelaide one summer when we complained that it was too hot to have a rehearsal, he said “It is only in the mind. I will put on my sweater and then we will play. Are you all ready?” A perfect demonstration of choosing what is important. 

My years with the Music Camps and the AYO were formative and thrilling. I still remember playing some of that great repertoire for the first time and being part of the sound world that is a symphony orchestra and to relish the sound and the interplay of all the sections. I believe that is one of life’s greatest experiences. To have the opportunity to work as a team where every individual is important and everyone CARES deeply about every note, dynamic and quality of sound. We who have that experience are truly blessed. 

Can you tell us about your impact on the musical life of Geelong? 

After 4 years living overseas, my husband David and I came back to live in Melbourne. We lived for some years in Werribee and then made the move to Geelong. There were excellent schools for our 3 children and many opportunities for me to teach and start playing again. 

But there were not many musical opportunities in Geelong in the early 1980s so I decided I had better get busy and set some up. I was instrumental in establishing the Chamber Orchestra of Geelong, the Geelong Philharmonic, the Bay City Strings, a Geelong Youth Orchestra and the Geelong Summer Music Camp. There were orchestras to “fix” for various choral groups who did fine performances of some of the gems of the choral repertoire – the masses, requiems and regular Messiah performances as well as private concerts and some high-quality musicals in various schools in Geelong. I also set up a much in demand string quartet and Palm Court Orchestra group for hire. 

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