Over the years we have seen countless musical siblings taking part in AYO programs. For this year’s AYO Autumn Season the orchestra will be joined by renowned cellist Pei-Sian Ng, who completed the same program alongside his twin brother in 2000. Now, 20 years later, siblings Charlotte and Jamie Miles will be a part of the Australian Youth Orchestra together. They chat to us about growing up as a musical duo with a passion for strings.
The pair grew up in Victoria in a very musical family with Charlotte playing cello and Jamie playing violin and viola – often sharing the same teachers and attending the same ensembles.
Charlotte: “We’re in quite a musical family, dad is a musical educator as well as a percussionist and now plays pretty much every instrument you can.”
“Mum started the cello at twenty-five because she loves it so much and plays just for fun as an amateur. There’s always so much sound and so much love of music in our house.”
Both started music at a very young age. With just two years between them they have always played at a similar level to one another.
Charlotte: “For me because mum plays cello as an amateur, I would always watch her practise and got it in my head at about three or four years old that that’s just what we do – we practise the cello after dinner, I just kind of inherited it.”
“The first time I actually picked up an instrument it was my grandmother’s violin and I tried to play it between my legs as a cello. I think I was about four and my parents were like, ‘Okay time to get her a cello.’”
Jamie: “I was inspired by Charlotte practising for years and at about three years old I decided I wanted to play violin, but I couldn’t stand still, so my parents waited for two years before I could actually be trusted to hold an instrument without dropping it.”
“Finally at around age five they bought me my first violin and I’ve never stopped since.”
With the same musical hobbies and aspirations, the pair used their competitive nature to help each other practise; their familiarity with one another’s performance style becoming a useful collaboration tool. When asked if they were competitive in music, Charlotte said:
“It’s the same amount of competitive we are with everything, you know, who can make two-minute noodles faster. It’s a pretty standard level of competitiveness across everything but we often play and perform together as a duo, so we like to channel that competitiveness into something artful – trying to collaborate rather than compete.”
“We’ll often give each other tips like, ‘I think you could lengthen this phrase’, and try to inspire each other. Because we’re in performance duos we’re quite familiar with the way each other works, and it’s really interesting having that insight. Although, we do this thing sometimes where we walk into each other’s practice rooms and jump scare each other for fun, not sure if we help each other’s practice or we hinder it.”
In their latest endeavours, between Charlotte attending ANAM and Jamie preparing for his AMEB, both attended National Music Camp together. This was their first AYO program together, and will be closely followed by AYO’s upcoming Autumn and Winter Seasons.
Jamie: “It’s nice to have someone on a program so familiar, who knows you so well and to check in with such a fast-paced musical environment. Having a little bit of home to be able to come back to.”
Looking to the future, the two use their past influences and ensembles as a base for their musical aspirations. Having grown up in a chamber orchestra, as part of the Melbourne String Ensemble, and the Australian Chamber Orchestra Academy, they were both interested in those kinds of sounds.
Charlotte: “We also love playing chamber and symphonic works, and both of them have their advantages but either way we both like to see ourselves as little cogs in a huge wheel.”
Jamie: “Working with some of the principal players at the ACO was incredibly rewarding because we got to see what they do on a daily basis and you sort of go, ‘I can see myself in that job.’ It was really great to see my options later in some ways.”
Charlotte: “All of these sort of programs and ensembles – Melbourne String Ensemble, the Australian Chamber Orchestra Academy, and AYO now particularly – pave the way to seeing yourself in an orchestral future which we have both entertained the idea of for a really long time.”
“We love the sound and the art of listening, and how it can translate from big to small contexts.”
This year holds a full calendar of music and studies for Charlotte and Jamie, both nationally and abroad:
Jamie: “Between working towards my AMEB LMusA diploma and studying at high school, I’ll be in local competitions and preparing for the AYO seasons.”
“This is my first season so I’m really pumped to get a sense of what it’s like to be a traveling orchestra, especially when I’ll be one of the youngest – to just see these people I can look up to and be in that environment.”
Charlotte: “On Wednesday I will head to Austria for a cello competition, we’re in my bedroom right now in the midst of packing and it’s just bedlam!”
“I have a full ANAM concert season which in itself is almost impossible to squeeze anything else around, I’m doing the Elgar Concerto with an orchestra in June, and a few other concertos throughout the year.”
“I’m really looking forward to working with Ben Northey but in terms of the repertoire it’ll be really interesting to see what Pei-Sian does with the Dvořák concerto.”
What’s a fun fact about the other person?
Jamie: “Charlotte has seen the movie Inception fourteen times which is pretty impressive, and she’s definitely a morning person.”
Charlotte: “Jamie is obsessed with cricket and footy, and he’s very much not a morning person.”