11 February 2022

CSO launches two new programs to nurture region's young musicians

| Ian Bushnell
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Maddie Nelson

Young violinist Maddie Nelson: “I’d love to play professionally in an orchestra.” Photo: Supplied.

Maddie Nelson has been playing the violin since she was five years old, and she is excited about a new Canberra Symphony Orchestra program that will take her to the next level and a step closer to a professional career.

The Canberra Girls Grammar student is part of the inaugural Canberra Symphony Youth Chamber Orchestra, one of two new professional development and mentoring programs for advanced players the CSO has launched this year.

The other is the Kingsland Collective, a free program for tertiary and post-graduate students.

Leading these ANU School of Music-based initiatives is CSO Concertmaster Kirsten Williams, who had made it her mission to bring on a new generation of musicians.

Ms Williams, who has moved from Sydney to the capital, says the investment in the region’s young musicians is a poignant moment for the Canberra Symphony family and moving ahead.

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The programs will nurture these potential-laden musicians and create career pathways and, in the process, ideally furnish home-grown musicians for the CSO.

“That’s what we would love to see because it’s all about Canberra and the surrounding region,” she says. “Who knows, if one came to audition for the CSO, wouldn’t that be brilliant?”

Sixteen-year-old Maddie has the world at her feet, but the ANU remains in her sights, and she would love to play with the CSO one day.

“Yes, I’d love to play professionally in an orchestra,” she says. “I’ve always loved the environment when I play in orchestras – the people I play with, the type of music and the connection you make with conductors.”

Already concertmaster with the Canberra Youth Orchestra, Maddie is excited to be part of the CSYCO program, which will involve two chamber strings groups for advanced players aged 14 to 19, although it is hoped other instruments can be added.

Kirsten Williams

CSO Concertmaster Kirsten Williams will lead both programs. Photo: Martin Ollman.

She’s hoping the more intimate and focused experience of the unconducted chamber setting will accelerate her growth as a player and iron out any bad habits.

“It’s going to be a new experience to play in a chamber orchestra at such a high level, and it’s going to be a really good experience because chamber music is just gorgeous to play and listen to,” Maddie says.

“There’s a finer level of detail as well, so that’s really going to improve my playing as an orchestral musician and a chamber musician.”

A big part of both programs will be guest masterclasses and mentoring, drawing on the likes of inspirational CSO Chief Conductor Jessica Cottis and visiting artists, something Maddie says will deepen her understanding of the music.

“It will be interesting to see how the group starts off at the beginning of the year and how we progress and develop throughout,” she says.

Ms Williams says the ensembles will never get very big, staying at about 15 to 20 players.

“If we keep it small, every player really feels and knows they are a vital part of the whole,” she says.

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The Kingsland Collective caters for all orchestral instruments and aims to meet the need for extra performance opportunities and provide a holistic approach that will prepare students for a professional career, including body and mind, offering support such as Alexander technique workshops and how to manage performance anxiety.

Ms Williams says she will be at the coalface with them, leading weekly check-ins and rehearsals, as well as chamber workshops with her and other CSO musicians.

“It will complement current programs, provide more opportunities to connect with other students and young musicians in order to go out into the profession,” she says.

CSYCO costs $550 a year and is ready to go, but applications for the free Kingsland Collective are open until 25 February.

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