By Queensland Conservatorium classical voice student, Anna Stephens.
Celebrated Australian conductor Simone Young visited the Queensland Conservatorium last week for a masterclass and Q&A session with students. Simone Young is famous for her decades of successful work with the Hamburg Philharmonic State Orchestra and her tenure with Opera Australia from 2001 to 2003. She was in Brisbane to conduct the Queensland Symphony Orchestra in a performance for the Brisbane Festival, featuring Lisa Gasteen, Professor of Opera at the Conservatorium. Classical voice student Anna Stephens writes about the experience.
The Queensland Conservatorium was lucky enough to be visited this week by Simone Young, one of Australia’s own internationally renowned conductors.
During a Q&A session, many students got the opportunity to speak to her, ask questions, and hear about her life and experiences as a professional musician. This was an immensely interesting experience. Not only were we treated to many first-hand accounts of her most famous performances—such as her debut performance in Vienna—but she also imparted numerous helpful and relevant tips.
Simone Young’s insights into the realm of female performers and conductors were particularly illuminating. Young believes that ‘being a woman’ in the music industry—and associated feelings of inadequacy, being harshly judged or suffering increased nerves—is completely irrelevant, which was heartening to hear. She stressed that once you are on stage, it becomes all about the music and only the music—nothing else matters.
She stated that “110% of your focus should be on the music and the task at hand. If you’re not thinking about the music when you’re on stage, then you’re in the wrong place.”
Young refuses to discuss the gender topic, as she believes that it gives a significance to “being a female musician”, which is wholly irrelevant and undeserved. Personally, I found this response most enlightening. It was refreshing to hear the topic of ‘being a female musician’ described as “irrelevant” as opposed to “remarkable” or “applaudable”.
Amongst many other topics, she discussed her preparation habits, revealing just how much time she spends on a single score. I was amazed to hear that she could spend up to a whole hour learning five minutes of music. She really drove home the amount of preparation and dedication that a musician needs to be successful. Her obvious passion for the art was inspiring.
Young also talked about the challenges of facing an unknown orchestra, and how conducting is an art of constant adaptation and evolution. The gestures that work for one orchestra may not have the same effect on another; thus, a consistent flexible, artistic approach is essential to conducting.
Simone Young’s expertise and knowledge alongside such a palpable passion for music was incredibly motivating. Her time could not have been bestowed on a more grateful and eager audience.