Remarkable music students win Conservatorium Medal

Two remarkable students are following a long line of musical luminaries by winning the prestigious Queensland Conservatorium Medal for Excellence.

Violinist Kate Worley and pianist Crystal Smith were presented with the medals in front of a packed house at the opening concert of the Queensland Conservatorium orchestral season.

Queensland Conservatorium Director Professor Scott Harrison said the Medal for Excellence recognised truly outstanding students who had achieved academic success and contributed more widely to the Conservatorium.

“These medals are an institution at the Queensland Conservatorium,” he said.

“They were first awarded in 1978 and past winners include internationally acclaimed musicians like Piers Lane, Brett Dean and Jayson Gillham.

“The medals not only recognise academic excellence, but reward students who go above and beyond.

“Kate and Crystal are not only amazing musicians, but they have demonstrated great leadership, and used their talents to give back to the Conservatorium and the wider community.”

Kate graduated from the Bachelor of Music last year, and is now undertaking an Honours degree. The talented violinist said she was honoured to receive the Medal for Excellence.

“I was so surprised- it’s very exciting,” she said.

“I’vebeen playing violin since I was eight years old – it can be incredibly challenging, but also rewarding.

“It is fantastic to receive this kind of recognition.”

Originally from Adelaide, Kate travelled halfway across the country to study at the Queensland Conservatorium with Michele Walsh – one of the country’s best violin teachers.

“After high school, I was tossing up a few different options, but I realised it was now or never for music,” she said.

“I got to know Michele through the Australian Youth Orchestra, and she is the reason I decided to come up to Brisbane to study at the Con.

“She is absolutely wonderful and we all adore her – Michele brings out the best in all her students.”

During her time at the Queensland Conservatorium, Kate has founded several ensembles, and played to diverse audiences as part of projects like Opera at Jimbour, Griffith Opera on the Beach, and regular performances at the Lady Cilento Children’s Hospital.

“The priority here isn’t just getting good marks, it’s about developing as a musician and giving something back,” she said.

Fellow medalist Crystal Smith has also gone ‘above and beyond’ during her time at the Queensland Conservatorium – from mentoring younger students, to volunteering as an accompaniest at student recitals, and providing regular entertainment to patients and their families at the Lady Cilento Children’s Hospital.

Crystal has also broadened her musical horizons – creating several chamber ensembles, playing with the Conservatorium Symphony Orchestra and collaborating with music technology students on a series of experimental works.

Crystal has been playing piano since she was five years old, and comes from a large, musical family. While she spends up to 10 hours a day practicing, she also relishes the opportunity to use her music to give something back.

“Playing piano can be quite a solitary pursuit, but I realised after coming to the Con that there is a much bigger world out there,” she said.

“This whole building is full of incredible musicians, and I decided to break out of the practice studio.

“You may have to sit for hours on end mastering your instrument, but music is about community – it’s the universal language.”