A degree from the Queensland Conservatorium Griffith University can take you down many career paths. From Eurovision finalists, Kate Miller-Heidke and Dami Im to Tim Davies, who orchestrated the music for La La Land and Frozen, many of the Conservatorium’s graduates have found remarkable success.

In this series, we asked students from the Conservatorium to share their experiences at university. This week we are highlighting Julia Hill who is studying a Bachelor of Music in Violin.

What do you love most about Queensland Conservatorium and why did you come here to study?

I set my sights on the Conservatorium when I was about 10 years old. It was the first time I had heard of a university that is completely dedicated to music — and my goal to be accepted did not waver from then until I auditioned seven years later.

In 2015, I met my current violin professor, Graeme Jennings, at a music camp called MOST (Musically Outstanding STudents). Graeme reached out to me offering lessons for when I happened to be in Brisbane (I grew up in Hervey Bay). Having this teacher-student relationship established before I was accepted into the Con really strengthened my want to come here.

I love the people at the Conservatorium; staff and students alike. Everyone is so supportive, and I don’t feel like I’m in a competition to be the best violinist.

I feel as though we all lift each other up, nurturing each other’s strengths and encouraging each other to be the best we can possibly be.

What is a regular day in the life at university for you?

If I don’t have Japanese class at the Nathan Campus, I generally arrive at the Con around 9 am or 10 am for rehearsals (chamber group, divertimenti strings, etc). My classes are generally in the afternoon and there are often orchestra rehearsals from either 9:30 am — 12 pm and/or 4 pm — 6:30 pm around three times a week. The orchestra schedule changes every week — sometimes you have both a morning and afternoon rehearsal with a class bunched in the middle, sometimes you get a day off.

As you can probably see, the days are filled up very quickly! I try to practice around my scheduled events with appropriate breaks to rest my mind. Sometimes I practice at home before I go to university and at night. I pack a lunch which I take about half an hour out to eat, and sometimes pack a dinner if I have to be at the Con past 7pm (sometimes the large ensemble rehearsals go to 10pm!).

All in all, I’ve learnt you need to be very flexible with your schedule at the Con, and that suits me just fine — I like doing something different every day.

Have there been any classes or specific teachers who have inspired you throughout your time here?

I honestly couldn’t single out a lecturer because they’re all so amazing and knowledgeable in their specialties! However, if I had to choose a class, the first one that comes to mind is ‘My Life as a Musician’ (known as MLaaM at the Conservatorium). This course is convened and lectured by Dr. Diana Tolmie and provides you with the skills you need for when you transition into the ‘real world’. For example, in MLaaM 2, a course taken in the third year, we learn how to put a strong grant application together as well as create a project plan.

While the business side of music may seem initially unfamiliar and daunting, I believe these skills are extremely important to becoming a 21st-century musician. There are so many ways to create a successful career in music, and of course, hard work and practice are part of it, but it’s not the only thing you can do to ‘make it’. The best part is the lectures are super fun and Diana is fantastic in engaging with us (so much for not singling out a lecturer haha!)

Have you had many opportunities to perform? Which one was your favorite and why?

Yes — there have been heaps of performance opportunities since beginning at the Con. I have performed in duos, trios, quartet and quintets as part of the Small Ensemble course and also have had the opportunity to play new pieces by the Conservatorium’s own composition majors in the composition concerts.

There are also many solo opportunities; I’ve played in a few string department showcases and also performed in string workshops as regularly as possible. Occasionally, we have special guests visit and in the first year, I was lucky enough to play for violinist Dale Barltrop, Concertmaster of the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra and First Violinist of the Australian String Quartet.

My favourite performance, however, would have to come from the series of Large Ensemble performances I have done (symphony orchestra, opera orchestra, etc.). At the end of 2018, I was invited to play the violin part in ‘Music for 18 Musicians’ by Steve Reich. Performing it in the Conservatorium Theatre put me into a kind of trance in which I felt completely calm, relaxed and at home.

Why Violin?

When I was in Year Two, the school orchestra played at our assembly and it really interested me. For some reason, out of all the instruments on the stage, I was mostly drawn to the violin — I think the notion of playing an instrument I already knew about excited me. So, I started in year three, loved it from the first lesson and kept going with it.

What is your proudest achievement so far?

Receiving a 2020 New Colombo Plan Scholarship is my proudest achievement. The scholarship, a signature initiative of the Australian Government, gives around 120 Australian undergraduate students of any degree to undertake study, internships and language training in the Indo-Pacific each year. I am planning to go to Japan for 18 months starting early next year, firstly to complete my Honours year, and then do a mix of internships and Japanese language training.

The application process was enormous and rather strenuous! There are three stages: expression of interest to the university, application to the DFAT (Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade) and then a live interview in Canberra. Nevertheless, I got through it and really have to thank my violin professor, Graeme Jennings as well as Victoria Menzies (SFHEA) and the Griffith Honours College for the amount of support they provided! Expressions of Interest for the 2021 round are open now and close on May 25th. I highly encourage you to apply — it would be good to see more music student representation!

What advice do you have for future students?


Love your music. Love your practice. Love your performing. Have fun with it. Personally, I don’t think music is a form of ‘work’ — it’s a vocation. If you are ever feeling doubtful continuing with music, remember why you do it. Remember why you picked it up in the first place. Remember that there are always many pathways to be successful with a music career. After all, you’re the only one who can make your career possible!