Cara Daily’s Experience Studying Percussion

A degree from theQueensland Conservatorium Griffith Universitycan 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 Cara Daily who is studying a Bachelor of Music in Percussion.

Tell us about your experience at Young Conservatorium and SHEP and the tour to Glasgow. What is it like being the conductors assistant and how did you get this opportunity?

I was part of the Young Con orchestras for my last 3 years of high school, and I absolutely loved every single one of them. I loved meeting high schoolers from all around Brisbane who shared the same passion of music as me. I remember my first Young Con Wind Orchestra rehearsal when I heard the entire brass section and I was absolutely blown away! I had never been in an orchestra other than the school band, so it was great to be in a room with about 80 musicians! Young Con definitely helped me develop ensemble skills whether it was playing in the percussion section, learning all types of conducting patterns, or how to create a good sound balance within an orchestra.

My trip to Glasgow in 2018 was definitely, to this date, the most incredible and inspiring experience of my life — and I think the only thing that will beat it is when I get to go back and do it all over again! I flew to Scotland with 3 other musicians and Stefanie Smith, our conductor, and spent a few weeks playing in an ensemble at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland (RCS), which is one of the world’s top 5 music universities. I met some amazing Post-Graduate and Masters of Percussion students, some of the RCS Percussion tutors and many other musicians. I absolutely loved Glasgow, the city, the music and the university. I have big dreams of doing my Masters in Glasgow and moving over there in a few years’ time.

Last year, I worked as Percussion Support at SHEP Queensland and SHEP Primary. It was really interesting to be a staff member having being a SHEP musician for a few years prior. I really enjoyed working with the kids, especially the younger ones who had never played in a large band before. It was really rewarding to teach them new things and to watch them have fun in such a fun and exciting environment.

How did the Tertiary Preparation Workshop help you with Auditions at the Con? Do you recommend students to participate in TPW?

I really enjoyed TPW because it gave me a really good insight into what it’s like being a tertiary student at the Conservatorium.

I definitely recommend students to participate in TPW, especially if you are uncertain about where your theory and aural levels are at. Once I started at the Con, I noticed many similarities between TPW and first year at the Con, such as the staff and the content of the workshop. It was a good workshop to do to find out our strengths and weaknesses, and to learn and engage with other hardworking applicants.

Walk us through what a day is like studying at the Con.

My day at the Con usually begins with my morning coffee from Treehouse, followed by either warming up or my first lecture. Mondays and Tuesdays are usually my busiest lecture days so I usually don’t get too much time to knuckle down and practice at the start of the week. Wednesday through to Friday are my favourite days because I either have orchestra, percussion ensemble, my percussion lesson or just heaps of time to practice. It’s hard to have one routine for every single day at the Con because of work schedules and the layout of our weeks, but I always try to get the most out of my day while ensuring I have some time to walk around South Bank with my friends.

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

My favourite aspect of the Con is definitely the amazing percussion tutors we have in Queensland. I have had the privilege to learn privately from Brent Miller, Michael Askill and Nozomi Omote. I also learnt from Tom O’Kelly in the 1st year Timpani Tech class last year, and I have worked with the amazing Head of Percussion, Vanessa Tomlinson in percussion ensemble and percussion workshop. All of these 5 teachers are incredible, and all have their own unique and individual strengths whether it’s their ability to explain a technique, or whether it’s the way they explain sound and tone and body movement in percussion. I have learnt so much from them even though I’ve only been at the Con for a year and a half and I cannot wait to continue learning from these very inspirational and talented people.

I auditioned for the Queensland Conservatorium because of the teachers and the orchestral opportunities available to us. We get the chance to play in orchestras and ensembles all year-round, which is something that other universities don’t get the chance to do. Ultimately, these are the two reasons why I chose Queensland Conservatorium, as well as being close to home and my family.

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

Apart from the percussion teachers as mentioned before, I would say Head of Ensembles, Peter Morris has inspired me. I remember meeting Peter in a Classical Majors O-Week lecture and he was so enthusiastic and welcoming towards our cohort and has been since day one. Peter conducted the majority of the orchestras in which I was a part of last year and as well as being enthusiastic, he is an incredible conductor. Peter’s conducting is so clear and expressive, and he is a very knowledgeable musician and conductor. I really love being in orchestras with Peter.

Have you had many opportunities to perform while at the Con? Which one was your favorite and why?

I have had many opportunities to perform while at the Con. I was in all of the Wind Orchestra concerts last year, one Symphony Orchestra concert, and all the Ba Da Boom Percussion Ensemble concerts (including the most recent concert which was held over Zoom last Wednesday!).

Wind Orchestra Conducted by Peter Morris

What is your proudest achievement so far?

I’m not quite sure if I really have any really big achievements, but recently, I passed my audition to gain a position in the Army Reserves Band here in Queensland. I performed a 40-minute recital late last year and was cleared at audition, and now am preparing for all the necessary fitness tests prior to my enlistment day. After enlistment, I will go to Kapooka for basic army training and then will be an official member of the band where I will rehearse and gig with the band around the state. This is quite different to my ultimate goal of being an orchestral percussionist, however I am really excited for all the training and experiences, musical and non-musical, that this journey will give me!

What advice do you have for future students?

If you want to go down the performance stream, I would suggest joining a youth orchestra before you enter the Con! There are so many music-related and teamwork skills to be learned from just playing in an orchestra, as well as all the enjoyment of being a part of one.

Another piece of advice for future students who have gained acceptance into the Conservatorium is to make the most of all of your individual lessons. It is really important to always be prepared and practice the week prior to the lesson so you can get the most out of your lesson and make the most out of your teacher’s time. All the teachers at the Conservatorium are incredible musicians and it is up to us to make sure we learn as much as we can and gain as much respect as we can from them as musicians and as people!