The Sir William and Lady Lois Manchester Internship and Fellowship Programme was, without a doubt, the perfect step in my musical development after the completion of my undergraduate music degree. As one of the 2015 Fellowship recipients I had the privilege of playing in the Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra full-time from February until June, and over those months I experienced what life as a professional orchestral player is really like, as well as learning immensely from all the opportunities offered in the programme. These opportunities included: regular individual lessons with the principal violist of the APO, Robert Ashworth, extra lessons with the principal cellist (Eliah Sakakushev-von Bismarck) and concertmaster (Andrew Beer), observing the first round of a genuine live APO viola audition, and of course playing in all rehearsals and concerts. Through undertaking these activities I have considerably, and very quickly expanded my orchestral repertoire (even adding some operas/ballets!), grown to feel much more comfortable playing and blending within a section, and discovered that I really enjoy the life of an orchestral musician at a professional level. Additionally, all of the individual lessons helped me focus on my personal development as a player – as well as practicing standard orchestral excerpts, I had valuable guidance on the repertoire I used for my auditions for Master’s programmes in the United States. After this Fellowship experience, I can attest that every aspect of this programme has encouraged me to become the much more confident musician I am today.
Being immersed in a professional symphony for several months is probably the quickest way to learn exactly what is required to be a good orchestral player. I found immediately that when you are playing in a section of established musicians, you immediately notice when you are doing something that is not what everyone else is doing. Through this way I was taught by observation how to quickly make stylistic and technical adjustments without any exchange of words, in a way that no other orchestral experience (international festivals, university orchestras, playing in the top youth orchestras of the country, etc.) has taught me up until – or even since – this experience.
The APO is such a well-organized orchestra, and it is really admirable that they include the wider community by programming concerts with emerging New Zealand composers and artists, specialty shows for children or commemorative events (for example a concert at the Auckland War Memorial Museum), and involving students from the Auckland University music school in educational opportunities. Each and every member of the orchestra has been so welcoming, and the section principals and other players are always willing to help with any difficulty that may arise. I was definitely sad to say farewell to playing with such a fantastic group of people (and corresponding with such a caring and marvelous management team!) but I am sincerely grateful that I had the fortune to participate in the Fellowship Programme for 2015. I can only hope that my next orchestral experiences come close to being as satisfying.