Selby & Friends is one of the most instantly recognisable chamber ensembles in the country, and each season brings an exciting and diverse collection of programs. What is your programming process every year? When does it begin and how do you pick the pieces you are going to perform?
The process begins early with who the guest artists will be. From there we discuss works we are keen to either learn or play again, so it is quite a democratic process.
You are passionate about mentoring developing musicians and are currently working with the wonderful young violinist Grace Clifford. Why is mentoring important for music students hoping to forge a career as a chamber musician or soloist, and what should young musicians look for in a mentor?
Oh it’s an incredibly joyous thing to work with talented young musicians who are dedicated, disciplined and determined like Grace. They bring a great deal to rehearsals, performances and masterclasses. I believe in passing on what I have learned, it’s as simple as that. Mentoring is great for students too in that they learn enormously from those older and more experienced, especially if they get the opportunity to work with the mentor rather than just be mentored. Seeing how someone works often gives so much without having to explain. What to look for in a mentor? Someone willing, kind, experienced and that the student respects.
Initially, Selby & Friends began as a concert series that introduced children to classical music. Can you tell me about your passion for education, and what young people can get from listening and engaging with chamber music?
Chamber music is special in that it allows you to focus on particulars rather than on large forms. It is more difficult as a result as there is less to distract. For young people it is easy to introduce specific instruments and forms through smaller ensembles. Educating young people with classical music is one way to make them feel less intimidated by it as they grow older. Each person will be subject to what their friends like, their parents, the global community, so having an enjoyable experience with classical music from a young age could be a catalyst to returning to it later in life and therefore not only enriching their own lives but also those of us in the profession still out there creating!
For a concert like the upcoming 'By Arrangement', what does the rehearsal process look like for the ensemble?
It's entirely dependent on the availability of the performers – in this case, one quick pre-rehearsal some weeks ago as a read through, and then two solid rehearsals in the days immediately pre-tour.
The process of rehearsing a chamber ensemble can be a tricky one to navigate when you're starting out. Do you have any tips for running a smooth rehearsal period when there are lots of different performers involved?
Try and choose partners with whom you feel a strong affinity, purpose, and common goal. Whilst we all love music and love to play it, some people are just not cut out to be chamber music partners. It is a specialised form and requires a lot of give and take, kindness, humour and commitment. And sharing.
Aside from the artistic and technical side of chamber music making, what are the integral business skills that young performers should focus on cultivating early on?
That is too large a question to answer succinctly! Music schools, for the most part, do not teach the skills required to create and sustain a business in music. As a performer, at the very least read Music Business by Shane Simpson from cover to cover. Most important, surround yourself with people who share your vision and goals, so that you can work together and not be at cross purposes with each other.
Selby and Friends begin their national tour of 'By Arrangement' kicks off in Adelaide on Sunday 21st May. Tickets and repertoire information are available here.