In Conversation: Molly Collier-O'Boyle

In Conversation: Molly Collier-O'Boyle

On leadership, programming and eclectic listening. 

Molly Collier-O'Boyle
Melbourne, Australia

In Conversation: Molly Collier-O'Boyle

On leadership, programming and eclectic listening. 

Next week you’ll be giving your first viola recital for a Sound Bite concert at ANAM. Can you tell us a little about the journey that has led you here?

This has been my first year studying viola as my major instrument and I am indeed very excited to be putting on my first viola recital at ANAM this week. Up until this point, I had predominantly been a violinist (bar some dabbling with the electric jazz bass in high school) and during my Bachelor of Music in 2013, I picked up a viola to learn for chamber and orchestral situations. Over the next few years, whilst finishing my Bachelor and then going on to do my Graduate Diploma in performance on violin, I kept auditioning for projects on both violin and viola. It turned out that I was getting better results on viola in most cases and I was enjoying exploring the instrument, so this year I thought I would give it a shot as my main focus. I was lucky enough to be taken in by ANAM to do a part-time year studying viola, while being able to freelance around the country, participate in a wide variety of AYO programs and keep up playing the violin when I can.

What were your programmatic priorities in putting this recital together and how did you go about researching and choosing the pieces you'll be performing?

My good friend and fellow ANAM colleague Liam Wooding was kind enough to agree to be my recital partner for this Sound Bite. He really loves the Brahms clarinet sonatas so, of course, I had to program one in! My mentor Caroline Henbest then invited me to give the premiere of Stuart Greenbaum's Viola & Piano Sonata, and to top that off, I thought I would like to incorporate some chamber music, so I chucked the Kodaly Intermezzo for String Trio into the mix. I think all three pieces have fantastic folk elements to them, which is a genre I am particularly passionate about!

You've performed as both associate and principal viola for Australian Youth Orchestra; leadership roles that require more than just technical aptitude. What have your experiences in AYO taught you about musical leadership?

My experiences with AYO this year have been absolutely life-changing. I really owe it to organisations like AYO and ANAM for guiding me onto the path of the beautiful bratsche this year - without these opportunities I don't think I would have pursued this wonderfully underestimated instrument. Having done many AYO programs previously as tutti violin and viola, it was a very different experience being put into the position of a leading a section. These projects allowed me to work on my skills as a principal player at a high level surrounded by many of my lovely classical musician friends, which was both daunting and very special.

As well as studying and performing as a soloist and orchestral musician, you also work in several chamber ensembles. Can you tell me about your current projects and how your work in small ensembles has influenced your overall musical values?

Over the last few years, I have been in a variety of chamber music ensembles, from student-led groups to more professional chamber organisations such as Queensland's Chamber Orchestra - Camerata. Over this year, I have had the opportunity to play chamber music with a fantastic quartet at the AYO Chamber Player's program, performed as part of the Play On Collective at the Collingwood Arts Precinct and most recently, worked in a wide variety of groups at ANAM for recitals and competitions. Currently, I am in the process of brainstorming chamber music ideas for next year; I've recently started a duo with Madi Chwasta (percussion star and journalist extraordinaire) called MC2, as well as beginning conversations with other colleagues about starting an ensemble where we the performers are writing and performing our own music. Stay tuned!

Whilst living and studying in Brisbane, you curated and organized the arts event series 'Paint it Red'. What did this process teach you about event organization and programming? 

Curating Paint it Red gave me so much invaluable knowledge about how to actually run music events; from finances and advertising to administration and people skills and additionally, the ability to solve problems as quickly as possible! I met so many fantastic visual artists and chamber musicians through running this series and learnt how to run a successful Pozible campaign so I could pay everyone involved (how neat is that?!). It taught me so much about programming and how to fit ensembles playing different genres into one evening of carefully curated music. I hope to do more event organisation in Melbourne next year.

Finally, when you're not listening to the pieces you're preparing to perform, what's on your playlist? 

I must confess, I am the absolute worst listener of classical music at the best of times. My playlist includes all time favourites from D'Angelo, J Dilla, Nujaves, Earth Wind and Fire, The East Pointers, Sex on Toast, the Danish String Quartet, Daft Punk, Breakout, Andrew Bird, Esperanza Spalding, Nickel Creek and The Punch Brothers, to name a few. Perhaps I should have stuck with the bass guitar after all!

Hear Molly's Sound Bite at the Australian National Academy of Music at 1pm on November 14. Tickets are just $5 at the door.