Day in the Life: Mentor Sally Whitwell

Day in the Life: Mentor Sally Whitwell

What does a day in the life of a professional musician actually look like? Something like this. 

Sally Whitwell
Sydney, Australia

Day in the Life: Mentor Sally Whitwell

What does a day in the life of a professional musician actually look like? Something like this. 

Wednesday, 26 April 2017


Woken by a cat paw stroking my cheek. Her internal body clock is more accurate than any mechanical or electronic time-keeping device I own.


Crawl out of bed to feed her and the other three. I make a cuppa for my lovely partner Glennda, as well as one for myself.


Shower. I find any water-related activity to be very good for organising my thoughts. I map out my whole day.


As soon as I’m dressed I go straight to my office/studio and open up the Unrequited: Girl Meets Boy Band folder on my desktop. Unrequited is the musical I’ve co-written with author Emma Grey. Designed specifically for high school and university student performers, it’s having its first workshop production in November at a school in Canberra, St Clare’s College. They only have time to rehearse an abridged version, so we’ve been very busily abridging the libretto together over GoogleDocs (Emma lives in Canberra). Today I’m busily editing together a chorus booklet, so that those performers don’t have to have the entire vocal score. Auditions are in just a couple of weeks, so everything needs to be finished yesterday. Eek.


Make myself another cuppa and settle in to do some reading on community music practise. I’m considering further study in this area, and am in the midst of completing a literature review for my application. Lifelong learning. It’s a good thing.


Errands. To the stationery store to use the big printers. My printer is not of a size to cope with this volume - a set of full scores and accordion parts (yep, accordion!) for rehearsal tonight with my chamber choir Coro Innominata. Also going to pick up my new passport from the post office ahead of going on tour with Sydney Children’s Choir to the Baltic and Iceland in July. Woo! Last but definitely not least, kitty litter purchase. Seriously, these creatures run my life!


Lunch. Glennda is an excellent cook. She’s left some delicious beef stew in the fridge for me. Yum!


Piano practise time. My big project for 2017 is a recording of the complete piano Etudes by Philip Glass for ABC Classics. I decided to do the whole shebang from memory, because I just feel it’s the only way I’m going to know it well enough. Between the time that I first performed these with Philip Glass in 2013 and the time that they were officially published, a number of changes have been made in the scores, so I am deep in the process of un-learning the old versions of things. It’s the composer’s prerogative to edit the work as they see fit, of course, but to be honest, it is quite annoying!


Depart for my teaching/accompanying job at Sydney Children’s Choir (SCC). Part of my journey is by train, the other part a brisk walk. I find that walking really centres me and it’s also a good thing to get your heart rate pumping a bit.


Arrive at SCC. First up, sight singing. I love teaching sight singing to these fabulous kids. They are really beginning to understand the importance of theory in their musical lives, and it’s great to see them applying their reading knowledge when they pick up a new piece of actual music. When rehearsal proper begins, I’m accompanying the new Junior Performing Choir with our artistic director Lyn Williams conducting. We’re learning some Arvo Pärt.


Grab a few bites of the sandwiches I packed for dinner on my way to...


Rehearsal for Wanderlust, the upcoming concert for my chamber choir Coro Innominata. Tonight is the first night we put things together with our special guest artist, accordionist Marcello Maio. We spend much of the time working to adjust the colour of our sound to match his. It’s an interesting process, and so good for us in our ongoing quest to improve the flexibility in our sound and our range of vocal colours.


Collapse on the couch at home. Glennda has been watching a Nordic noir thriller and is a little wired from it. I decide that it’s probably not a great thing to watch just before I go to bed, so I do a little on my cross stitch project. I have one on the go at all times, my little daily meditation.