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All the world’s a stage | Eleanor Hill, violin

Hi Eleanor, tell us how you got to be in this place.

In my final year of my Bachelor degree, I was in the position where I knew I wasn’t ready to go straight into a professional career as a violinist. I needed further refining of my technique, and more guidance and opportunities in order to build a solid performance career.

On a whim, I decided to apply for post-graduate study in the United Kingdom. I actually saw it more as an opportunity to visit my siblings over there and have a holiday, as — even though I knew I would love to study overseas — I had no idea how I would be able to afford it.

It all became a reality when I realised I was the recipient of an entrance scholarship to the Royal Academy of Music for 24,000 pounds. I then continued to search for funding, and applied for many grants and scholarships. I was fortunate to be awarded the Brisbane City Council Lord Mayor’s Young and Emerging Artist Fellowship for $20,000 and the Arts Australia Career Development Grant for $25,000.

This was a huge relief for me, as it meant that my tuition fees were fully covered. I am now enjoying my studies at the Royal Academy of Music, and I am absolutely loving living in London.

What’s been your history or connection to the country?

I am fortunate to have family in London, as my brother and sister moved here a few years ago for work. Also, my teacher Adam Chalabi from my Bachelor degree is English and completed his studies here in the UK, too.

For these reasons, London seemed like the easiest way to kick-start the process into exploring overseas study options.

So, talk us through your daily life.

The Masters program at the academy is quite flexible and open, leaving lots of time for different opportunities. Each week, we are emailed a list of all the lectures that we can attend that week. They are always extremely varied and useful. Past lectures have focused on Alexander technique, teaching, memorisation, efficient practice skills, performance anxiety, public speaking, music business, and so on. This keeps my schedule exciting, and gives me the opportunity to learn about several different topics from the impressive teaching staff at the academy.

A typical day for me would usually be some practice, a lecture, a rehearsal or lesson, and watching some sort of concert at night.

What do you enjoy doing or discovering across your new home country when you’re not hard at work?

London is a vibrant city that has a lot to offer. I have been amazed by the cultural innovation and easily accessible art that the city delivers. There are so many unique performances you can attend for free or for very little money.

Since being here, I have been to at least two performances a week. I have found it very inspiring to be surrounded by such great performers.  

How has being overseas contributed to or helped shape your identity as a musician?

I have found that, in the short time that I have been here, I have collaborated with numerous amazing musicians from across the world. The academy has students representing over 30 countries; it has been an inspiring experience being placed into such a culturally and musically diverse environment.

A typical performance class covers so many different styles of music, from an accordion and violin tango duet to the Elgar Cello Concerto. I also find that after attending so many concerts, I have a better appreciation for the arts and am more excited about a future career in performance.

There’s a perception that Australian artists need to go overseas to ‘make it’. But what are some of the benefits you think Australia has to offer you as an emerging artist, too? Is it all about balance?

I believe there are some great opportunities for career development in Australia. There are many internships and programs that have helped me personally advance my career. Australia is also home to several outstanding performers and pedagogues. So no, I do not think it is imperative to study overseas to create a successful performing career. However, I do think that it is easier to find and be involved in these career initiatives overseas — as, proportionally, there are simply more to choose from and they are much more accessible due to the ease of travel.

There are so many amazing musicians to learn from all over the place; the possibilities for growth really are endless. Studying overseas is also a chance to gain some perspective and experience a more culturally focused environment.

In Australia, you trained with the AYO to build your professional experiences as you enter the industry. What was the key message from your training that remains with you today, on the other side of the world?

Being a part of AYO has undoubtedly helped shape my career as a musician. In fact, it was actually my first AYO National Music Camp that made me start thinking of music as a serious career path. The reason for this was probably AYO’s unique environment that allows collaboration to be the heart of your music experience.

AYO always encourages you to have fun and play with energy. I believe this allows me to really connect more with the music and create memorable performances. The level of vitality and genuine enjoyment whilst playing with your friends in AYO is what you want to bring to every professional performance.

It was also useful to be able to work so closely with our conductors and tutors. I believe it taught me how to improve quicker, what to listen and look for whilst playing, and how to behave professionally in an orchestral setting.

What advice would you give to young people who are undertaking this sort of training, or who have recently completed it, and are looking to build their career outside Australia?

My advice would be to just audition and apply for everything and not be discouraged when you aren’t always successful — even if you think it’s not possible. It is better to apply for audition practice and see what happens rather than not try at all.

I would also suggest really looking into all the funding Australia provides for young musicians. I applied for over 10 grants, and was extremely lucky to be successful in two of them. There are some great opportunities available out there, you just have to be very proactive in applying for them.

And finally…where are you off to next?

As for the long term, I’m not too sure! The great thing about living in London is that there are numerous orchestras and performance opportunities to be involved in. I am hoping to partake in as many programs as I can, and see where that takes me and my career. 

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