2016 AYO National Music Camp : Blog 2
Posted by Antonia Zappia
Tuesday 5th January, 2016

There’s something wonderful about making new memories in a place you’ve known before. Retracing your steps, feeling the warmth of familiarity interrupted by the arrival of yet-to-be-made acquaintances. For me the Australian Youth Orchestra National Music Camp and the grounds of the Australian National University hold such treasures.

In the summer of 2009 I visited a violinist friend for lunch at the AYO NMC. Almost immediately I became enamoured with the green grounds and weeping willows as I sat with my companion and we talked of her musical adventures. Five years later I had my first camp as a Sound Production participant.

Every day I treaded dew-softened grass to the School of Music, passing rosellas chattering amongst themselves and ducks waddling with a sense of pomp. Rabbits weaved amongst the lavender and rosemary, pausing deftly when they spotted my approach. Each evening I would watch the illuminated pathway between the trees become a watercolour of musicians making their way back from late evening rehearsals. Some would traipse back to the accommodation, dreary eyed and sleepy, determined to restore themselves. Others, however, bounded boisterously to the common room for dancing and billiards.

Last Sunday night, at the formal welcome to Camp in Llewellyn Hall, I discovered that two thirds of my cohort had never been to NMC. That’s a historically high proportion of new Campers. Repeat Campers are usually a big part of every Camp; in fact my long-suffering housemate (a violist) had been to NMC every year since 2008 until he had reached the age limit only this year.

Camp is an excellent way to stretch your mind beyond what you think is possible. The downside, if you’re new on the scene, is not knowing what to do when your brain needs a recharge. As a returning Camper, I know the places that help refresh me for further engagement in the thing I love – writing all about music!

Let these words and pictures serve as a guide to this musical wonderland.

We go down the rabbit hole in the early morning to the dining hall...in fact, if you are ahead of time, rabbits are a perfect excuse for engaging in childlike hide-and-seek games.  In order to snap a picture successfully, you must stay just outside their peripheral vision and ask a friend to stand watch for any noisy passersby.

Or, a little further along, the ducks rarely take kindly to imitation of their elegant waddle. A gentle creep ensures you can get up close without being intimidating.

Arriving at Llewellyn Hall to enjoy a concert, or participate in a rehearsal, you can find many nooks and crannies for debriefing and delighting in your good-humoured companions.

Thoroughly working through a piece means regular changes to the way it’s played. Following such intensive mornings, I see many musicians walking to the dining hall for lunch, heads down, brows furrowed.  Or they’ll talk in pairs about how difficult the piece was, and in solitude they might start replaying in their head fingerings and bowings. Having my own adjustments to make, I find a gentle stroll through the tree path is perfectly complemented by humming along to a beloved tune (whether classical or popular). It assists in giving challenging musical ideas new perspective, and I can then readdress my work with vigour. 

The evening waltz back to the common room is a welcome end to the day. Those who have been many times before might play roulette with their sleep patterns. But for the newer participants, myself included, it is lovely to curl into bed to rest. Alack! to be woken by those obnoxious cockatoos at 5AM for another day of music making!