Accenture Scholarship Recipient: Jenna Schijf

Our Principal sponsor Accenture, generously awards an annual scholarship to an outstanding young musician with financial support to support their musical training and associated expenses. The scholarship, valued at $10,000, has again been awarded in 2015. We are extremely pleased to announce this year’s talented recipient, bassoonist Jenna Schijf.

Jenna, whose musical education has seen her participate  in the Western Australian Youth Orchestra, complete a Bachelor of Classical Performance at the Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts and participate in a host of AYO programs, is currently living in Sydney, where she is tutored by SSO’s Principal Bassoonist, Matthew Wilkie.

Jenna has participated in AYO’s programs since 2013, and is the AYO’s Principal Bassoonist this year. In 2015 she has joined AYO for National Music Camp, February Season, has participated in a TSO Fellowship Program, performed alongside the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra, and will be on stage for our July season shows. Jenna sat down to tell us a little bit about her musical journey so far:

When did you first start playing music?

I began learning the piano at six years of age.

How did you choose your instrument?

I wouldn’t really say that I chose the bassoon, more that it was an opportunity that came up and I took it.

I auditioned for a music scholarship on the piano when I went to high school. I knew I wanted to learn another instrument besides the piano and that I wanted to be a part of the school band, however I wasn’t sure about which instrument I wanted to play. The director of music asked me if I was interested in learning the bassoon, as there was a specialist scholarship on offer for that instrument, and my exact response was “What’s that?”. The rest has just fallen into place since then.

What do you like most about the bassoon?

I love the versatility of the instrument. It has the ability to sound really quirky and ridiculous, as well as dark, rich and beautiful. I think that it is completely understated and I love that it is less showy compared to say a flute or violin, but when the opportunity for a brilliant solo or line comes up, it seems more special and we really ring it in.

What advice would you give to young Australian bassoonists who wish to become professional musicians?

I would firstly encourage them to stick with the bassoon and continue practicing. A lot of young people stop too early because they are discouraged by reeds and the by difficulty of the instrument and they haven’t realised their true potential or fallen in love with the instrument yet. Get inspired! Go onto YouTube and find videos of famous bassoonists and orchestras and use that as goals and as inspiration. Meet with other bassoonists and play duets or trios or even just talk about the instrument, learn as much as you can and you will fall in love with it for sure. There are not enough bassoonists in Australia and there needs to be more!

When did you join AYO? Which programs have you been involved with?

2013 was the year of my first National Music Camp, however this year is the first year that I have been involved with the actual Australian Youth Orchestra. I have been involved in National Music Camp from 2013-2015 and this year I am the Principal Bassoon of the AYO and also took part in the AYO TSO Fellowship program.

How has AYO helped you grow as a musician?

My first National Music Camp really opened my eyes and showed me what the rest of the country’s young players are capable of and the standard they are at. You gauge where you sit amongst other players your age as well as getting to meet so many wonderful people with the same passion for music and playing that you have and it inspires you to work harder and you love playing more and more.

How will the Accenture scholarship help you develop as a musician? What opportunities did it allow you to access?

This year I relocated from Perth to Sydney to study privately with Matthew Wilkie, Principal Bassoon of the Sydney Symphony, and the scholarship covers my private tuition with Matthew. It has also meant that I can buy a reed profiling machine, which is really an important piece of equipment to have as a bassoon player and will last me through my career, as well as cover other reed making costs such as cane. My housemates Niamh Dell and Alex McCracken have formed a wind trio, Trio Maison, and we have been accepted into the Australian Festival of Chamber Music Advanced Masterclass program in Townsville this August, which gives us the opportunity to work with world class international and Australian musicians. The scholarship has covered my costs for this wonderful opportunity and I would’ve struggled to get there without it. And of course, my AYO fees have been covered for the two seasons and the TSO Fellowship. It is such a wonderful opportunity for AYO musicians and I wouldn’t have been able to achieve so many wonderful things without the scholarship.

What are your musical goals in the next few years?

There are many different opportunities that will arise that I will audition for over the years, and I would love to travel to Europe at some stage to meet with teachers and possibly attend some summer schools. I think the big thing for me is to iron out the imperfections in my playing over the next few years and see what opportunities arise from there.

What steps are you taking to pursue your goals?

The biggest step that I have taken this year was moving from Perth to Sydney. Learning from Matthew this year I have already seen an improvement in my playing and having his guidance has been a huge advantage, and is not only a great teacher but also a fantastic contact to have for future European travels.