Tuesday 14th April, 2020


National Music Camp is one thing for a first-timer, quite another thing for someone who has been back year after year. The Words About Music team spoke to a range of campers and tutors to get their take on the National Music Camp experience.

First-time camper: Emily Miers, horn

What made you decide to come to camp?

I love the horn, especially playing orchestral repertoire. National Music Camp    is a great opportunity  to be part of a high-calibre ensemble and to find like-minded friends and networks from all over Australia.

Favourite part of camp so far?

The rehearsals. I’ve enjoyed working with conductors and the amazing musicians. Learning from my section and from my tutor, learning from the rest of the orchestra.

What are you learning?

I’m learning how to be more confident in an orchestral situation. Especially being so young and having to step up and play with older, more experienced players.

Would you come back?

Definitely! I’ll definitely be practising my butt off to hopefully be back next year.

Most unexpected thing about camp?

How challenging it’s been to find my ground when everyone’s so amazing and so much more experienced and they seem to know everything. But it’s been surprising how much I’ve learnt from that. It’s been an opportunity to learn rather than to criticise myself.

If you were a pizza topping what would you be?

Mushroom. I don’t have an exact reason, I just really like mushrooms on pizza.

Veteran camper: Adrian Whitehall, double bass

What keeps you coming back to camp?

Every year it gets better. It’s a fun two weeks of playing music with some great friends that you make over time, and it’s a really great hub for developing your skills. Because it’s such a fantastic camp, it motivates you to keep auditoning again.

How has camp changed over the years?

Every year brings new tutors, conductors and chamber directors, so you   see a different aspect of playing music from different points of views. That’s probably the biggest change for me personally.

What’s your most memorable National Music Camp experience?

Last year was pretty special, when we played Pines of Rome and Shosta' 12. Pines of Rome was probably the loudest concert I’ve ever been in at camp. It’s not the greatest bass part, but it’s such a fantastic work. That last movement—I’ve never played so many loud crotchets in my life!

What advice would you give to someone on their first camp?

Just have fun! There are so many opportunities here. I remember not knowing a lot of people, and it was very scary for me. I was like “How am I gonna make friends? How am I gonna do this?”. But the key is introducing yourself to your tutors and fellow players. You’ll start to bond with your fellow musicians, and then the concerts are great because you’ve got your peers supporting you. It’s one of those friendly environments where everyone’s really nice, and that’s a great thing to have. And the cricket, that’s always fun.

How would you pitch National Music Camp to someone who’s thinking of auditioning?

It’s the most amazing two weeks. You get to play amazing rep, there’s wonderful tutors, wonderful conductors, wonderful AYO staff. It’s just a really fantastic fortnight of music-making.

If you were a pizza topping, what would you be?

I love Hawaiian pizzas, and I’m one of those people that says “Oh yeah, pineapple totally deserves to be on a pizza.” So I feel like I’d be Hawaiian. Or maybe bacon, on a meatlovers’ pizza.


Veteran tutor: Lachlan Bramble, violin


How many years have you been a camp tutor?

I think it’s nine! I’m one shy of the double digits.

What keeps you coming back to camp?

It really is the highlight of my year, the two weeks here. It’s such a wonderful way to start the year with some really intense music making. And I feel it’s a privilege: there’s lots of other people who could tutor and I’m really thrilled to be asked, so I always jump at it.

What’s your favourite of the pieces you’re tutoring this year?

Sibelius’ second symphony is the one I’ve had the biggest obsession with over the years, so to share that obsession with the wonderful young musicians is really special. I love that it’s music that wears its heart on its sleeve. It’s very beautiful and very powerful at the same time, and it has a happy ending.

What’s your most memorable camp experience?

It was last year. My chamber music group learned their piece from memory, and in the concert they turned their music stands around and they had my name written across all of them with a big love heart! That was embarrassing, memorable and touching all at the same time.

What makes National Music Camp a great learning experience for young musicians?

I think it’s the total immersion in music. It’s the combination of really solid orchestral training and all the added things on the top that can not only support that training, but really open people’s eyes to the possibilities of music making both as an art form and as a career.

If you were a pizza topping, what would you be?

Ham and pineapple: approachable, though not strictly correct.


First-time tutor: Huw Jones, oboe

How would you describe the atmosphere at National Music Camp?

It’s very much how I remember it from when I did camp many years ago. There’s a buzz, there’s excitement. Every musician is here because they want to be here. I’ve been really impressed by the enthusiasm, the focus and the commitment that everyone is showing. They’re all really keen to learn.

How has camp changed since you were last here as a student?

My memories of camp are hazy at best… There’s a lot more things going on, not just orchestra rehearsals and sectionals. The chamber music is a big change that I’ve noticed. When I did camp there wasn’t that aspect, or the professional development opportunities.

Based on your first week, would you recommend camp to aspiring professional musicians?

Absolutely! 100%. It’s hard to get in, it’s competitive, and that’s important. If you want to be a professional musician you need to be in these environments which are tricky to get into, competitive—but also once you’re here that sense of competition is gone. An orchestra is all about collaboration, and so if you want to learn how to be a professional musician, a professional creative person, camp is a great place for that because there are so many people here to collaborate with. AYO National Music Camp is a really important step in a person’s career—it was certainly important for me!

What has been your best camp experience so far?

I’ve really liked the variety of experiences. I kind of thought I would just take a few sectionals and that would be it, but to be very involved in the chamber music aspects is really exciting, as well as tutoring the oboes, listening to the whole orchestra and being able to dialogue with the conductors, and then attend one of the professional development things as well – I went to Dean Newcomb’s improvisation class the other day and that was fantastic.

If you were a pizza topping, what would you be?

Ooooh… Supreme. Bit of everything. Absolutely. A bit of veggie, a bit of meat. Yep. I try to be a little bit of everything to everyone so I’m going to be Supreme… do people even like Supreme? I like Supreme.


This article was written by the Words About Music participants at National Music Camp 2020.