Hilary Bruer


National Music Camp 1983

AYO 1984-86

Hilary grew up in Adelaide and completed her music performance degree in 1984, studying with the Swedish violinist Gunnar Crantz. She also studied singing and worked chorally and as a soloist, in “classical” and popular idioms.

In 1987 she moved to Sydney and played with the Sydney Symphony Orchestra for 2 years. Following that, she spent 4 years with the WA Symphony Orchestra before returning to Adelaide in 1992.

She has played with the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra since then and continues to work as a freelance lounge singer, violin teacher, and chamber musician.

Hilary also instigated the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra Hall of Fame project, which celebrates musicians who have given 15 years or more service and have, has Hilary says, ‘put their life and soul into their work’.

What sparked your love for the violin?
In primary school I would watch concerts and I thought the bows looked cool all going in the same direction! When I was a student music was readily available in primary schools so everyone had access to music education. I think this is so important to nurturing the future of music in this country. For example, if young people want to reach the standard to play in the AYO they really need to start playing an instrument at primary-school age. My early teachers always made sure there were groups for their students of perform in – e.g. end of year concerts, Eisteddfods, etc – and this is something I always try to facilitate myself as a teacher.

What made you decide to pursue music as a career?
Although I studied music I wasn’t considering it as a career at the time – I was simply studying it because I enjoyed it. However, during my studies I found a teacher I really clicked with; he had a very positive attitude and an analytical approach to teaching. He encouraged me to audition for the Sydney Symphony Orchestra. I didn’t want to because I didn’t think I was good enough, but I did it to please him! I found playing for people I didn’t know during the audition to be a liberating experience. I came second and was invited to work casually with the SSO for a month. I enjoyed it so much that after three weeks I decided music was what I wanted to do as a career.

Which AYO experiences have stayed with you during your career?
The repertoire you learn in AYO gets under your fingers in a different way to music you learn anywhere else. When you play the piece as a professional, the muscle memory comes back. I also find I get back the excitement I had when I played in AYO – it feels like I was born playing the piece.

I never thought playing as a professional musician would feel as exhilarating as when I played in the AYO but it still does – I still have the same feeling after all these years.

What advice would you give to your younger musical self?
Keep physically fit for the job – both for the physical aspects of performing and for mental resilience. Work as hard as you can, because you never know when opportunities will come up. And make music with as many wonderful and like-minded people as you can find.

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