Jonathan Henderson


AYO 2010



Jonathan Henderson ( is Principal Flute of the Estonian National Opera. His many achievements include touring Europe with the Baltic Youth and Aldeburgh World Orchestras, winning the James Carson Memorial Prize and receiving numerous study scholarships, including the Ian Potter Cultural Trust Award to undertake postgraduate study in Freiburg, Germany with Felix Renggli.

What made you want to take up the flute at the age of 15?

 During high school my friends would go off to band rehearsal and I wanted to do the same. I approached the band conductor who suggested I try different instruments and see if I could produce some sort of sound. I wasn't great on my first go at trumpet or french horn, but managed to squeak some notes out of a friend's clarinet, so that was that. I struggled through the first few rehearsals and had to label every single note in the score to be able to keep up.

It took me half a year of sitting in the school band listening to all the instruments to fall in love with the flute. I was particularly jealous that the principal flute got to play such beautiful melodic solos and float above the orchestra, so I gave up on the clarinet and started flute lessons through the school music program. I loved it.

What made you decide to study overseas?

 Gerhard Mallon, my teacher at the Queensland Conservatorium during my Bachelor studies, spoke so fondly of the breadth of musical culture in Germany that I developed a strong curiosity to experience it for myself. After graduating in Brisbane I was able to realise this dream of overseas postgraduate study thanks to the guidance and encouragement from my last flute teacher in Australia - Sally Walker (Lecturer in Flute at the University of Newcastle).

When I first heard Sally play, I fell in love with the sheer palette of colours she was able to produce, the ease of expressiveness and the enormous range of dynamics with which she played. My lessons with her were a total inspiration and she completely expanded my way of musical thinking. Hearing of her cultural experiences in Europe further inspired me to pursue study in Germany and Sally helped provide me with a clear path to make that happen.

What were the challenges involved with this?

 A small part of me was hesitant because I was beginning to have some success in Australia with auditions and had started to feel recognised as a young professional. I thought it would be challenging to be a small fish in a big pond, but swallowed my fear and trusted that the outcome would be worth it. By thinking more long term and focusing on my career goals it ended up being an easy decision to go overseas.

What was your experience of studying overseas, e.g. what were the similarities/differences to Australia?

 It took time to adjust to life in Germany and to understand the many cultural differences, however after living there for two and a half years I felt quite at home. Classical music has an extremely valued and respected place in German culture - it is considered by many as essential, rather than merely entertainment. It was reassuring to see orchestral concerts and opera performances constantly sold out in a comparatively small town like Freiburg.

After two years of studying in Germany I developed a much stronger work ethic, gained lots of motivation for self improvement and now have greater expectations and a more critical ear when practicing. The priorities of my studies in Germany became to focus on training my flute technique and mental focus to be able to give my best performance at any time of the day and in any mood!

How did AYO prepare you?

AYO is a must for any aspiring orchestral musician in Australia. We are so fortunate to have a training program of international calibre right in our own backyard. In a way it has become a rite of passage for young musicians to experience AYO at some point in their development because the benefits are so fruitful – not only in terms of technical advancement and experiences, but also social interaction and motivation.

Advice to other musicians starting out?

 Do everything you can to serve your musical spirit, both in and out of the practice room. Also, it is absolutely never too late to start learning!

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