AWO double bass masterclass
Friday 15th June, 2018

AYO musicians experience masterclasses with the Australian World Orchestra

The Australian World Orchestra holds strong ties with the Australian Youth Orchestra. Countless AYO alumni have gone on to become members of this unique national ensemble, so many – in fact – that the orchestra has been lovingly dubbed the ‘Grey-Y-O’.

Earlier this month, the AWO spent time in Sydney and Melbourne for their performances under the baton of Maestro Riccardo Muti. Whilst it was a fleeting visit for many of these internationally-based performers, they managed to steal away for an hour to lead masterclasses for a lucky handful of AYO musicians.

Vanessa Li is one such student, who was one of five young double bassists to perform for Principal Double Bass of the Vienna Chamber Orchestra, Ciro Vigilante. Vanessa and Ciro shared their thoughts on the Australian World Orchestra this year:

Ciro: "Over the last 30 years, Australia has exported a lot of musical talent overseas and, for one reason or another, some have either planted roots in another country or returned. I think it's important to showcase this pool of individuals in one setting – even if it's once a year – to show this development."

Vanessa: “There was definitely a sense of excitement and camaraderie throughout the whole orchestra, a feeling which I think all of AYO shares during our fairly short programs. In my experience with AYO, I think the quick turnaround makes everyone value every moment of the program and the opportunity to work with each other even more."

Masterclass photo

Perhaps the most anticipated part of this project was the presence of world-famous conductor Riccardo Muti, who made quite the impression on both AWO and AYO musicians.

“It was so inspiring to be able to see Maestro Muti in action during the AWO rehearsal and concert” says Vanessa. “We were all floored by his passion for music, which came out in his conducting and his discussions about music. It was lovely to see that he was not only an incredible musician but also such a charismatic man, which really came out in the jokes and stories he told during the rehearsal.”

Ciro agreed: "Needless to say, it was fantastic. It was a great honour and a privilege to work with such a Maestro of the orchestra! He was really able to shape the sound (albeit in a short space of time) into a homogenous group."

Having a special relationship with the Australian World Orchestra has been of mutual benefit to the musicians of both organisations. Ciro was delighted to be passing his knowledge on to the next generation of double bassists.

“I hadn't really thought about it, but when the opportunity arose, there was no question that I would do it, after all, I had really appreciated all the expert help I could get when I was at that stage. The students were incredibly well prepared and of a really high standard already! Hopefully the couple of hints I gave were of some use! My real hope was to show that they can go on to achieve bigger things if they put their mind to it; after all, we were once in their shoes!”

Similarly, Vanessa found great benefit in working with a musician who was in her position not so long ago.

“I found it really inspiring to work with Ciro, an AYO alumnus, and see how my playing might take me overseas to some amazing places and orchestras in the future. Ciro had a lot of expertise to give us regarding chamber orchestra music, given his experience in the Vienna Chamber Orchestra. It has encouraged me to more actively seek out opportunities playing in a chamber orchestra.”

Ciro in masterclass

Every year the congregation of the Australian World Orchestra reminds us of the fact that so many Australian musicians are playing in professional orchestras overseas. Vanessa aspires to be in a similar position one day, but struggled to decide which orchestra would be at the top of her wish list!

“This is such a hard question! My answer will probably change in another three months, but right now I would love to play with the Berlin Philharmonic. This is slightly problematic as I play French bow, but lately, browsing Digital Concert Hall has been my favourite way to procrastinate. It’s also great to know that the Principal Double Bass, Matthew McDonald, is an AYO alumnus and AWO member himself.”

Presently, Vanessa is studying Economics and Law at the University of Sydney. She describes how music can offer her some much-needed respite from her studies:

“My day is typically spent balancing my love for music with my university studies. After a day of lectures and tutorials, I really enjoy coming home to do some bass practice. I find that it’s a really great way to unwind in between law readings and maths questions. If I’m not sight-reading a new piece on the piano or reading a book, in the evenings you’ll probably find me at the Opera House at a Sydney Symphony concert.”

Vanessa Li

So what’s on the horizon for these two double bassists? Ciro’s feet have barely touched the ground in Australia and he’s off on his next international engagement.

“I have upcoming trips to Korea, Greece, Saudi Arabia and South America with the Vienna Chamber Orchestra. I’m also going to Scotland to sub in the Scottish Chamber Orchestra, and travelling to India to play with the AWO. Aside from that I’ll be doing some teaching, giving lectures, masterclasses and recitals.”

Meanwhile, Vanessa will be studying hard in Sydney.

“For the next few weeks, I’ll be busy preparing for second round auditions for the Sydney Symphony Fellowship and uni exams. I’m also really looking forward to playing more amazing orchestral repertoire and catching up with everyone at AYO’s July season. Beyond that, I’ll be trying to survive Semester 2 and hopefully undertaking some international travel at the end of the year!”


We look forward to working with the Australian World Orchestra in the near future, in the meantime, see Vanessa perform with the Australian Youth Orchestra in Sydney and Brisbane this July!