Tuesday 8th December, 2020


AYO Words About Music alumnus Adam Weitzer was named 2020 Global Winner in the Music, Film and Theatre category of The Global Undergraduate Awards. He reflects on his time in 2019 working with Phillip Sametz and how WAM gave him the confidence to reach this milestone in musical literature.

What inspires you to write about music primarily?

My two greatest passions are music and writing—so the idea of writing about music has always been an exciting proposition. Music serves as a lens through which I can appreciate the world around me, and through which I can access and understand a range of topic areas. These include, but are not limited to, music history, music analysis, music psychology and music sociology.

Not only is music one of the most profound forms of human expression; it is also one of the most elusive. We often talk about music as an art form that transcends words, one that allows us to express a level of emotional depth unavailable to verbal semantics. While I believe in the merit of this argument, particularly on a philosophical level, the same type of thinking can also encourage an elitism that blocks large segments of the public from accessing music.

More than ever, music needs people who can write with flair and originality, to help us understand not only what we do, but how and why we do it.

What made you apply and take part in AYO’s Words About Music program?

My involvement with AYO actually began when I applied for National Music Camp’s orchestral program on clarinet. While I was placed on reserve, I didn’t have the opportunity to attend camp, and I was too old to reapply the following year. But I knew how terrific an organisation AYO was for young musicians, so I sought other avenues to be involved.

I was delighted to hear about the Words About Music program as I have always had a strong interest in musicology and believed that, as my university studies progressed, my future life in music would probably centre around writing rather than performance. I’ve always had the attitude that you must actively seek out opportunities wherever they arise—so I decided to go for it. Luckily with the Words About Music program, I hit on a gold mine!

What were some of the main highlights of the program?

From our first meeting on day one of National Music Camp, we all knew it would be a stimulating and rewarding two weeks, both intellectually and organisationally. What fundamentally separates Words About Music from other programs is the ability to work closely alongside top musicians. Our projects across the two weeks had us researching and writing program notes (for music both familiar and new), interviewing student and professional musicians, producing podcasts, and even making a calendar.

We benefitted from the expert assistance of Jakub Gaudasinski from the ABC, who opened our eyes and ears to the complex but dynamic world of audio production. Another highlight for me, as a keen public speaker, was the opportunity to deliver a pre-concert talk at a mid-week chamber concert, where I introduced Copland’s Appalachian Spring in the Elder Conservatorium’s beautiful Elder Hall.

And of course, the biggest highlight of all was the chance to work with Phillip Sametz, one of Australia’s most esteemed and vivacious arts commentators. Phillip is a veritable treasure trove of knowledge, and it was inspiring to benefit from his decades of experience in music journalism, communications and administration. Phillip was also fantastically supportive, nurturing each student’s individual strengths and going the extra mile to bring out the best in all of us and provide us with an experience that mimicked the music journalism industry as closely as possible. As all will agree, one couldn’t ask for a more brilliant and engaging tutor!

Since completing the program you were named the 2020 Global Winner in the Music, Film and Theatre category of The Global Undergraduate Awards—can you tell us about this?

The Global Undergraduate Awards is an annual international awards program funded by the Government of Ireland. It covers 25 disciplines and is open to upper-level undergraduates from around the world, as divided into seven regional categories: USA and Canada, Europe, Island of Ireland, Africa and the Middle East, Asia, and Oceania.

For each category, the top 10% worldwide become Highly Commended, the top entrant from each region is named the Regional Winner, while the top-ranking paper worldwide becomes the Global Winner in that category. This year’s competition attracted over 4100 entrants worldwide. I entered an abridged version of my musicology Honours thesis into the Music, Film, and Theatre category, and I couldn’t have been more thrilled, after about three months of waiting, to be named the Global Winner in my category.

My paper explored constructions of memory in Shostakovich’s Symphony No.13 Babi Yar and considered the potential for creating cross-disciplinary discourses between musicology and memory studies. I recently presented this work at the Global Undergraduate Summit—held virtually for the first time—and my essay will be published in the coming months in The Undergraduate Library.

Do you think your time on the Words About Music program influenced you in reaching this milestone?

I consider Words About Music a turning point for me in terms of my involvement with the music community and my current and future goals. The research aspect of the program expanded my general knowledge of music, which increased my ability to make connections between concepts and topics, and to approach my Honours research from interesting analytical angles.

More broadly, my time at Words About Music confirmed to me that I wanted to work in the arts sector, after being immersed in its vibrant culture and seeing the many exciting pathways it offers. This certainly gave a dose of inspiration to my long hours of perspiration!

What’s coming up for you next?

As we all know a bit too well, 2020 has been a rocky ride. At the beginning of the year, I had plans to take up a scholarship at the University of Cambridge to study the MPhil in Music; however, I decided to pursue other options locally in light of the current circumstances. Next year I will begin a Master of Music (Musicology) at the University of Melbourne, where I plan to write a dissertation in the area of transnational reception history.

I also hope to develop my skills as a clarinettist, and to expand my portfolio as a freelance writer. Following that, if all goes to plan, I have ambitions to undertake doctoral studies and pursue a career in academia and the public arts sector.

Why should someone take part in AYO’s Words About Music?

In my view, there is no other program currently available in Australia which provides comparable training in music journalism to AYO’s Words About Music. Everything you do in the program echoes industry practices, from mastering journalistic conventions to meeting tight deadlines and learning strategies for creative repurposing.

It can be difficult to find these types of opportunities in the real world without the scaffolding of a program like this. Another major reason you should apply to Words About Music is that is provides a first-class networking platform. During the program, you will have the opportunity to meet top music professionals and gain unique industry insights, be it formally or over a casual coffee. Since attending the program, my engagement with the musical community has expanded significantly, and it has opened doors to a host of wonderful opportunities. You have nothing to lose, and everything to gain—go for it!

During his time at Words About Music last year, Adam interviewed Australian String Quartet cellist and AYO tutor, Sharon Grigoryan, alongside AYO musicians, oboist Kate Waller and double bassist Jason Henery on experiencing performance anxiety. Read his article and listen to the podcast here.

Music needs people who can talk and write about it with flair and insight. The Words About Music program is a hothouse of writing, talking and thinking about music.

The program will provide participants with the toolkit to communicate about music in a compelling way through online and print mediums—getting your passion for music out there with precisely the right words. We’ve made some significant changes to our Words About Music program in the coming year.


Apply for Words About Music 2021 now—find out more.