Born Newcastle, NSW
Studied University of Newcastle
Likes Half-empty bars, blue cheese, cryptozoology
Dislikes When the dog bites, when the bee stings
What are your early musical memories?
Taking turns with my brothers to stand at the piano and sing while Mum played – that was a family ritual for a while. I also remember parties at my grandparents’ house where the older generation would take turns to sing; my Grandma and Poppy loved to perform. And of course I remember going to my first violin lesson and learning to play Twinkle, Twinkle.
Rose Kavanagh. Photo © Dominic Kavanagh
How did you come to the violin?
My Mum was the musical instigator in my family. She started my eldest brother on the piano and gave us singing lessons too. We had an heirloom violin that Mum hoped someone might play one day and she asked me if I’d like to learn: I think I was six at the time. We found a local teacher who taught me for the first five years or so.
Who are your musical heroes?
John Zorn for his eclecticism and genre defying weirdness. Joni Mitchell for her poetry and unique musicality. Nina Simone for her vulnerability. Aiko Goto for being the only violinist I know who’s smaller than me and absolutely incredible. As a violinist, I really admire the playing of Ginette Neveu, Ida Haendel, David Oistrakh and Mark Feldman.
How did you feel winning 3MBS’s The Talent?
I was surprised! I’ve never usually been one for competitions or eisteddfods, so to win a competition like The Talent without having to skew my style or change my repertoire was very validating. Playing well in that kind of performance situation alone felt like an achievement. Live radio broadcasts from a small, acoustically dry studio to an invisible audience is one of the hardest things I’ve done.
How do you hope it will develop your career?
The recital hosted by Boroondara Arts in 2018 will be a great opportunity to perform my Masters repertoire again and to refine my interpretations. I try not to think too much about future career goals because it makes me anxious. I try to focus instead on taking advantage of the immediate opportunities around me, and The Talent has given me confidence to continue in that direction.
You’ve played in opera orchestras on multiple occasions. What is the attraction of this genre?
Voice was my first instrument so I’ve always been drawn to singing. The greatest melodies and most interesting music are in opera and music theatre, and there’s nothing sweeter than hearing a beautiful melody well sung. Playing with singers is always a challenge too. I like trying to match the phrasing and nuance of the human voice. And of course I love the stories. All those harlots and ingénues…
Who are some of your favourite composers?
At the moment, Francis Poulenc for his whimsy and manic-depressive style. I love generally the music of Les Six. That pared-down aesthetic really appeals to me. I also love Giacomo Puccini and Richard Strauss for their intoxicating operas, and Shostakovich for his string writing and his cunning.
What has been your most memorable moment as a violinist to date?
Last year I performed with the Sculthorpe String Quintet in the Flowers of War ‘Sacrifice’ concert series. I was playing intimate chamber music with very experienced, highly regarded musicians, which was both daunting and exhilarating. The programme reflected on the cultural losses stemming from the Battle of the Somme. Our final performance in Sydney’s St James Church was particularly emotional. It felt like the spirits of those fallen soldiers and composers were in the room.
Do you have advice for aspiring violinists?
Resist the urge to always fit a certain mould. My training leading up to University was a bit unorthodox, so I had to do a lot of catching up in a short amount of time when I arrived. I did the work and I relished that process, but I wasted a lot of energy comparing myself to my peers and wishing I’d had a different education, which is pointless. Make an asset of your unique experiences. And get out of the conservatorium every now and then!