From Hobart to Berlin, the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra Principal shares her hopes, inspirations and passions.

Born Melbourne, VIC, 1988
Studied ANAM, Hanns Eisler Hochschule, Berlin
Likes Chamber music, touring, yoga
Dislikes Egos, small talk, anything cold

What drew you to the viola?

I grew up learning the violin but somehow I think deep down I knew it was only a matter of time before the viola and I would choose each other. I fell in love with the viola when I started listening to string quartets. To me there is nothing more sublime! The charm of the viola lies in its sound, and I believe it’s one of the most beautiful ways of expressing the human soul. It was through the viola that I was able to find my own voice.

What is the most important piece of advice you were given when you were studying?

Too many to even mention! I’ve tried to put all the wonderful ideas, observations and thoughts people have given me throughout my life so far somewhere deep into my pockets to pull out whenever I am in need of any help or inspiration. But I feel so in debt to Tabea Zimmermann for teaching me how to teach myself.

At age 81 Casals was asked why he continued to practise for hours each day. His remark was, “Because I think I am making progress.” But one of my favourite quotes is by Michael Jordan: “I’ve missed more than 9,000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. 26 times I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.”

What has been your scariest moment?

The thought of the unknown is always a scary feeling. Every time we walk on stage we can never be sure of what exactly might happen. This has terrified me at times, but learning to embrace that feeling and simply take the plunge can be one of the most wonderful feelings in the world. The stage can be a magical place.

For you, what has been the biggest highlight of your career so far?

I have been lucky to have had so many wonderful highlights, but without question these three were life changing for me: coming back to Berlin this year to play a series of concerts with the Berlin Philharmonic under Simon Rattle; giving the Australian Premiere of Olga Neuwirth’s Viola Concerto with the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra in 2011; being a founding member of the Hamer Quartet.

What have been the biggest challenges in your role as Principal Violist with the TSO?

I always wish orchestras were able to spend more than a couple days of rehearsal on a programme before performing it. There is so much to explore and discover in everything we play and I find myself always hungry to work in more detail. Orchestras work this way worldwide, but – comparatively to how a string quartet rehearses or how one tackles solo repertoire – I find it a huge challenge to say goodbye to works so quickly.

As Principal, there are many different demands and expectations that occur outside of any rehearsal or concert. It has been a big challenge to come to terms with making decisions that directly affect other people’s livelihoods. Being Principal entails sitting in on audition panels, booking casual players, booking contracts, organising seating lists, putting bowings into parts, leave requests, sitting in on committee/orchestral meetings and generally being responsible to look after my section both on and off the concert stage. It’s not always easy to wear so many hats.

What has been the best thing to come out of winning the Freedman Classical Fellowship?

It will be an honour to be able to be part of the creative process of commissioning works for the viola by Australian composers. It will result in performing and recording the works both at home and abroad as well as working through the commissions with Brett Dean in Berlin, which is a city that holds a very special place in my heart. I feel honoured to be able to do this for the viola.

Finally, what advice might you have to give to any aspiring young violists?

You can have all the technique in the world, but without creativity, passion and drive, technique is useless. Find your voice and say something. Practise smart. Don’t let technique control the music, let the music control your technique. Use the viola in all its facets, dream of sound, discover all its capabilities, push everything to its limits and simply be a violist.