We are building a directory of alumni of the various Artist Development programs run by Symphony Services International. If you are one of these musicians, composers or conductors, please contact us with your details and links to personal websites, facebook or similar pages.
Anna Howell, Artist Development Co-ordinator
Telephone: +61 (0)2 8622 9482
Alumni Artist Feature – Daniel Carter
Conductor Development Program Participant
I participated in the Scholar Conductors Program towards the end of high school. I remember just missing the application cut-off date one year and being DETERMINED not to miss it the next year. When I got the acceptance letter I was absolutely thrilled. One of my strongest memories after that is of spending an ENORMOUS amount of time studying the scores, despite the fact I had no real idea how to do so. I also remember the aural part of the course making me think, ‘ok, I have a lot to learn if I want to do this’. And of course having my first experience of conducting an orchestra…… totally thrilling and totally terrifying all at the same time! There was no looking back after that point.
Did you ever think at that time that you would end up where you are now?
At the time I didn’t really know what would happen. There isn’t really a set path for conductors to follow so everyone has to find their own way. Every step takes you in a slightly different direction and gives you slightly different experiences…. But (many snapped practice batons later) I am very happy with how I am going so far!
You trained as a pianist and composer. What drew you to conducting?
I think conducting is one of those jobs – you see a concert and decide - I am not sure what that guy up there is doing flapping about, but I want to do that. I studied piano and composition at university while working as an assistant conductor and repetiteur at Victorian Opera in order to maintain as much breadth in my skill base as I possibly could. I think it is important that young conductors don’t spend their whole lives trying to look like Carlos Kleiber at the expense of their other musical skills. Unless you have musical abilities other than waving around a stick, it is going to be very hard to get orchestras to take you seriously.
Who and what have been your biggest inspirations and influences during the past five years?
I try to make the most of every opportunity available to me. I go to everything, get my hands on any and every score I can, and listen to recordings obsessively! Probably the two most inspiring concert experiences for me have been seeing the Berlin Philharmonic play in Sydney (what an amazing ball of energy Sir Simon is!), and seeing three operas (Makropoulos Case, Gotterdammerung and Billy Budd) in 24 hours at the Met in New York. I have met some amazing and inspiring people, most notably Elliot Carter, who at 103 was still composing and mentally going strong – and at a million miles an hour! I have also been very lucky to have some fantastic mentors to keep me inspired, particularly Richard Gill and Kim Waldock.
What have you got coming up? Where can people see you conduct in the next little while?
I just completed a season of Pierrot Lunaire at the Melbourne Festival with Merlyn Quaife, Syzygy Ensemble and Andrea Katz – that was cool. It’s one of the most flexible pieces of early 20th Century music I have come across this side of Puccini! Next year I am fortunate to have lots of different projects on, but one of the more exciting ones would have to be the Philip Glass Violin Concerto being played on Soprano Saxophone by Amy Dickson with Orchestra Victoria.
Any tips for aspiring young scholars???
- Know thine enemy – make sure you can tell your Ophicleides from your Cimbassi (tip: if you see a brass player with an instrument you don’t recognise, it’s probably one of these)
- Always treat the orchestra with respect – besides, there are more of them than you!
- Never forget context. Music never occurs in a vacuum, and knowledge of what else is going on in the world historically and artistically allows you to better understand a piece – especially when you consider a piece in terms of what music that composer could have known at that period in history.
- Study hard. Conducting is the sport of the intellectually curious.