Coming to the end of your schooling life can be equally scary and exhilarating. When a student graduates from TIGS they can venture out into the world with a strong foundation to build their lives upon. One such graduate is Adrian Whitehall (Class of 2015). Music has been a pivotal part of Adrian’s life since the age of three. His journey started at the Wollongong Conservatorium where he started playing classical guitar, just like his older brother Chris. We caught up with Adrian recently to find out more about his post-schooling adventures…
What have you been up to since you graduated
I started studying at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music for my Diploma of Music but I have since transferred into the Bachelor. I have also continued playing with the Sydney Youth Orchestra (SYO) since I was in Year 6 while doing some Australian Youth Orchestra (AYO) programs.
When did you get your start in music?
I started very early! My mum got me into a childhood education program at the Wollongong Conservatorium when I was two but I had no idea what I was doing. They told me I should play classical guitar like my oldest brother Chris so it was easier having him there also.
In Year 3 of primary school, the school band director said I couldn’t play classical guitar in the band so I tried trumpets and other instruments. He said to me “why don’t you do electric bass, it’s the four bottom strings of a guitar”.
So I got into that and then he said “You should play the double bass” so I got into that. I started playing a lot of jazz and fell in love with them both.
My teacher recommended auditioning for the Sydney Youth Orchestra where you can be anywhere from 6 – 25 years old. They have 10 orchestras with a Junior String Ensemble, an Intermediate Classical Orchestra and a Romantic Style Orchestra. I have been with the SYO for three years now and we perform every weekend.
What has been the biggest challenge for you when you started to learn and perform music?
There will always be challenging aspects in the world of classical music. The Australian Youth Orchestra is such a big part of my life and a big part of that is getting into the orchestra. Just because a musician gets in once doesn’t mean that they will automatically get in the next time. I have friends that have been part of the orchestra for five years but then missed out on receiving a placement. It’s very competitive!
Last year, 80 bass players auditioned for positions in the orchestra and I got into the top ten and received a place, which was great!
I received the news when I was on a music camp and was like “OH MAN! IM IN!
Where has the Sydney Youth Orchestra taken you?
The Sydney Youth Orchestra performed an overseas tour this year which they haven’t done in a very long time. I was extremely happy that they did because going on tours is so important for Youth Orchestras. You are showcased on the global stage.
We went to Austria and the Czech Republic and got to walk around Vienna seeing all the statues of Mozart. Classical music is like a national sport over there. I read an interesting fact that in a year more people will go and see a classical music concert than an average football game, which is insane for music and football to be at equal levels of importance for them.
It was also a great experience going to play in world-class concert halls. I was very lucky because we had a workshop with the Principal Bass for the Berlin Philharmonic, who is also an Australian that managed to get one of the big jobs overseas. It was amazing to play in the Berlin Philharmonic hall because it’s one of the most perfect concert halls ever.
To be able to travel with people from the SYO and AYO is great. That’s why I love it we are all one family with musicians from around the country making friendships that will never end.
What is your dream job?
The Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra which I believe is the best orchestra in the world. I saw them and performed a workshop with them in 2013 when I was still at TIGS. It was run through the school which was very nice to see great opportunities coming to the local schools. It was one of the best orchestras I have ever seen!
How did you get your start in composition?
When I was nine I got this program called Finale and I messed around with compositions and then looked back years later and it was really bad and I remember thinking this is great but looking back it was terrible. I did the Honours programme at TIGS and did a project on classical guitars and composing. I kept writing and it really stretched out my musical knowledge and what I listened to. I was in Year 11, doing Music 2 when we had an excursion to the Australian Chamber Orchestra for their new composition project and they gave us a demonstration of Australian music. They also had a composition competition running and I said to my friend as a joke “Let’s enter!” So I entered on the day it was due and then received an email saying I had won. The prize was that your composition was performed by the Australian Chamber Orchestra. I remember thinking this will be the starting point for my musical career. I was over the moon for one of the best chamber orchestras in the world to perform my composition. So I had to arrange it to a string quartet which took some time. I arranged it and recorded it in Sydney and since that moment I started taking my composition work seriously. I was 17 when that happened.
“I love the pressure of writing, it forces you to come up with creative ideas immediately”
Have you ever performed in the Illawarra?
The Sydney Youth Orchestra finally had a performance down here in Wollongong. I remember being in the very early stages of SYO and speaking with one of the managers, asking “Can we please have a concert in Wollongong”. I have been asking them every year! We came to Shellharbour once and that was close but it wasn’t close enough. As soon as I had heard there will be a concert in Wollongong I asked them “Why did you choose Wollongong” and they responded “Firstly it's closer to Sydney, secondly you mentioned it for three years and thirdly, we have never been there before”. We are very excited to introduce the orchestra to Wollongong. Alexander Briger is the conductor, he is the founder and artistic director of the Australian World Orchestra and he has conducted the London Symphony Orchestra. Our soloist is also from the London Symphony.
Did TIGS help you achieve your dream?
I was immediately into the Arts, I remember visiting the Music department and saying “I’m a bass player” and my Music teacher was like cool you’re hired for jazz, orchestra and everything else. I was in TIGS Orchestra and I was told we were producing Jesus Christ Super Star the musical, and wondering what a musical was. Being in the school production orchestra came with its own challenges because if something went wrong on stage we needed to be immediately prepared. In Year 8 we produced Westside Story which is the hardest musical in the world right now. It’s very challenging with lots of very fast passages with fast bass and adrenaline.
I came and watched the latest production of Mary Poppins and have to say it is one of the best musicals I have seen in years it was off the charts. I was really blown away. Well done to TIGS production team!
Do you have any advice for students looking to get into music?
Only do it if you love it. I see people who do it and don’t love it and playing music and enjoying what you do is so important. Do it if you love it. If you do love your work then work hard because it’s a very competitive world!