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Gwynn

Gwynn ROBERTS

Year of Award: 1974 Award State: Tasmania Arts - Performing > Music
To study the organisation, management and methods of training in youth orchestras - New Zealand, USA, UK
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I always had an interest in conducting – perhaps it was the fascination of playing under the direction of such a variety of conductors – in choirs and ensembles at school, at the Tasmanian Conservatorium as a student, and as a casual player in the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra (TSO). My first experience in conducting an ensemble was at Fahan School, working with a junior string orchestra. This led to becoming the director of the Tasmanian Youth Orchestra (TYO). My first professional conducting ‘engagement’ was when I was a young principal cello of the TSO, conducting the orchestra at Huonville High School. When the conductor failed to arrive in time for the concert, I volunteered to step in, and directed about half the concert before the conductor arrived and sat in the hall observing the proceedings.

It was from my position as Music Director of TYO that I applied for a Churchill Fellowship to look into Youth Orchestra conducting and administration in NZ, the USA and the UK. Sir Stanley Burbury, the chairman of the Churchill selection committee, was very supportive of my application, assisting me in revising the timeframe in a more realistic way.

I visited youth orchestras in Christchurch, Fort Worth, Pittsburgh and Boston, and a number in the UK during my extended stay there. This was an enlightening experience – observing and taking an active part in rehearsals, and seeing the depth of funding and volunteer support. One fascinating interview was with Marion Maazel, the inspirational manager of the Pittsburgh Youth Orchestra.

In the 42 years since being awarded the Fellowship, I have used much of what I learned, in the diverse roles in which I have found myself: director of TYO; principal cello and assistant conductor TSO; director of orchestras at the Tasmanian Conservatorium and the University of Queensland; most recently at the Queensland Conservatorium and Kenmore High School; and as principal cello of the Canberra Symphony Orchestra. The Churchill Fellowship experience has influenced my musical life far more broadly than I could have imagined when I was awarded it in 1974.

When I can, I try to fit in time for amateur photography and I am a keen bushwalker. 

Excerpt from “Bringing Knowledge Home” published by the Churchill Fellows Association of Tasmania (2016) 

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