Lara Pilcher first began her association with Excelsia College in 1997 when she commenced her Bachelor of Creative Arts in Dance. For Lara, studying at an institution that taught creative arts from a faith-based perspective excited her. From the get-go, she became involved in the community and was able to refine her creative talents, learning from creatives from all over the world. Lara also enjoyed being a student representative of the entire college in her final year of studies.
When reflecting on her studies, Lara explains, ‘The dance degree was vigorous and very full. I further pursued acting and singing and broadened my education after the strong foundation I gained from Excelsia.’ After graduating from Excelsia in 1999, Lara completed a Musical Theatre Certificate II at Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts (WAAPA) and then a master’s in musical theatre at Arts Educational School in London. Now, she’s using her knowledge as a performer and arts advocate and she networks with Christian artists all around the world. She also produces high quality events in Sydney and London and has taught performance masterclasses in Paris, Beijing, and New York. Prior to relocating to London to further pursue performing, Lara ran her own dance studio in Perth. She has also married a man who shares her same passion for the arts as a specialist physiotherapist for artists and the couple have two children.
The creative and performing arts industry is fluid and ever changing, reflective of the number of roles and locations Lara has worked in throughout her twenty-year career. ‘I moved to Melbourne for five years to continue performing and be closer to family. I worked in Australian television, musical theatre and theatre. Then I worked as an associate professor of acting at Bethel Conservatory of The Arts in Redding, California.’ Now, Lara and her family are based in Atlanta, Georgia, working as part of films shooting for Netflix, Marvel and beyond in the region. This year, Lara also started her own self-titled business larabiancapilcher.com, providing coaching and courses for performers.
Undertaking study at a tertiary institution is a stepping stone on one’s journey to pursuing their dream career and for Lara, it’s an experience that she would do all over again! ‘Excelsia College made a huge difference to me. I’m grateful for my three happy years and I smile every time I remember it. I had the time of my life and still have many friends from College; we made lifetime bonds and have so many happy memories. My vision was broadened and passion ignited for the entire world and all the artists and creativity it carries. I believe deeply in faith-based artists and their impact on the professional world of arts,’ says Lara reflectively.
We are proud of Lara and for her drive and ambition to succeed in the competitive creative and performing arts space. She embodies Excelsia’s ethos of being a lifelong learner engaged with and positively impacting the world. ‘I love leading artists and still lead artists today,’ says Lara. It seems Lara has certainly found her calling in life and it will be exciting to see the places she will go!
Excelsia College offers creative and performing arts courses and many of our alumni have gone on to pursue successful careers across areas such as music, drama, performance studies and screen production.
A Bachelor of Music at Excelsia College has the power to set you up on a variety of different pathways. Just look at Esther Moran. The 25-year-old is a vocalist and synth player in indie band Casual Fan and just under a month ago she performed on the main stage of the music festival Lost Paradise! This same main stage featured acts including Arctic Monkeys, Lil Nas X and Jamie XX.
Playing at Lost Paradise was a big step up for Casual Fan, who were used to the typical pubs and clubs circuit. ‘Playing at Lost Paradise was an awesome experience. Getting to hear your music through the highest quality speakers and gear was definitely a highlight. Knowing all the biggest acts were all on the same stage as you was a big step up from the usual venues we play as a band’, explains Esther.
For Esther, being a performer came naturally, but it was the skills she learned outside of her vocal major that she found particularly helpful. ‘Doing a placement as a worship leader at the end of my degree taught me useful skills like the recording process, knowing how to set up my stage if the sound guy is late, to using my scales I learned in my very first keyboard class.’ Studying music at Excelsia also helped Esther to feel confident in the music industry. ‘I know that I can walk into a wide variety of settings and trust in my own ability to hold my own,’ she says.
Throughout her studies, Esther not only grew as a musician but also as a woman of faith as she discovered what she wanted to do with music. ‘I look back very fondly on my time at Excelsia College. I went into my degree not knowing what I wanted out of it, never having had a singing lesson or written a line of music in my life. I walked away as not only an extremely better singer but also a well-rounded musician with a variety of skillsets I wouldn’t have imagined before.’
Esther’s long term dream is to see her music reach a wider audience and have the opportunity to pursue music full time. ‘When I was just about to start my degree, I had planned to go into teaching, which I will always have the option to return to. For now though I am going to put all my energy and effort into performing and recording with Casual Fan.’
For any other budding musicians looking to break it in the industry, Esther’s main advice is to never lose your passion and love for music. ‘It’s extremely hard work to push your own music and it takes up a lot of time. As soon as the passion and the love goes it can be hard to remember why you’re doing it in the first place. Music is a gift and if what you create impacts one person, I think that’s pretty awesome.’
Casual Fan have just released their single ‘French New Wave’ from their upcoming EP. To have a listen, head to their Spotify account and follow their updates on their Instagram page casualfanmusic. If you’re interested in becoming a musician or honing your musical gifts, why not explore our Bachelor of Music? You never know the places you could go!
The area of actor wellbeing has been of keen interest to Dr Mark Seton, lecturer in creative and performing arts at Excelsia College. During his own experience as an actor, Mark noticed how performing a role could have lingering effects and heard anecdotal accounts of actors who were traumatised by roles or experienced depression due to the uncertainty of their work. In his research, Mark identified a huge gap in addressing actor wellbeing. Mark perceived that actors are peculiarly different from dancers and musicians, not because of who they are, but because of what the profession asks of them. For over 20 years, Mark has steadily been gathering research, particularly around actors’ perspectives, on actor health issues including mental health issues as distinct from physical issues.
In 2006, Mark joined the steering committee of the new Australian Society for Performing Arts Healthcare (ASPAH), modelled on the American-based Performing Arts Medicine Association (PAMA). In 2009, supported by ASPAH, Mark was awarded a Churchill Fellowship to research the health and wellbeing of actors both in training and in the workplace. Through the fellowship, Mark travelled to the UK and spent five weeks researching at different acting schools. The report detailing his experience and findings motivated Actors Equity in Australia to conduct the first national study of actor wellbeing which, explains Mark, included ‘questions around actors’ quality of life, alcohol challenges, substance abuse and potential eating disorders, financial stress, relational stress, sleep deprivation and traumatisation of characters’.
Within his doctoral research, Mark identified that many actor training institutions actively promote vulnerability. ‘The capacity of actors to be vulnerable – their ability to affect and be affected – is what audiences go to see. They want to see authenticity or what might seem to mirror reality,’ explains Mark. However, this preoccupation with vulnerability can become a hazard if an actor doesn’t know how to process his or her character’s creation and emotional journey. This lack of process can create distress and dissatisfaction and the resulting pain can drive a desire for self-medication, including alcohol and both licit and illicit drug use. According to the 2015 Australian Actors’ Wellbeing Study, around 35 percent of actors surveyed reported alcohol consumption as a strategy for ‘letting go’ after a demanding performance (Maxwell, Seton & Szabo, 2015).
Mark is currently part of AusAct: Australian Actor Training Conference which is a collaboration of acting schools around Australia empowering teachers in the teaching of acting, voice, movement, holistic health and career development. Mark has also designed and facilitated foundational training in actor wellbeing at various tertiary institutions, including Sydney Acting School, Academy of Film, Theatre and Television, and at Excelsia College. Excelsia College’s Bachelor of Dramatic Art includes a unit focused on ‘designing my creative career’, which includes strategies for managing self-care in the entertainment industry, intended for third-year students preparing to graduate.
Mark has been seeking to bring an even broader notion of actor wellbeing and sustainable practice to drama schools. Questions have been raised about acting schools providing appropriate warm-ups and cool-downs at a physiological and psychological level. According to the 2015 Australian Actors’ Wellbeing Study, almost 40 per cent of actors surveyed had difficulty shaking off intense emotional and/or physical roles (Maxwell, Seton & Szabo, 2015). Within the acting community, this is sometimes known by the term ‘seepage’ (Taylor, 2017). Some drama schools still unintentionally traumatise students by giving them dramatic scenes and roles without teaching them how to take on a role in a respectful, careful way. Mark explains, ‘If actors are not given training for warming up and cooling down, they might not know how to let go of a traumatic character or scene. They can take it back home or the trauma it could continue into another job, or, because there is no next job, they may still be mulling over the character they played. It can seriously impact their personal relationships. I coined a term “post-dramatic stress” as a very deliberate provocation to start the conversation that I felt was lacking in the academic community and in the training community around potential for traumatisation of actors.’
Intimacy direction workshops, which Excelsia seeks to provide for its drama students, play a key role in helping actors cope with the potential trauma in their work. ‘Part of an actor’s warm-ups and cool-downs now involve working alongside intimacy directors who will help actors safely enact intimacy of a violent nature or intimacy of a loving or familial quality and how to play them without being confused about whether it’s the actor or their character being intimate with that person,’ says Mark.
Mark has written a paper with Excelsia College Bachelor of Dramatic Art graduate Courtney Patten on what happens when actors play morally questionable characters (Seton & Patten, under review). The pair will present their findings at the Australian Society for Performing Arts Healthcare (ASPAH) Conference this December. If you want to learn from amazing academics such as Mark, why not consider studying a Bachelor of Dramatic Art at Excelsia College?
Maxwell, I., Seton, M., & Szabo, M. (2015). The Australian Actors Wellbeing Study: A Preliminary Report. About Performance: The Lives of Actors, 13, 69–113
Seton, M. (2022). Mental health for actors. StageMilk. https://www.stagemilk.com/mental-health-for-actors/
Seton, M. & Patten, C. (under review). Wellbeing in enactment of morally questionable characters: Negotiating moral and spiritual values within professional identity formation. [Submitted for publication]. Excelsia College.
Taylor, L. (2017). Out of character – how acting puts a mental strain on performers. The Conversation. https://theconversation.com/out-of-character-how-acting-puts-a-mental-strain-on-performers-86212
Filmmaking is a lifelong passion, and for students like Luke O’Donnell studying the craft now is laying the groundwork for a lifetime of screen storytelling.
As the inaugural winner and scholarship recipient of the Excelsia & Sydney Film School Award (ESFSA), Luke O’Donnell shares an update from his experience and journey so far as a first-year student studying the Bachelor of Screen Production:
‘Being a part of Excelsia College and Sydney Film School’s Bachelor of Screen Production course for the past year has been an absolutely fantastic experience. Being in an environment with like-minded students and teachers has been incredibly valuable and really contributes to the overall practicality of the course. Learning from teachers with years of industry experience and knowledge enhances our studies and provides a firsthand insight into the opportunities available within the film industry. The mix of both theory and practical classes and activities alongside the interactions with both Excelsia’s acting students and those at Sydney Actors School provides a fantastic learning environment where we can easily understand the broader aspects of the film industry while developing connections with our future colleagues.’
Luke’s ESFSA-winning film Until the End was predicated upon a longing for the past. It recalls the fleeting nature of existence within the human experience and seeks to lament the true reality of relationships which often mean so much to us.
‘Things come to an end. People move on, some for better, some for worse but memories linger and that’s what keeps us going, keeps pushing us forward until the end.’
If you have stories to tell and want to pursue a career in filmmaking like Luke, we welcome your submission to the Excelsia & Sydney Film School Award. Select award winners will receive a scholarship for their first year of study in the Bachelor of Screen Production.
Entries close 27 January 2023, find out more today! https://excelsia.edu.au/study/creative-and-performing-arts/excelsia-and-sydney-film-school-award/
Excelsia College has received excellent results in the 2021 QILT Student Experience Survey (SES), Australia’s only comprehensive survey of current higher education students, registering scores higher than the national average for undergraduate skills development and teaching quality.
Combined 2020 and 2021 QILT SES data shows that Excelsia College is leading the way in its creative and performing arts courses, rating first for skills development and third for teaching quality among New South Wales (NSW) creative arts undergraduate courses. Joy Chayna, Bachelor of Music alumnus, relished the hands-on experience she gained at Excelsia in front of house roles as well as behind-the-scenes work. ‘Because you’re known by everyone, you can get involved in more unique ways. We got to be stage manager one week or pack down equipment another week and I feel like these tasks encouraged a sense of ownership. You get to do every job at least once … I also got to meet lots of students and, through my assessments, people in the industry, which was super formative not only for being in the industry but also for life.’
Within Excelsia’s School of Education, teacher education students experience a combination of both theoretical and practical learning. This strategy to prepare our students for the classroom has resulted in Excelsia being rated by students as second for skills development among NSW teacher education undergraduate courses and second for teaching quality for NSW teacher education undergraduate courses.
Excelsia’s team of dedicated social work and counselling staff are passionate about providing practical training and industry placements and the latest social work and counselling theory within a supportive Christian environment. As a result, Excelsia is rated second for teaching quality and third for skills development among NSW social work and counselling postgraduate courses. For Master of Counselling alumnus Priyanka Reddy Allu, the course exceeded her expectations, and this was evident when she went for a job interview at a mental health unit. ‘I was able to confidently answer all the questions and that’s when I realised that Excelsia College prepared me so well … I feel complete after doing this course; I’m not lacking anything.’ Priyanka ended up succeeding in getting the job is enjoying fulfilling work, using her skills learnt at Excelsia. As part of their rigorous training, Master of Counselling students are required to undergo 200 hours of counselling and 100 hours of practicum. ‘The last unit students complete is about counselling and their personal experience with clients. I picked up a lot of tricks to compartmentalise and do a lot of self-care as well,’ said Priyanka.
Within Excelsia’s School of Business, 86.3 per cent of postgraduate business students were positive about their skills development, rating above the national average of 78.7 per cent. Similarly, 86.5 per cent of postgraduate business students rated teaching practice positively, rating above the national average of 78.9 per cent.
Excelsia College’s Chief Executive Officer, Peter McKeon, welcomed the results. ‘These figures are reflective of Excelsia’s desire to walk alongside each student on their unique and individual journey; as well as the College’s ongoing commitment to delivering an excellent education to our students.’
If you want to study in an environment that combines real-world skill development with a high-quality teaching experience, why not consider Excelsia College? https://excelsia.edu.au/study/
Compared. (2022). Excelsia College. https://www.compared.edu.au/institution/excelsia-college/undergraduate
QILT. (2022). 2021 SES Report Tables. https://www.qilt.edu.au/surveys/student-experience-survey-(ses)
Friends’ opinions can weigh heavily on deciding where to study, just ask Willem New. Hearing about a friend’s positive experience studying a Bachelor of Music at Wesley Institute (now Excelsia College) after making a career change from information technology was the catalyst Willem needed when he decided to enrol in the same course, also making the shift from IT and customer service-based roles. Returning to study 10 years after leaving school is no easy transition, however Willem found Excelsia College helpful for getting back into the mindset of learning new things. ‘The College pushed me in my musical learning and helped me become a better musician through constant opportunities to perform. It was an environment that was vibrant, engaging and growth oriented. I found a community of amazing artists who were all extremely willing to help each other grow and learn. That hasn’t changed – I’m still in touch with many of my peers from my time as a Bachelor of Music student,’ explains Willem.
After graduating from Excelsia College with a Bachelor of Music in 2012, Willem went on to complete his Graduate Diploma in Education in 2015. Now he works as a music teacher at Greenacre Baptist Christian Community School (GBCCS), a small independent school in south-west Sydney. As the sole music teacher, Willem hopes to inspire students to enjoy music and learning in general from a range of subjects. ‘At GBCCS I help to produce musical productions, help students to smash out amazing performances and journey with them on an exploration of who they are and who they can become,’ he says.
One of Willem’s favorite Bible verses is Isaiah 41:10 which says, ‘So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.’ Willem explains, ‘There’s a lot of fear everywhere these days and in the creative and performing arts department at my school, something we focus on is the idea that we can “create without fear”. Kids are fearful of failing, fearful of being ridiculed, fearful of looking like a goose in front of their peers, fearful of someone else being better than them. God has made us to be creative beings and He is always with us, so we have nothing to fear when we create but everything to gain. Any failures are an opportunity to learn and do it better next time; anyone who’s better than us is someone to be inspired by, not defeated by; any naysayers are an opportunity to strengthen resolve and overcome challenge,’ Willem explains.
As for his highlights during his time at Excelsia College, Willem’s end-of-degree recital was a definite highlight. ‘Performing incredible pieces with a massive band of fellow students who really pushed me to play my best was absolutely wonderful. Beyond that, memories of rehearsing choir parts for performance at the Sydney Opera House, learning how to really compose new music and jamming out tunes at the drop of a hat will always stay with me,’ he says.
If Willem’s story has struck a chord with you, why not explore Excelsia College’s Bachelor of Music, Master of Music or Master of Teaching (Secondary)?
Declan Montgomery is a Bachelor of Dramatic Art alumnus from Excelsia College and has been nominated for best actor for his role in Pinch Me, which has also been nominated for best Australian film 2022 at AFIN International Film Festival run in Brisbane. Produced by Wavelength Films, Pinch Me explores the disorientating line between dreams and reality, where four tight-knit students bask in their collective friendship on the eve of one leaving for new lands. For budding actor Declan Montgomery, being nominated is a surreal experience and took him completely by surprise!
‘I’m still actually processing it. It feels great to have something I worked on not only being watched by people but to have them enjoy it so much that they think it’s worth nominating not only me but the whole cast, it’s something special. The industry comes in waves and having my work being consumed and enjoyed by people is encouraging and reminds me why I chose this career path in the first place,’ explains Declan.
Declan cites being a part of Pinch me as one of his favourite chapters at Excelsia. ‘To experience what it’s like on a professional film set, working with industry professionals alongside the close friends I made at college, it’s an experience that’s unmatched. Shooting scenes in different locations, redubbing lines in ADR (automated dialogue replacement) was a perfect sample of a professional production and I’m eternally grateful for everyone that worked on it, especially the director Michael McLennan, who’s also a lecturer for the Bachelor of Dramatic Art course at Excelsia.’
As a Bachelor of Dramatic Art graduate, Declan now aspires to work primarily as an actor and to positively impact the lives of others. ‘I’m working on a couple of scripts for TV shows myself and some friends are preparing to pitch to different networks next year. The reason I act other than just loving it is to entertain others. To know I’ve brought a smile to someone’s face or had an impact on them with my art is all I can ask for with any of my performances and I truly hope Pinch Me is just the start of that.’
We can’t wait to see the impact Declan makes on our screens and stage. If you want to explore a career within the creative and performing arts sector, why not consider Excelsia College’s Bachelor of Dramatic Art? The three-year course will help you develop your confidence and skills as you network with industry professionals and have potential exposure to amazing opportunities like Declan has! In the 2021 QILT student experience survey results, Excelsia rated number one for skills development in creative arts undergraduate courses across New South Wales. The Bachelor of Dramatic Art will help you develop the foundations you need to succeed in a cut-throat industry.
Community music is an exciting and active space but under-utilised in the tertiary training of musicians, and David Francis, Head of Wollongong Conservatorium of Music is passionate about bridging this gap. Francis sees the real value that community orchestras play in helping conductors to gain authentic experience in working with different orchestras. ‘There is a clear flow between tertiary education and community activities in music. Music educators should place importance on students engaging with the community and working with different groups outside of their university or college setting, including in regional contexts,’ he explains. Mikaela Wu, Master of Music student at Excelsia College has been able to benefit from her exposure to community music, working with the Wollongong Conservatorium Community Orchestra as part of her training and studies to become a conductor. She also works closely with the Strathfield Symphony Orchestra under the instruction of Sadaharu Murumatsu, artistic director of the ensemble. As part of her research, Mikaela is looking at ways to improve ensemble communication in rehearsal contexts, a gap she has noticed in her research.
Wu is conducting research with community orchestras Hills Shire Symphony Orchestra and Penrith Symphony Orchestra. ‘I’m seeing what verbal instructions are useful in those contexts, how people respond and what they think of it,’ Wu explains. ‘The approach can be different in community ensembles compared to professional ensembles, not necessarily that the quality is worse so you care less about the outcome, but more the approach where the focus is on enjoying the music rather than being accurate to the time period. The reason behind why you’re doing it or what you’re aiming for in the final performance is different so the environment you’re in is different.’
There are key differences between community music and professional orchestras which Wu shares. ‘In community music contexts, conductors have to work hard to understand each instrument and what notes are going to go out of tune naturally. In professional contexts you can work on the artistic style of the piece rather than just getting the notes right. In community music, you can be more specific with developing technical knowledge because there is a variety of levels and skills within the ensemble. As a conductor of a community music ensemble, you have to remember that these people are here to enjoy the experience as well as improve their playing and musicianship, so managing expectations in this context is a good learning experience,’ she explains.
Wu has seen firsthand the value of collaborations between tertiary institutions and community orchestras. ‘One funny experience that sticks in my mind was standing on a milk crate in the park conducting! I attended a few rehearsals to learn what the conductor was doing and when he was double booked for one of the concerts this year, he asked me to conduct Strathfield Symphony Orchestra.’ Wu used to play flute in the South Pacific Concert band for many years and conducted with the band on a few occasions. ‘I learned a lot about what conducting is like from being in the band, watching the conductor, learning what you like and what you don’t like, and this informs how you conduct.’
In order to address this gap between tertiary institutions and community music, Dr Christine Carroll, Music Program Director at Excelsia College, has introduced an exciting stream within the Master of Music. ‘Excelsia College’s proposed Community Music Stream is unique in Australia, providing students postgraduate level skills in managing small and large performance ensembles of varying standards, as well as developing musical initiatives for work in a range of other community settings from prisons to aged care and healthcare settings. It will also help to bridge the gap in the market and as part of the training of up-and-coming young conductors,’ explains Carroll.
Wu is now in her final semester of her studies, working towards the realisation of whole concert programs with community orchestras to a professional standard.
Within the next five years, Wu hopes to continue working in community ensembles as a conductor. ‘It would be nice to do more professional ensemble work as well but I like music for the social aspect, and I enjoy working with people who are there to enjoy making music together,’ she explains.
If you are a musician inspired to go into regional areas and become a future leader in community music, why not explore what Excelsia College’s Master of Music has to offer?
Calling all aspiring Christian musical artists! Have you heard about the world’s only premier music awards dedicated to aspiring Christian artists? Firstfruits Music Competition was first launched in July 2022 in an effort to address the lack of recognition and support aspiring Christian artists receive.
Former Excelsia Music lecturer Jay Laga’aia is one of the six judges, along with other international judges Dave Thompson, Muyiwa Olarewaju, Alvin Taylor, Graeme Press and another to be announced. All judges were selected as they affirm the values, ethics and music standards statement and honour God. Applicants can enter up to five different songs, and the song submission evaluation criteria include originality (covers are not accepted), Scriptural content, song lyrics, song melody, song arrangement, performance, and commercial viability. The song’s purpose must be to both bless the Lord and edify the listener. It must also accurately reflect biblical content, being of a godly nature. ‘A cappella songs’ without instrumental accompaniment are also welcome.
Global submissions are limited to 5,000 artists and the top 24 highest scoring songs will receive public exposure. Artists in the top 12 may also be able to network with industry professionals in the music business.
The Grand Prize winner will receive £25,000 in cash (approximately AU$43,000) and the prestigious winner’s Firstfruits Music Awards trophy. The finalist will receive £5,000 in cash (approximately AU$8,500) together with the prestigious finalist trophy. For non-UK entrants, the equivalent is paid in the artist’s local currency. On top of this, £5,000 (approximately AU$8,500) will be donated towards Gospel-led missions, generated by the proceeds of the event. As Colossians 3:17 says, ‘And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.’
The competition deadline is 31 July 2023 or whenever 5,000 song submissions have been reached! The entry fee is £25 (approximately AU$40) per song regardless of multiple submissions and there is no maximum time limit placed on songs. To enter, head to the following link https://www.firstfruits.co/enter
Mikaela Wu is in her final year of a Master of Music at Excelsia College. After finishing her Bachelor of Music in flute and working for a year and a half, she was encouraged by staff at Excelsia to do a master’s. ‘I’d had enough of spending time on one instrument (flute) and practising on my own. When I found out I could do my master’s in conducting and hang out with people all the time, I decided to start my studies.’
The budding conductor will start working with Wollongong Conservatorium Community Orchestra later this year. She is also working closely with the Strathfield Symphony Orchestra in order to develop her conducting skills, under the instruction of Sadaharu Murumatsu, artistic director of the ensemble. Wu has learned there is more to conducting than a series of hand gestures. ‘A misconception is that people think conducting is waving hands, but you have to talk during the rehearsal which freaked me out. It’s terrifying to have 30 faces staring at you waiting for you to say something useful, but the conductor has to be very strong on the relational aspect and understand their ensemble. That’s been helpful because a lot of things are happening in a rehearsal and if you don’t have that knowledge, you’re going to feel overwhelmed. What you indicate to people can change how they respond. I was encouraged to conduct in a welcoming style rather than in a demanding style.’ Murumatsu agrees, saying, ‘Some people think studying conducting master’s is learning how to wave your arms or technique, but it’s not choreographed movement. Teaching conducting is learning how to build the music, learning about what kind of sounds we want to create and orchestra techniques.’ Conductors have to study not only music and instruments, but also about the history of music, psychology and communication so they can connect with their orchestra within a short period of time.
As part of her learning process under Murumatsu, Wu has weekly homework to complete, such as listening to symphonies which can individually run for 30 to 40 minutes! ‘In a symphony, you have several parts and I might be given one movement or section which could run for 8 to 10 minutes. I have to go through the score, learn where I need to queue different instruments in, share the mood of the piece and record myself doing it with an invisible orchestra. I used to put different sticky notes on my bookshelf of where the different instruments would be in front of me but now I know where they are without them being there,’ says Wu.
Murumatsu and Wu started the Excelsia chamber orchestra last year and, despite the difficulties faced by lockdown, they managed to perform a concert with the choir last year. ‘Most of the members are from the community and we’re hoping this group will attract more orchestral musicians to study music at Excelsia,’ Wu explains. ‘I’ve started learning the viola this year which has been fun in a group because there isn’t pressure to play everything. On your own, you play it slowly and you can’t play all the notes, but when you play in a group you can listen to everything and all the different parts and join in but there isn’t as much pressure to play the whole piece yourself,’ Wu explains.
If you are interested in specialising in conducting, why not explore what Excelsia College’s Master of Music can offer you?