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22 NOV 2017

What’s it like being an SSO Fellow?

As 2017 comes to a close, our Double Bass Fellow Alanna Jones looks back on her "orchestral apprenticeship" with the SSO.

1. What were you most looking forward to when you began the 2017 SSO Fellowship?

All the chamber music and working with the SSO. This kind of work is what I needed most to grow as a player and it has helped me a lot. 

2. What have been some of the highlights of the year?

Definitely playing Mahler’s Symphony No. 3. This bass section is fantastic to play with and it was such a monumental work to be a part of. Mahler symphonies always involve an unusually large orchestra. It's challenging yet fun playing with that many people on stage! I also loved playing with the choir – the children's choir for that concert was such a treat.

Performing the last two movements from Roger Kellaway's Esque – a duet for trombone and double bass – with Trombone Fellow Amanda Tillett was also a highlight. It was challenging because we both had to play a bass drum and our instruments at the same time. We were fortunate to have tutorials with Kees Boersma (Principal Double Bass) and Scott Kinmont (Associate Principal Trombone) who have performed it together. Initially we had not planned to play the third movement for our performance, but after rave reviews from Scott and Kees (this is the only movement that requires the bass drum) we knew we had to do it. Amanda and I are hoping to find an opportunity to perform the whole work next year.

Fellows Alanna Jones and Amanda Tillett rehearse Roger Kellaway's Esque
Pictured: Double Bass Fellow Alanna Jones and Trombone Fellow Amanda Tillett rehearse Roger Kellaway's Esque

3. What will you miss the most about your time with the SSO?

The people. There are so many people here that have become very special to me. Plus, I have grown to love some good Aussie banter! However, this is the life of a musician – we are often on the move. The trick is to not make it about leaving somewhere, but to think of it as an opportunity to make your home bigger, to include all the places you have lived and the people you have met. 

4. What was the funniest moment during your Fellowship?

Probably in the first program rehearsals when Fellowship Artistic Director Roger Benedict came along to coach us. Viola Fellow Martin Alexander asked Violin Fellow Gemma Lee a question and naturally, addressed her as "Gemma”. Roger misheard and asked in disbelief if Martin had just called Gemma "Deborah" by mistake. Gemma's nickname has been Deborah, or Debbie ever since!

5. What was it like working with Anthony Marwood last week for Beethoven One: Marwood and the SSO Fellows?

Marwood is a vibrant leader and the music was beautiful and really satisfying to play.  

It was a conductor-less performance, meaning Marwood led the orchestra as he played. The program was fantastic. I have not played much, if any, Vasks and the violin concerto with string orchestra was challenging but very rewarding. The music is so beautiful but pushes boundaries in the right way. 

It was my first chance to play a Beethoven symphony this year. Beethoven is one of my favourite composers and it was so satisfying to work on this symphony in such detail and with musicians who know the composer so well. For me, this music is what the bass was invented for and why I play bass.

SSO Fellows with Anthony Marwood
Pictured: The SSO Fellows with violinist Anthony Marwood after their performance of Beethoven One and Vasks Violin Concerto

6. How did you find working with the bass section?

Loved it. The great thing about this year was how supportive everyone was while I was taking auditions. Everyone was happy to listen to my silly questions about what I was working on, or hear me play some excerpts, give me lessons and coach me in the section.

7. Do you have any advice for musicians who are thinking of applying for the Fellowship?
Absolutely go for it! It is a great program in a great city and the people at the SSO are all fantastic. It helps to grow young musicians in such a vital way. The emphasis on chamber music and orchestral music is central to winning a job in an orchestra. I am so grateful to have been here this year. 

Book your tickets to see Alanna and the other Fellows perform their final 2017 concert on 26 November at Verbrugghen Hall, Sydney Conservatorium of Music.

Find out more information on the Fellowship program.

Image: Alanna Jones (R) and Bridget O'Donnell at the Great Wall of China during the SSO's 2017 China Tour.

What’s it like being an SSO Fellow?What’s it like being an SSO Fellow?