Written by Rebecca Gill
When I first began working with the Sydney Symphony Orchestra I heard about different job swaps undertaken by a handful of colleagues over recent years.
They differed in length and location but invariably sounded like exciting and interesting experiences that offered a taste of different cultures and ways of working as a musician.
My section principal, Kirsty Hilton, was friends with Finnish violinist, Riikka Sintonen. Riikka worked in the Finnish National Opera and Ballet Orchestra in Helsinki, and Kirsty knew that Riikka would love to be able to find a keen exchangee from the Sydney Symphony. It was perfect timing, so I jumped at the opportunity!
The most important part of organising a job swap is to make sure your colleagues are on board, both with letting you go for a period and welcoming in an unknown musician in your place. The Sydney Symphony Second Violin section was characteristically enthusiastic and supportive of the idea. The Orchestra asked Riikka to submit an audition tape and I sent my CV off to the Finnish National Opera and Ballet Second violins. Everyone was happy to go ahead with the exchange!
The Sydney Symphony had a European tour organised in late 2018 so I seized the opportunity to stay in Europe after the tour and commence my exchange in Helsinki for a full Opera and Ballet season in the first half of 2019.
One of the biggest attractions for me was the chance to spend time in a pit orchestra and to understand what it’s like being part of a fully staged production. I’ve played so much Opera repertoire on stage over the years, but I hadn’t spent much time playing with Opera orchestras. And, of course, the opportunity to live and travel in Europe, and to see great European orchestras perform was another big attraction for me.