Recently, the Coffs Con was thrilled to hear the news of a past student achieving some exceptional results. Drew Gilchrist is a clarinet player who was at the Coffs Con for a number of years before moving to QLD to study his Bachelor of Music under Paul Dean.
Drew was a highly valued member of the Academy, frequently performed with the Coffs Con Youth Orchestra, and found any excuse to collaborate with students and staff on stage. Drew is a Coffs Harbour local and is about to be representing our region on the big stage around the world.
The Con’s Executive Director, Pat Brearley, recently interviewed Drew about his journey in the music industry to date, and what is coming up in the near future.
Congratulations on your recent news, Drew! Tell us about your musical journey to date.
I started playing the clarinet when I was 10 years old. I started out playing in school bands and orchestras at Bonville Primary School, Toormina High School and Bishop Druitt College. I joined The Academy at the Coffs Harbour Regional Conservatorium when I was 15 and began lessons with Associate Professor Paul Dean around then as well. In 2019 I moved to Brisbane to complete my Bachelor of Music at the Queensland Conservatorium, Griffith University to continue studying with Paul. Since moving here I’ve played in various concerts and festivals including and been a guest artist with Ensemble Q and the Southern Cross Soloists. This year I am Playing in the Brisbane and Bangalow Music Festivals and Australian Youth Orchestra seasons. I have now graduated from my degree and I am planning to go overseas to continue my studies.
What inspired you to take up the clarinet?
I remember really wanting to join the band at Bonville Primary School. The only instruments that were available at the time were trumpet, bass guitar and clarinet. I used to ride my bike to school every day so I chose the clarinet because it fit in my backpack and I could keep riding to school. I didn’t really know anything about the instrument at the time but I have got to know it pretty well. My reasoning didn’t really pay off in the long run as clarinettists are often required to play 2 or more different members of the clarinet family in each rehearsal.
What impact did the Coffs Harbour Regional Conservatorium programs have on your early musical career?
My involvement in The Academy had a huge impact. That exposure to chamber music performance and repertoire was really inspiring and led me to seriously consider music as a career. It was great to regularly spend time with other young people in the Coffs Harbour area who were passionate about music and to receive mentorship from musicians such as Trish Dean (O’Brien) and yourself. I gained so many skills that set me up well for tertiary and professional level music making and opportunities to play in the Bellingen and Coramba Music Festivals and the NSW Regional Youth Orchestra.
Tell us about your upcoming trip and how important it will be in developing your musical career.
I will be moving to Frankfurt, Germany in October to join the International Ensemble Modern Academy (IEMA). It is a one-year Masters program run in partnership with the Musikhochschule Frankfurt specialising in contemporary music performance.
During my year in Germany I will be performing regularly with the academy members under the guidance of members of Ensemble Modern, one of Europe’s foremost contemporary music ensembles. It is a big step forward in my career as I will gain valuable performance skills in new music and I can establish myself overseas and build a network with other musicians in Europe.
Any advice for young musicians in regional NSW that want to undertake a similar career path as you?
My advice is take as many performance opportunities as you can. Performance craft and being able to handle nerves in front of an audience is really a learned skill and improves the more you do it. I also recommend for as many camps/programs/youth orchestras as you can even if it seems unrealistic. There are a lot of opportunities out there and even if you are unsuccessful there is a lot to learn from the process of preparing auditions. Make sure you do plenty of practice and listen to your teachers 😉 The most important thing is to have fun and enjoy playing music.