It's been quite an extraordinary six to twelve months...
Around this time last year, my fiance Kim Falconer received the exciting news that she would be participating in the Sydney Symphony Orchestra's fellowship program for 2017. I immediately knew I'd be moving with her to Sydney - my Masters in composition at the University of Melbourne was slowly concluding, and I didn't have any pre-existing commitments that required me to stay in Melbourne that year. Of course, I knew Sydney reasonably well having previously lived there in 2011-12, and was excited for a change of lifestyle and the opportunity to begin a new chapter of my career in a different city.
Just prior to our move, I received four very exciting bits of news. Firstly, I was thrilled to be offered the position of Composer in Residence at Abbotsleigh - a prestigious girls school on Sydney's north shore - and immediately accepted the post. Secondly, I was accepted into the Doctor of Musical Arts program at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music, under the supervision of Paul Stanhope. Thirdly, Wirripang (one of Australia's leading classical music publishers) had agreed to publish three of my works, representing my very first publishing agreement. And finally, I was offered representation as an associate artist with the Australian Music Centre, giving my music greater profile and visibility than before. In January, Kim and I settled into our new home in Macquarie Park in Sydney's leafy north.
My first six months at Abbotsleigh have been nothing short of fantastic. The staff of the music department are all highly skilled, passionate and deeply committed to the learning of their students. There is undeniable talent among the student cohort, and I continue to be inspired by the development and improvements these budding young composers are making every week. I don't think you could find a better place to teach!
It has been a very productive time for composition. My first piece for the year - Windsong, for flute and guitar - was commissioned by the lovely Joan and Barry Miskin, who wanted a piece in memory of Barry's late sister Pam. Joan and Barry first encountered my music through a performance of Winter (for flute and cello) at ANAM last year. Windsong was eventually premiered in a superb performance by Kim and Dan McKay at the University of Melbourne in March.
My next piece - Hymnus Ad Astra, for wind symphony - was commissioned by Matt Klohs, most recently musical director of the Royal Australian Navy Band. Matt was looking for a chorale-style piece suitable for the level of a good high school wind band. The piece will be premiered in the US later this year.
One of the most exciting opportunities yet to come my way was a commission from Musica Viva for the Streeton Trio. Carl Vine surprised me with an email early in the year - I immediately and enthusiastically accepted the opportunity, supported by the Ken Tribe Fund for Australian Composers. The resulting piece - Joybox, for piano trio - is short but fast and frenetic, and will be premiered in a Musica Viva coffee concert at the Melbourne Recital Centre in October.
And as if all that weren't enough to get me through the first half of 2017, the Zelman Symphony Orchestra (with whom I had fruitfully worked in 2015) commissioned a major new piece for their Hamer Hall concert commemorating the 75th anniversary of the Babi Yar massacre. Crossway for orchestra - as the piece became known - was completed at the end of June, and is almost symphonic in its fifteen-minute duration. The concert is a most exciting event indeed - the opportunity to write an extended work for a fine orchestra at such an important occasion doesn't come along very often!
The remainder of 2017 is shaping up as equally rewarding. My current project - a commission from Ensemble Three's unusual lineup of trumpet, trombone and electric guitar - will be premiered in Mount Macedon in September. Both Joel Brennan (on trumpet) and Don Immel (on trombone) have been enthusiastic advocates for my music, and it is a real pleasure to be writing for them again. It is also exciting to be again writing for the wonderful Ole Bohn, who will premiere a new violin and piano work of mine (with Daniel Herscovitch) at the Sydney Conservatorium in October.
Into next year, there are more exciting projects in the pipeline with Joel Brennan, Chris Nankervis (piano), fellow composer Andrzej Karalow, and tenor Kyle Stegall. At this stage, it is unclear if we will still be living in Sydney, but one thing is for certain: the composing won't stop!