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Photo: Pia Johnson

ANAM student and pianist, Gladys Chua, was recently invited to perform at the Australian Festival of Chamber Music in Townsville this year. Here is part two of her adventures!

And so it was, all the processes were set in motion: the business of checking with my teacher (a resounding ‘of course you should go’), getting leave from ANAM (as it involved missing the first week of term 3), liaising with the administration team of the Festival and organising flights, a contract, publicity material and much more business-y things. After a jam-packed ‘mid-year holiday’ from ANAM filled with concerts, baking days, rehearsals, and competition, I was all set to go to Townsville for AFCM 2012!

Let me tell you, waking up at 4am is not pleasant; I don’t even remember why I agreed to a 7.30am flight – remind me not to ever again! Bleary-eyed and yawning, I made it to Sydney for the half-hour layover, which was of course, not even that long as the flight was slightly delayed. I really did step off one plane, walked into the terminal building for a grand total of maybe four minutes, only to step onto another plane en route to Townsville. I was thankful to finally arrive in Queensland – too many hours sitting in a plane seat with not much else to go! Plus, it was warm, like 24 degrees warm! Which, when one comes from a fairly bleak and grey Melbourne winter, is pretty much like pure bliss. One of the lovely volunteers from the Festival was waiting to pick me up from the airport. Bronwyn was the first of the many amazing volunteers who helped to make the Festival such a smooth-running operation. As I was to find out through the week, there were volunteers to drive us around to the rehearsal and concert venues, to and from our hotel, and even to the shops or The Brewery, should it be not too inconvenient! There were volunteers to staff the lunchroom (where I spent many hours…on account of not too many practice/rehearsal rooms! Oh ok, yes, I admit I love eating!), there were volunteers at the concerts, ushering, and doing all sorts of wonderfully often neglected and overlooked, yet important jobs.  We stopped by the shops to get some supplies, feed my famished gob, and restock on milk for the rehearsal venue (important ingredient in morning coffee, an essential Festival drink). On our way, we drove along The Strand (which is a beautiful beach front strip), and Bronwyn told me all about the places to go (and to not go!), with some recommendations for dining out.

I was greeted at Quest Apartments, (my home base for the next ten days) by Deb the Festival Artistic Administrator and what a wonder woman she is! As a young, student who comes from a family who doesn’t often go on holidays, the hotels and all the add-ons were pretty exciting! I will probably make the worst diva ever, which I consider to be a fairly good quality, as I always think, “Wow, I get THIS?!?!”. I shared a lift with one of the music interns, who was helping to bring up a brand new Yamaha digital piano for my room so that I could practise in my hotel room. (All the pianists got this deal, so good!) Deb handed over an Artist’s Welcome Pack, full of information, schedules (the only criticisms here was that the font was so tiny, and that everything was labeled with only the date, not the day of the week!), some freebies (yay!), programs and a bottle of red wine (Yeah, I could be an artist every day, I think!). The sun was shining, I had a whole room to myself, and I was having a day off to myself! Blissful indeed. While we’re talking about the hotel, yes, my bed was huge. Like, two single beds put together-huge, where I can’t reach the corners when I do the starfish. And to celebrate my bed being nicely made for me every day (because I’m not diligent enough to make it quite so tightly or neatly myself), and its size, I slept on one side, then rolled over, then could keep rolling over; and yes, I also slept in the centre too (crack and all), just for fun.

I went for a little explore into town that afternoon – I must have walked to not so exciting part of the mall as many of the shop fronts were bare. However, I did visit the Perc Tucker Regional Gallery, which was the venue for the Winterschool Public Masterclasses, and also the gallery where Di Bresciani’s ‘Rhythms of Light’ is currently on exhibition. I also visited Mary Who? Bookshop, one of the stores supporting AFCM and its events and artists.

The next day I met with the amazing Michele Walsh, legendary for qualities which include (though not limited to) having time for everybody and everything, tireless and enthusiastic leadership, violin and teacher extraordinaire, everybody’s proxy mother and general awesomeness. I have to note here that I had not met her until this day, but had heard so much about her, in part because I have many friends who have learnt with her. Michele was an artist at the Festival in her own right, as well as Director of the Winterschool at AFCM 2012. She carried out both roles (and particularly the latter) with great dedication, patience, generosity and sensibility, and was an utter joy to work with. Her role as Winterschool Director involved organising lessons and masterclasses for the students with the artists, and deciding on the public concert at the end of the week, as well as leading the Winterschool Young String Ensemble Workshop during the first weekend, among other things. It was wonderful to meet her for the first time, and to feel like we already knew a lot of each other, as we had exchanged emails in the week prior, and knowing so many mutual people. The first half of our coffee date was dedicated to business and organising the Winterschool schedules and stuff, and the second half turned into a very pleasant exchange of all sorts of ideas, recountings and getting-to-know-yous!

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