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Mee Na Lojewski

The founder of Affinity Collective, Mee Na completed the Australian National Academy of Music’s Professional Performance Program in 2014 studying with Howard Penny. She holds a Master of Music (Performance) from Sydney Conservatorium of Music in conjunction with The Royal Academy of Music, London, where she studied with Susan Blake, Timothy Walden and Mats Lidström.

She talked to us at the Life of ANAM Blog about her life at ANAM.

Tell us a little about yourself.
Last year I completed the Professional Performance Program at ANAM. It was a wonderful opportunity to devote my energies to intensive performance-based study. Among the most memorable highlights of these years were a masterclass with Steven Isserlis, a side-by-side collaboration with the Omega Ensemble and performing at Melbourne Festival’s Quartetthaus and Musica Viva’s Huntington Festival.

Before ANAM I completed a Master of Music conjointly from Sydney Conservatorium and the Royal Academy of Music, London. I had wonderful teachers in Susan Blake and Mats Lidström. I was also playing regularly as a casual with the Sydney Symphony Orchestra and Sydney Chamber Opera.

What inspired you to do a Fellowship?
I have my ANAM teacher Howard Penny to thank for encouraging me to apply for this. I had already observed the wonderful things ANAM Fellows of previous years were achieving with their projects and I knew it would be a great next step in developing as a musician and pursuing a significant passion of mine, which is chamber music.

Can you describe what you are trying to achieve?
In March this year I launched Affinity Collective, a new ensemble of ANAM string players. I have curated a concert series at ANAM’s Ballantyne Room, which spotlights new works by a Sydney composer, Jack Symonds. Through my Fellowship I hope to establish Affinity Collective and I hope to see it continue professionally into the future, promoting young musicians and Australian composers and also contributing something unique to the Australian music scene.

Tell me about more about Affinity Collective.
Affinity Collective brings together a group of like-minded ANAM musicians with the shared goal of performing music we’re passionate about. This year there are six core members in Affinity Collective and for our next concert on June 5 we have invited two ANAM alumni, Peter Clark and Christopher Cartlidge, to play with us.

Collaborating with Australian composers such as Jack Symonds and promoting new compositions is another important aspect of Affinity Collective that keeps us relevant and involved in the contemporary music scene.

I think the idea of a collective is a fairly informal one that I hope also seems inclusive of the community. Engaging with our audiences is a vital aspect of us surviving as an ensemble. Affinity Collective also performs at gigs and so far this year we have also held two pre-concert performances for very supportive audiences at the homes of Hilary McPhee and Robert Whitehead. Outside of our Ballantyne concert series we are also holding interactive Open Rehearsals and Performances at 75 On Reid in North Fitzroy.

What makes your ensemble special?
My idea in creating Affinity Collective is to provide listeners with an inside experience of contemporary chamber music through more intimate and accessible contexts than the traditional concert hall. We have chosen to present our concert series in the Ballantyne Room at ANAM because of its intimate acoustics. Paul Dean suggested this as the perfect space when we discussed wanting to create a concert experience that is personal and immediate for us as well as for the audience. In the same spirit, at our events at 75 On Reid we perform informal concerts following a fly-on-the-wall experience of what goes on in the rehearsal room.

Another point of difference about Affinity Collective is our flexible structure. We are all string players at the moment and between us we are able to perform a scope of repertoire not limited to a single instrumentation. For example, in an Affinity Collective concert you might hear us performing solo as well as in duo, trio or quartet formations.

Tell me a bit about your choice of focusing on the music of Jack Symonds?
In choosing one composer as the focus for Affinity Collective’s first concert series, I immediately thought of Jack Symonds. I met Jack through the Sydney Chamber Opera, a company he co-founded in 2010. I had performed in several SCO productions, including in the première of Jack’s chamber opera, Climbing Toward Midnight (2013). I feel an affinity with Jack’s music and with the ethos of his artistic programming. Jack Symonds’ music draws on the experimental musical ideas that came out of post-war Europe. There is a fantastic body of chamber music repertoire that comes from this time, but much of it is not performed often. His motivation with SCO is to challenge the ‘museum’ attitude towards opera, and to perform Australian premières of significant European, American and Australian repertoire. This is something that I see as important in today’s classical music culture. In collaborating with Jack on Affinity Collective’s first concert series we chose to program alongside his own compositions works that show some of the significant influences to him as a composer. We are really proud that three of Affinity Collective’s concert programs this year feature Jack Symonds world premières.

What are you hoping to achieve with Affinity Collective and the ANAM Fellowship this year?
So far, doing an ANAM Fellowship has been one of the most challenging and rewarding times I’ve had. While I have the wonderfully supportive framework of ANAM and access to its team of musical, technical and administrative people, the Fellowship is an almost entirely self-directed endeavour.

My dream outcome would be to see Affinity Collective make a long-term and significant contribution to the Australian music scene and build a community of supporters around what we do. Immediate aims are to secure future concerts and engagements, part of which will involve establishing a yearly Affinity Collective concert series here in Melbourne and in Sydney.

UP-COMING PERFORMANCES:

6.30pm Sunday May 31
Affinity Collective Plays at 75 On Reid, Open Rehearsal and Performance
75 Reid St, North Fitzroy
$5 entry, children under 12 free

7.30pm Friday June 5
Affinity Collective Presents New Music by Jack Symonds
Ballantyne Room, Australian National Academy of Music
Book tickets: http://www.affinitycollective.com

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