Written by Rohan Dasika (double bass)
It has now been a while since I got back from my time in Philadelphia (funded by the John and Rosemary Macleod ANAM Traveling Fellowship), and I’m still digesting my experiences there … And also I just haven’t got around to writing about them!
I was over there between February 18th and May 13th, studying with Harold (Hal) Robinson, principal double bass of The Philadelphia Orchestra and double bass teacher at the Curtis Institute of Music (Philadelphia). I had met him last year in Japan, where he was a tutor at the Pacific Music Festival, and felt like his approach to playing and teaching was very mind-expanding for me.
When I came back to Australia, I sent him an email asking if somehow I found some money, whether there was any way he would consider teaching me for a few months – luckily for me he agreed, and even more luckily, I was awarded the ANAM Traveling Fellowship, enabling me to travel to the US and study. When I arrived in Philadelphia, I had little more than his agreement to give me lessons, and the knowledge that I had a roof over my head (a one bedroom apartment sublet off Craigslist).
This was sort of by design (and maybe a bit by laziness). I was trying to keep myself as open to whatever came out of the experience as possible, and felt like at the very least, just being around such a great musician regularly could only be a good thing. So I guess anything that happened would have been unexpected, but I the experience was so much more than I hoped for.
Hal turned out to be an incredibly dedicated teacher. Before my first lesson, he presented me with this huge book of material, with the cover “Rohan Does Philly, Spring 2015”. He was very proud of this cover! I would also get comp tickets to The Philadelphia Orchestra whenever possible, and the lessons went way beyond the time we’d agreed on. It took me quite a while to accept that he was actually worrying that he wasn’t doing enough for me. Seeing this sort of dedication was one huge thing that I took from my time there.
But the biggest thing for me was probably seeing this dedication reflected in his students at the Curtis Institute of Music. I was welcomed into the studio, and would go into Curtis every week to sit in on the bass class there. The players there were a very diverse group of musicians, all with pretty different styles of playing and professional goals. But they all shared the same level of commitment to doing what they did at the absolute highest level possible, and were super nice guys.
It was so eye opening seeing these guys around my age (most a few years younger), doing things with the bass that I’d never seen before, every week. As it happened, shortly into my time in Philadelphia, an audition was announced for the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra right around the time I was due to come back. So this provided a nice sort of goal and structure to my practice. Hal organised for me to play a mock audition in front of the Curtis bass studio, which was so beyond the call of duty, incredibly scary, and very helpful.
It was also mind-opening to live by myself in a foreign country (although I seem to have returned with an even deeper addiction to following NBA basketball, and periodic hamburger cravings). I came back to Australia, did the audition, and ended up as a runner-up, which was the best result I had ever had in an audition, and in a way made tangible the progress I felt I’d made over the course of the trip. I think I expect a lot more of myself now, and have a lot more work to do to try and get there.
I’m living in Queensland at the moment. My girlfriend Cinzia (ANAM Alumni 2014) has moved to study here at the Queensland Conservatorium of Music. I am doing some freelance work with the Queensland Symphony and Camerata of St John’s, practicing madly towards the Australian Festival of Chamber Music in August, and spending way too much time reading about the NBA draft. Then in September I’m off on another trip, heading to Austria for a few months to get more lessons, funded through a different grant. After that, I have absolutely no idea what I am going to do, but am pretty excited to see what happens!
Rohan graduated from the Australian National University School of Music in 2012 with the Peter and Lena Karmel Anniversary Prize for Music, studying with Max McBride. His previous teachers include Duncan Allen, Sylvia Hosking and Eric Ajaye.
Rohan has performed as a casual member of the Melbourne, Canberra and Sydney Symphony Orchestras. He has also been a member of the Sydney Sinfonia, Melbourne Chamber Orchestra, Victorian Opera Tango Nuevo Ensemble, and has been guest principal of the Camerata of St. Johns. A member of the Australian Youth Orchestra between 2009-2012, Rohan participated in the 2010 China/Europe tour conducted by Sir Mark Elder, and in 2012 performed as principal bass under conductors Christopher Hogwood and Simone Young. In 2012, Rohan received first prize in the ANU School of Music Chamber Music Competition as part of a bass quartet.
He studied at ANAM from 2013-14 under Damien Eckersley.