Percussionist, Hamish Upton (NZ) has been at ANAM for three years. Over this time, he has been thrown into a wide variety of musical experiences and grown to become one of ANAM’s most respected musicians. He tells us a bit about his time here and his plans post ANAM.

You’ve been at ANAM for nearly 3 years. Over the course of that time, what has been a highlight for you?
There have been so many!  In first year, we collaborated with Melbourne-based Speak Percussion and Kroumata from Sweden, two superstar percussion ensembles.  The scale of that event was huge – how often do you get to perform twelve-tets for percussion!  Last year’s Beethoven 7 project was also unforgettable – playing that symphony unconducted and on calf-headed timpani was really awesome.  I think debuting on a ‘stunt violin’ during James Hullick’s Australian Voices project last year was also one of my favourite moments – that was when I really felt like I hit my stride as a percussionist 😉

What are the biggest lessons you’ve learned being here?
The most importance lesson is to always plan ahead!  The sheer amount of repertoire we have to learn, on top of organizing percussion instruments, stage set ups and coordinating practice means a carefully organised diary can regulate sanity in the craziest of times.  Also, I have learnt that it is important to love every moment of what we do, because we are so privileged to be supported to practice and perform music, day in and day out.

What will you miss most?
I will miss regular classes (and coffee!) and lessons with Peter Neville, he is a massive inspiration and just generally great to be around.  I’ll miss our amazing equipment too – life without a huge room full of the best percussion gear available is not going to be the same.  Looking at the bigger picture – I’ll miss the friendly support from the office and the operations crew to put on ambitious recitals – I have benefitted hugely from the technological support of everyone at ANAM.


Rehearsing Thea Rossen’s recital with Peter Neville watching on.


The upcoming Ballet Mécanique concert sounds really interesting. What are you looking forward to most about it?
The sheer scale of the works!  The Antheil is absolutely huge.  This is an Australian premiere – and I don’t think I’ll get to participate in projects of this scale outside of ANAM.  That’s what makes it awesome – Peter has amazing program ideas, and ANAM makes them happen!  Throw in Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring, and a huge Ginastera work, and you’ve got three works that have probably never been programmed together, ever.

Also I love it when we get to collaborate with other people from around Australia.  We’re super excited to have percussionists from Brisbane and Melbourne joining us for this project, and it will be great to get to know Tim White and Gary France through playing and hanging out together.  Oh, and a taco truck at the concert!  That’ll be yummy, too.  It’s going to be an epic evening.

Is there a skill or opportunity that ANAM is facilitated you, that perhaps wouldn’t have happened elsewhere?
Absolutely.  Through the regular guest artists giving classes and lessons, I’ve formed connections and friendships that have made it possible to collaborate outside of ANAM on projects around Australia.  I have also become faster at learning things, which is entirely different to my experience as a University Student, where we often had longer to learn fewer notes.  It’s also been really fun, which I think makes it really a special place.

Are there any projects outside of ANAM you’re working on at the moment?
There have been quite a few this year, from working with Rubiks Ensemble on a concert with a composition influenced by Bird Song, to playing maritime-themed music with Ensemble Offspring a few months back.  It’s a quieter patch right now which gives me time to work on my Master of Music exploring laptop-based solo percussion repertoire, and recital pieces for my bass-drum themed recital. (October 25th at 6pm – please come along!)

How do you like to unwind post-concert?
It varies a lot – usually it depends on how much gear I have to pack up – that can take 45 minutes sometimes!  A  debrief drink and some shoestring fries with friends and fellow performers is hard to beat .

What/who inspires you as a musician – or as a person in general?
Besides the musical life in Melbourne and all my colleagues doing amazing projects and concerts, I get a lot of inspiration from listening to music outside of the classical canon.  I like music that is no-holds-barred and extreme sometimes, so my passion for headphones means that I can make the most of experimental electronic music.  I also like to go to concerts with my girlfriend Zela, she’s great to hang out with and makes sure I remember to have fun when ANAM gets too crazy!

Of course, Peter Neville is a huge inspiration too, so it is great to go and catch him in a concert somewhere – last week we saw him bowing some polystyrene in to a microphone that spatialized it into surround sound, and a few weeks ago we got to play alongside him in the percussion section at BIFEM which was really inspiring.


Hamish with his girlfriend and fellow percussionist, Zela Papageorgiou

What are your plans for next year?
Things are a bit up in the air still, but I am looking forward to staying in Melbourne and spending a little time out of study.  This will be good to rejuvenate after being a student since 2009 and dream about what to do next.  I am looking forward to coming back for next year’s percussion extravaganza too, where legendary percussionist Steve Schick will be visiting.  I will apply for some music festivals, to travel around and see some more of what is going on around the world.


You can see Hamish perform in:

Ballet Mécanique
Saturday 8 October 7pm
South Melbourne Town Hall

Hamish Upton ANAM recital
Tuesday 25 October 6pm
South Melbourne Town Hall

See more about ANAM percussion in this video.



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