Raised in a small, country-music obsessed town in the south of New Zealand, Laura Barton initially learnt violin from her mother who decided to rebel and become a classical violin teacher. Although Laura still had to compete in the Gold Guitars competition every year she eventually ‘escaped’ to the New Zealand School of Music in Wellington, where she completed a Bachelor of Music with First Class Honours before commencing her studies at ANAM. We chatted to Laura to find out more:
Describe your approach to music in 5 words
Should I sleep or practice?
Why did you become a musician and why do you want to pursue a career in music?
My mum began teaching me when I was three years old, and since then music has been an integral part of my life. By the time I was a ‘rebellious teenager’, I’d spent so much time and energy on the violin that when I thought of doing anything else, I couldn’t bear the idea of having to start again working from scratch. The moment I decided that I actually wanted to be a musician was when I did my first professional orchestra concert, with the Dunedin Symphony Orchestra. I was so taken with being part of an orchestra that I knew immediately it was what I wanted to do for the rest of my life.
What is your first memory of music?
I can’t remember this myself, but I’ve heard the story so many times it feels like I can. When I was around three months old, my parents were playing with me and the British Grenadiers was on the radio. The next time I heard that piece, I started giggling, and it took my mum an age to realise that it was because I’d associated that piece with being tickled.
You are passionate about NZ compositions, why?
Partially out of a sense of patriotism – we should all be passionate about music from our home country – but mainly because it’s actually just good music. A lot of people (sometimes including myself) are sceptical of modern compositions, but they all deserve to be given a chance. There’s a lot of really great music that’s come out of New Zealand in the past few years, and I consider it both a duty and a privilege to try and share it with the rest of the world.
In the first orchestral project at ANAM in 2017, Nicholas Carter was generous enough to share some conducting tips with you. Can you tell us a bit about that and what it was like conducting the ANAM Orchestra?
I studied conducting with Ken Young in NZ for three years and took every opportunity to conduct anything that wasn’t just myself singing. I spoke to Nicholas about my experience, and he was very kind in letting me have five minutes in front of the ANAM Orchestra, where I ran them through one of the Enigma variations. I still hadn’t properly met many of the musicians, so it was terrifying to suddenly be telling them what to do. But everyone was amazing and incredibly supportive, and it was such a great experience for me! I spent some time with Nicholas the next day, and he gave me really positive feedback and some pointers for next time I have an opportunity to conduct at ANAM (which I hope will be soon!). He also said that if I’m in Adelaide later this year, I can sit in on some ASO rehearsals and observe. Conducting is a valuable skill that develops all aspects of musicianship, and I strongly recommend that more people give it a go! Already ANAM has provided me with some amazing experiences and opportunities, and I feel like I’ve barely scratched the surface! I’m so grateful for the chance to further explore this great institution.
Where would we find you on a Saturday night if you’re not performing?
Checking out a jazz gig, relaxing with friends, or watching old Sci-Fi reruns.
Find out more about all ANAM Musicians at anam.com.au
Photography by Pia Johnson