Next Gen: Elena James

In HUXLEY'S Next Gen feature, we caught up with aspiring professional musician and Townsville local Elena James.

In our current issue of HUXLEY, we caught up with some of Townsville’s next generation of creatives. Elena James, a recent Pimlico State High School graduate, has been a member of the Barrier Reef Orchestra for several years now – and is about to begin her studies at the University of Queensland’s School of Music.

WHEN DID YOU START PLAYING THE VIOLIN?
In 2009, the opportunity for Year 3 students to take up an instrument arose at my primary school. I had always been inspired by my father, an avid pianist, so I was excited to emulate his love for music and pick an instrument suited to my tastes. I was irrevocably drawn to the violin and my initial curiosity for music has become my passion.

WHAT HAVE BEEN YOUR BIGGEST ACCOMPLISHMENTS?
My first significant accomplishment on the violin occurred in 2012 where I was awarded the title of “Most Promising String Player” at the Australian Concerto and Vocal Competition. I was only 11 at the time and to be awarded something so prestigious at such a young age was a very humbling experience. In 2016, I was recognised as the most outstanding Year 10 instrumentalist in Townsville with the award of the Theodore Kuchar Scholarship (2 years of funding); the following year, I attained my A.Mus.A on violin, a significant qualification at the age of 15.

However, I believe my two greatest accomplishments are my most recent – in October last year I was the recipient of The Paula and Tony Kinnane Music Scholarship (4 years of funding) to join the University of Queensland’s School of Music – which I’m doing this year as part of a dual degree; and I was also fortunate to have been accepted into the Australian Youth Orchestra National Music Camp (January 2019), literally a dream opportunity which will allow me to play with the finest young instrumentalists across Australia and under the tutelage of internationally renowned musicians and mentors.

WHAT IS IT THAT YOU LOVE ABOUT THE VIOLIN?
The violin is such a versatile instrument – there is no end to its abilities! It has a beautiful sound, is suited to many musical environments and is an instrument that anybody can enjoy.

WHAT WOULD YOU MOST LIKE TO ACHIEVE?
It has always been an ambition of mine to travel with the violin. I would like to play in orchestras around Australia, particularly the Queensland Symphony Orchestra and the Sydney Symphony Orchestra, and perhaps tour with the Australian Youth Orchestra. In addition, to complement my French language skills, it would be a dream come true to play with the Orchestre de Paris.

WHO OR WHAT INSPIRES YOU?
Over the years, I have taken a lot of inspiration from world – renowned musicians such as Stefan Jackiw, Maxim Vengerov and Hilary Hahn. I have had the immense privilege to receive private tuition from touring violinists Attilla Sautov and Pavel Fischer which has significantly contributed to my progress in the field, both technically and psychologically. Playing with the Barrier Reef Orchestra for the past four years, Townsville’s very own community orchestra, has also inspired me to reach my full potential and next year, I am very excited to be under the guidance of Adam Chalabi, another inspiring professional violinist.

WHAT’S THE MOST IMPORTANT THING YOU’VE LEARNED SO FAR?
The most important thing I have learnt so far is the fundamentality of self-motivation. With music, it is incredibly important to keep track of your goals and never give up easily – practice makes perfect and if you put in the work, you will be rewarded.

FINISH THIS SENTENCE. I THINK THE TOWNSVILLE ARTS COMMUNITY…
requires more support and investment from both government and private enterprises, particularly for young and aspiring musicians. There is clearly inequitable access to both quality and quantity of performing arts services in the regions. North Queensland suffers in terms of state of the art music facilities, for example concert halls and practice studios, as well as access to tutors, mentors and renowned musicians for one on one lessons, masterclasses or as professional role models.

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