IDRS Podcast with Anne Gilby

Terry B. Ewell, Interviewer

2018 Aug. 29. Granada, Spain


Terry B. Ewell: Well, it is my pleasure to be here with Anne Gilby. Anne Gilby was the host of the IDRS (International Double Reed Society) Conference in Melbourne, Australia. She is a terrific organizer—they call upon her for many things. I know that there is an Australian Double Reed Society that you have been maybe president of. Tell us a little bit about what is going on with the Australian scene now with the double reed society.

Anne Gilby: Oh, we are just getting ready now to hold our national conference, which I think is about the eighth national conference that we have done. It is being held in Melbourne in the beginning of October. Our membership is going very well, and we have a lot of interest in this conference. Melbourne has always been a bit of a hub for double reed playing, in particular oboe playing, so it is great to have it back in Melbourne again. We have people coming from all over the country to come to this conference: from Perth, from Brisbane, from Sydney, from Tasmania and so on.

TBE: So, you have Tasmania, do you have New Zealand as well joining you?

AG: We also have people from New Zealand coming as well.

TBE: Oh, wonderful. What is it that makes Melbourne a hub for the oboe?

AG: That is a very hard question to answer.

TBE: It’s you, right?

AG: Well, it is partly me, but also it is the site of the Australian National Academy of Music, for example, which is the post-graduate training center for emerging professional musicians in the country. So that is right in Melbourne. We also have the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra there and we have great teachers there. That doesn’t mean that there isn’t a lot of great oboe playing going on elsewhere in the country, but when we hold the national competition we have an extraordinary entry from the young players. We run sections for juniors, beginners, intermediate… those are chockablock full with starters on the oboe, which is more than any other city at the moment.


TBE: Excellent! Now, your career… I believe you were a university professor for a while and now you are on to doing other things. Just tell me a little about your musical career centered around Melbourne.

AG: I spent a lot of time away from Melbourne. I am not originally from Melbourne. I spent seven years overseas studying oboe and playing professionally, mainly in Germany. When I came back, it was for an offer with a ballet orchestra. Then I become principal oboe of the Australian Chamber Orchestra for a while there in Sydney. Then children arrived, and I needed to change direction. Then I became a lecturer at Edith Cowan University in Perth. We had a resident wind quintet, an ensemble that won several awards. It was a great thing to be a part of. Then I was appointed Head of Woodwinds at the Victorian College of the Arts in Melbourne.  That is where my Melbourne career really started. Then after six years there I moved on to another university in Melbourne, Monash University, where I looked after the ensemble program and various other aspects of their program and designed curricula and things. Then I decided that it was time to do more teaching. I was interested in the early development phases of teaching. Obviously being at a university I wasn’t particularly involved in that area. I left the university and now have developed my own practice with teaching and I am heavily involved with the secondary and primary areas of teaching in various schools. Also, there is the ADRS (Australian Double Reed Society), which is also a vehicle for really encouraging double reeds, the development of excellent playing.

TBE: Do you start students on oboe when you are visiting the different schools?

AG: I do that at schools and in my own private practice now. I have started them as young as six, five or six.

TBE: Wow, on the full-size oboe?

AG: Some of them on the full-size oboe. Obviously, you have to be careful about the weight. I use posts and things to hold the instrument. But there are oboes now with simplified systems, which are much lighter. Little kids are very strong, and they blow beautifully! Sometimes I wonder what happens to us. I am very interested in how you harness that initial ability to just stick the instrument in and just blow it and be free. To make sure that that continues as an operating method right the way through all of those tricky areas, when they are starting to encounter more difficult repertoire. I have to increase the range where we have to start being careful about the mouth shape and those things so as to not inhibit the player while equipping them with the skills that they need in order to do the demands that the music is asking of them.

TBE: What strikes me about your career, Anne, is how diverse it has been. You are not only an outstanding performer, but you have been a professor, you have been an instructor, and you have been an administrator. Do you think that is an important part of the success you have had, because you have had many venues, many ways in which you can practice music?

AG: That certainly helped me personally. I have always had a wide interest in many things. I am an accidental oboe player. I only had about a year’s worth of lessons before I hit university because I grew up in a small town where there was no teacher. People used to come through, but basically, I was self-taught. Then I was headed to be a math teacher. My youth orchestra director said, “Why don’t you come overseas with us?” I shifted to Sydney at that point to finish my degree off. The Cambria Youth Orchestra was the first youth orchestra to go overseas from Australia. We went to the International Festival of Youth Orchestras in Aberdeen. That is when I first met Simon Rattle. He was a young student there. He was just beginning to make his way, to being introduced around. At that time, as a matter of interest, I went into a competition, which was for a year’s study with Leon Goosens. I thought that I might as well try this.

TBE: Wow, you studied with Goosens, then?

AG: I happened to win the competition. I thought, “Right, I won’t be a math teacher then, I will be an oboist, instead!” Then my true oboe education started. My music education had been well in hand with the people I was surrounded with. They were really excellent players, but they weren’t oboists where I was growing up. They could certainly tell me musically what was happening. I had a year with Goosens and then I got a travel grant from the Australian government to pursue further studies in France. I studied with Maurice Bourgue and then in Germany with Helmut Winschermann. Then ended up staying. I was four years in the Bremanhoffen Orchestra, which was a wonderful experience. Anyway, I came back to Australia and now my main aim is through example and through my interaction with people is to demonstrate that everyone play, if they have the motivation and the desire to do well and put in the requisite work with good guidance, then people can achieve whatever they want to achieve.

TBE: Let’s return to Melbourne. Tell me what are the performance opportunities that you have in Melbourne and the other oboists have around that city?

AG: Melbourne has three million people now, it is very large. We have only two main orchestras. There is the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra and there is what is called Orchestra Victoria, which services the Opera and Ballet companies. Then there is the Melbourne Chamber Orchestra, which is an ad-hoc collective, if you like. It is formed in part with members of both orchestras. But a lot of the music making in Melbourne is done at that the level below, the players that are of standard and could be in the Melbourne Symphony or could be in the Orchestra Victoria. It is one of my sadnesses with Australian music at the moment is that there is so little actual high level professional, full-time opportunities to make music. Yet we have so many fantastic players. A lot of the opportunities to play at the particular moment are creative. There is a very interesting scene. We have amateur opera companies. One is producing Rosenkavalier at the professional level.

For the young, developing musicians there are lots of opportunities to play. We have issues of career paths at the moment. We find a lot of our players go overseas for full-time employment. The director of the Australian National Academy of Music at the moment is an Australian, who splits his time between Leipzig and Melbourne. So slowly people are coming back. Lyndon Watts [bassoonist] who some people will know about is now back in Melbourne at the university. So, we are beginning to build the groundwork of have a more vibrant professional scene. But the standard is higher than it has ever been. We have amazing young musicians just waiting for the opportunity. I guess that is the same as most countries, isn’t it?

TBE: Yes, it is, indeed. Would you say that most of the Australian musicians who decide to go abroad, outside of the country, tend to go towards Europe? Is that generally the case? Like you did, you went to the United Kingdom and then to Germany.

AG: Yes, I guess it is partly the direction that our instruments and our reeds take us. But there are significant people who go to the States (USA), who have studied over there. There are American musicians who are now coming to Australia. For example, one of the organizers of the national conference coming is Briana Leama. Briana Leama is an American, who is now living in Melbourne. She actually studied with Sebastien Giot in Strasbourg. She is bringing that experience too. There is actually a lot of exchange between the States and Australia. The musicians do still tend to go to Europe.  I must say that is probably where the employment opportunities are greater as well: particularly in German.  It is easier to get jobs in Germany.

TBE: More orchestras.

AG: More orchestras like when I was there. There are still lots of opportunities.

TBE: Thank you so much, Anne, for giving us your time. I really appreciate all of your insights.

AG: My pleasure; it is a real pleasure talking to you, Terry. I really admire your insights into music pedagogy. So, it has been a pleasure to share something from my side with you too.

TBE: Thank you.

AG: Thank you.


Copryright © 2018 By Terry B. Ewell. All rights reserved.