1- You are currently studying a Master’s degree at the RCM. How is this progressing?
Since starting my master’s degree in September 2021, I have performed a concerto with the RCM Symphony Orchestra and have been selected as a Young Artist of the Musicians’ Company, DEBUT Horizon Project, and Talent Unlimited. I have almost completed my first year and look forward to starting the projects that I have lined up for next year. This includes studying several of Stacy Garrop’s saxophones works with pianist Tia Ling. This summer, we are due to perform Garrop’s Fragmented Spirit in an all-female composers’ concert at FestivALL, which takes place after my final recital and before the RCM’s Saxophone Ensemble concert!
2- Is your family musical?
I would say yes. I have two brothers and my father encouraged all of us to learn the piano. When we were young, we all wanted to play the saxophone and so my mother picked it up so that she could teach us. Collectively we played many more instruments including the violin, clarinet, guitar, and voice.
3- You state you have developed an interest in initiating and directing collaborative projects incorporating other creative disciplines. Can you expand on the nature of these projects please?
I have a deep interest in the creative arts – from painting to poetry – and so the idea of these projects is to combine my two passions: music and art. One of my past projects involved the commissioning of five composers to write a short solo saxophone piece based on five paintings of mine. More recently, I have been conceiving a composition that combines poetry with music in a contemporary way.
4- In 2020 your saxophone quartet was awarded First Prize in the RCM Woodwind Ensemble Competition. Can you introduce your fellow band members please?
The current members of the Vara Quartet are Rianna Henriques (alto), Joe Mackley (tenor), Agnija Silicka (baritone), and I lead the quartet on the soprano.
5- You hold multiple prizes from competitions. Does anyone of these particularly stand out for you?
I would not say that one particularly stands out more than another but after having been placed second in the RCM Concerto Competition, I was awarded a performance with orchestra, which was an unforgettable and thrilling experience. It was a joy to play amongst friends and to have a full audience, especially after the two years of no performances!
6- What are your fondest musical memories, privately or performing?
Two memories come to mind when asked this. The first was collaborating with the composers involved in my Five Figures lockdown project and the second was working with conductor Alvin Seville and performing Jacques Ibert’s Concertino da Camera with the RCM Symphony Orchestra.
7- How often do your practice?
I usually practise 6 days a week and play between 1-7 hours per day. This may include rehearsals as well as personal practice time. I don’t keep an overly sharp eye on the number of hours because I am more focussed on what I aim to achieve rather than time spent practising.
8- Would you consider teaching music in the future?
Absolutely! I am already teaching and in a couple of weeks, I will give my first masterclass at a secondary school, which I am very excited about.
9- How do you balance your time commitments in terms of study, research, performance? What are the biggest sacrifices?
For me, I find that I have to play it by ear. Sometimes my schedule is totally packed with concerts, competitions, and projects and at other times it is quite free. I love what I do and so I do not feel that I am making sacrifices although I do try to make sure that I allow myself enough down time to recuperate, reflect on new ideas, and meet up with friends and family.
10- What advice would you give music students at the beginning of their journey?
I would encourage them to learn their instrument alongside studying the Alexander Technique.