In April, our Music Department welcomed acclaimed Australian Conductor, Dr Ingrid Martin for the first ever Guest Conductor Program in the history of the School. As Artistic Director of the Victorian Youth Symphony Orchestra and Crosswinds Ensemble, Dr Ingrid Martin leads innovative performances that fuse music with other art forms in unexpected venues - from an orchestra playing Ravel in a pub to chamber winds performing Kurt Weill amongst renegade paintings at the Heide Museum of Modern Art.

With an assortment of wind instruments spanning the entire floor of the Valmai Pidgeon Performing Arts Centre, students from Somerville House and Anglican Church Grammar School (Churchie) took part in a range of workshops during the weekend’s extensive program.

Director of Co-Curricular Music at Somerville House, Mr Will Eager, spoke of the many benefits a program like this can have for students. 

“The benefits of a program like this are numerous,” Mr Eager said. 

“It [the program] gave students the opportunity to expand on their understanding and implementation of core concepts such as ensemble breathing, listening and balance,” he said.

“It also offered students experience in a masterclass environment, where they could be fully immersed; giving them a greater sense of ownership of the activity, the performance and the group’s musical journey.”

“We even offered a Professional Development session with Dr Martin that we opened up to not only the staff from Somerville House, but to other surrounding schools,’ Mr Eager said. 

The Guest Conductor Program concluded with a special assembly performance by the Somerville House Symphonic Band, conducted by Dr Ingrid Martin. Addressing the Middle and Senior School cohort after conducting the performance, Dr Martin thanked students who took part in the workshops and applauded their enthusiasm and dedication to the arts. 

“One of the fabulous things that we have just witnessed in today’s assembly, was first of all the performance of our symphonic band,” Dr Martin said. 

“But secondly, we also witnessed what I call ‘wonderful sharing’,” she said.

“In the arts, whether it be music, drama, painting or visual arts, it is about being brave, sharing and having something to say.”

Dr Martin shared her personal story with students, speaking of her indecision on whether to peruse a degree in music over medicine and how the decision forced her to be brave and have her say. 

“I decided to something for myself, something different to what everyone was telling me,” Dr Martin said. 

“I did what I believe was the right thing for me,” she said. 

“This is what people in the arts do all the time when we perform; we are asking people to be brave and to put themselves out there, just like the students did over the weekend workshops and performances.”

Dr Martin concluded her address with sage advice for students.

“If we are doing the thing that is right for us, then I believe we are doing the right thing,” she said.