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5 September 2007

APRA PDA Postcard

Natalie Williams Image: Natalie Williams  

Natalie Williams won the 2006 APRA Professional Development Award (PDA) for an up and coming classical composer. Over the past year she has used the grant to help realise her music career ambitions, travel the world, and develop her craft. Read about her travels in these two postcards sent to the Australasian Performing Right Association (APRA).

Indiana, USA: December 2006

In February 2006 I received two opportunities that have immeasurably changed my career as a composer. I was accepted as a graduate student into the Jacobs School of Music at the University of Indiana and was also awarded the 2006 Classical Music category APRA Professional Development Award.

Since August 2006 I have been studying for a Doctoral degree in Composition here at Indiana University (IU). The Music School boasts a student body of over 1,500 which means lots of available performers for premiering new works. The school gives over 1,000 concert performances each year, presents four opera seasons, three ballet seasons and concerts and recitals by one if its five full-time student orchestras.

Our compositional activity is centred round a busy schedule of recitals at which each composition student is required to present new works written while at IU. One of my solo flute pieces Haiku, written while I was an undergraduate in Adelaide, was performed at an IU recital in October – my first overseas performance. The composition faculty are incredibly supportive and inspiring, and I’m currently working with Professors Claude Baker and David Ward-Steinman.

Each semester up to four visiting composers of international stature are invited to IU to present their works and give masterclass-type composition lessons to students. In October I had the chance to work with Lansing McKloskey, and in November I studied with Bernard Rands, a Pulitzer Prize-winning composer, currently based in Chicago.

In early November I was invited to present a seminar, for the Graduate Composition Masterclass, on Australian Contemporary Classical Music, which was an excellent way to introduce my IU colleagues to the rich heritage of Australian composition and speak about recent trends and emerging voices down under. The atmosphere amongst the faculty is extremely collegiate and supportive, and the staff and students have welcomed me as ‘the’ Australian graduate student for 2006.

Without the financial support of the APRA PDA to cover flights, university fees, textbooks and registration costs, it simply wouldn’t be possible for me to have made this move. This invaluable aid has opened up so many new doors and will enable me to train at the highest international level, eventually bringing these skills back to Australia.

Paris, France : August 2007

I was recently in Paris for the 2007 EAMA Summer School in Composition. I used a portion of the PDA scholarship to support my enrolment in the program.

EAMA (European American Musical Alliance, based at the New York Juilliard School) runs this summer program every year, at the Ecole Normale de Musique in Paris, holding classes and workshops in the style of twentieth-century pedagogue, Nadia Boulanger. I was one of 45 students (composers, conductors and performers) attending the four-week program.

We had a wonderful time and covered weeks of advanced counterpoint, keyboard harmony, choral singing and analysis. I also worked with composers Robert Beaser (from the Juilliard School in NY) and Narcis Bonet from the Ecole Normale itself. During the program, I composed a set of three miniatures for flute, oboe and piano, which were performed at a student concert in the final week.

We also attended a ballet at the Opera Garnier, gave a choral performance at a church near the Luxembourg Gardens, visited Chopin's, Rossini's and Bizet's graves, and enjoyed the Bastille Day celebrations at the Champs d'Elysee. It was a wonderfully stimulating time, academically and musically, and I made some great connections with students and performers from universities across America.

The skills that I gained from the program will be invaluable in my future work as a composer and it was a fantastic opportunity that wouldn't have been possible without the PDA support.

I wanted to send a huge ‘thank you’ to APRA for all your support to me and my work this past year. The PDA has enabled me to train at levels that I've always aspired to, and to make connections with world-leading composers and teachers. Working at this level is an incredible boost to my future career and will enable me to hopefully return to Australia as an experienced and world-leading composer myself!

The Australasian Performing Right Association (APRA) collects and distributes licence fees for the public performance and communication (including broadcast) of its members' musical works. The Australasian Mechanical Copyright Owners Society (AMCOS) collects and distributes mechanical royalties for the reproduction of its members’ musical works for many different purposes. The joint objective of APRA and AMCOS is to secure the fairest and highest level of payments for its members, provide the strongest defence possible of their rights and the best customer service for both their members and their licensees. For more information, go to www.apra.com.au.


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