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20 June 2011

Speak Emerging Artists speak: Emily Sheppard

Emily Sheppard Image: Emily Sheppard  

The participants in Speak Percussion's Emerging Artists Program write about the intense period of rehearsals and the final performances in Melbourne in April 2011. For their thoughts after the earlier 'creative development week' in December, please see this article on Resonate blog. For more blog articles by program participants, see the Resonate blog.

I was very excited about the second week of the Speak Percussion Emerging Artists program as I would have the rare opportunity to workshop my composition and have it performed at the end of the week. From the first rehearsal, the wonderful percussionists not only played what I had written perfectly but quickly adapted to any changes I made on the spot and offered insights of their own. It was particularly exciting to hear the movements such as 'Fire' and 'Air' which I had handwritten, 'come to life' as the percussionists played them - as I had used improvisatory figures and blocks of time, it was difficult for me to imagine how they would sound in my head, so the first rehearsal was the first time I actually heard what my composition sounded like.

What was great about this week was the supportive environment in which we workshopped the compositions. Not only were we encouraged to try new things in our compositions, but we could actually try out different ideas in the workshop and find out what worked and what didn't. I did many rewrites over the course of the week, however at the end, I had a composition that I was much happier with, that was playable and explored many techniques that were new for me.

Another aspect of the week that was really interesting was listening to the other compositions unfold and hearing what worked and what didn't in a rehearsal setting. The other composers used many techniques that I had never heard of or thought of, all of which were very effective - for example, bowing a flexitone, using brush sticks on timpani, bowing a cymbal on top of another cymbal and placing speakers emitting electronic sounds on tom-toms.

Most off all, the open-mindedness of Eugene, Leah and Thomas pushed my creative boundaries and made me think outside the box which are very important attributes in composition.

The day after the concert I was asked by one of the emerging percussionists, Kaylie, if I would be more likely to write for percussion now. My answer was of course! I think that this alone indicates that the program was a success. Thank-you Speak Percussion for an inspirational two weeks!

Further links

'Speak Percussion's emerging artists speak for themselves' - Resonate blog (22 December 2010)
Speak Emerging Artists Program (Speak Percussion website

Emily Sheppard was born in Twizel, New Zealand, in 1993. At five she moved to Australia where she began violin lessons with her father. She started at VCASS in year seven, studying violin with Miwako Abe. In 2008 she was awarded AMusA with distinction (AMEB). In 2010 she was a finalist in the Preston youth concerto competition and, in 2011, she was awarded the encouragement award in the Melbourne Recital Centre Bach competition. During her time at VCASS she has also received lessons from Fintan Murphy, Adam Chalabi, Russel McGregor and Simon Fordham. Also interested in composition, Emily won the VCASS composition competition in 2010, and her work for violin and digital delay was performed in the annual VCASS Iwaki concert. Also in 2010, she was accepted in the Speak Percussion Emerging artists program as a composer. As part of the program she wrote a new percussion quartet, The Elements.


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