YEARS of experience and a passion to give back have struck a happy chord with the Goulburn Regional Conservatorium.
In a major coup, the Sydney Symphony Orchestra’s associate concertmaster, Kirsten Williams will join the Con’s local strings program as patron this year and beyond.
The violinist is effectively second “in command” to the orchestra with a long list of achievements to her name. She studied at the Sydney Conservatorium and undertook postgraduate studies with Igor Ozim in Switzerland before playing with several international orchestras.
But the world stage has not dimmed an earthly desire to make music more accessible to children and young adults.
Ms Williams will join Goulburn Regional Conservatorium director Paul Scott-Williams in delivering the Goulburn Strings Program.
Using donated violins it is running as a pilot at Goulburn Public School, introducing the wonder of music to 50 students who wouldn’t otherwise have the opportunity.
The program has been delivered to Years Two and Three children but with the help of more funding will benefit those up to Year Six.
It is a collaboration between the Con, Department of Education and University of Canberra.
“I contacted Kirsten 18 months ago when I was developing the program because I felt it would be good to have an eminent musician as patron,” Mr Scott- Williams said.
“She graciously agreed and she has been a fantastic advocate.”
The concept is close to Ms Williams’ heart. Three years ago she started teaching a community orchestra and in 2013 decided to initiate a scheme to teach chamber music to budding musicians.
The Elizabethan Theatre Trust answered her call for a space, offering room at The Independent Centre in North Sydney and financially supporting a 10-week program. Ms Williams worked for free as artistic director, teaching scores of young trainee musicians at low or no cost.
“I saw it as a way of creatively fulfilling myself and giving back but I was also interested in music for healing,” Ms Williams said.
“…When Paul contacted me about this program for disadvantaged kids in regional communities, I thought ‘fantastic.’ It’s something that intrigues and interests me…I love kids and working with them and starting them off in this way is new to me.
“As it goes along, I’ll see where I fit in.”
She will visit the classroom twice a week, working directly with the students. Ms Williams will remain associate concertmaster with the SSO.
Mr Scott-Williams said the initiative, started six months ago, covered a wide demographic of students, not just the disadvantaged.
Goulburn Public is a pilot program but if all goes according to plan and more funding is forthcoming, the program will be rolled out to other schools, also using other instruments.
“There is incredible poverty in Goulburn but also incredible richness in cultural terms that people can engage with,” he said.
“I’ve always been aware of the need to put programs in place that engage with people and break down the perception that the Con is an elitist and austere place.”
He said Goulburn was the number one Con in NSW for engaging with local schools.
Mr Scott-Williams is harnessing the pilot for a University of Canberra doctoral thesis on the impact of music on the family unit. He said there was anecdotal evidence to suggest parents who previously had little or no engagement with the school were taking a greater interest.
Meantime, Ms Williams is looking forward to playing her role.
“It’s so exciting where it can go,” she said.
“I want children to feel they have the opportunity to see the magic of music.”
Kirsten Williams will perform at the Con’s newly refurbished Paul Paviour Recital Hall on May 30. Tickets cost $40 for adults, $30 concession, $20 for children or $100 for a family.