Music Makers: In discussion with alum Rachael Kwa


As we approach this year's Directors Prize, we sit down with last year’s winner Rachael Kwa. Rachael graduated ANAM last year and gives us an insight into winning the prize and her journey as a musician.

Rachael Kwa playing at the Orange Chamber Music Festival

What are your reflections on winning the Director’s prize?

The Directors’ Prize application process was immensely helpful for clarifying long-term career goals and creating shorter-term actions to make it happen. Inspired by my ANAM teacher, Dr Robin Wilson, my proposal centred around violin teaching. I love the ‘light bulb’ moment when a seemingly small piece of technical advice solves big problems, regardless of whether I am on the giving or receiving end. Embarrassingly, I recently realised that I wasn’t following my own teaching advice in the practice room! Once the lens turned inwards, my own technique and musicianship matured at a much faster rate.

Tell us about your current projects. 

My original Directors’ Prize submission concentrated on a 2023 trip to the U.S. with the chance to observe well-known string pedagogues alongside attending a retreat designed to teach teachers. In the interim, I was offered a scholarship position in a Masters program at London’s Royal Academy of Music. I now have a ‘wish-list’ of U.K. teachers to observe and have postponed the U.S. trip to mid-2024. Earlier this year, I completed a first violin contract with the Queensland Symphony Orchestra and have been working with Orchestra Victoria. The past few months in my teaching studio have been a whirlwind: my students have had successes with auditions and exams, with two primary-school-aged students transitioning to learn from ANAM’s own Sophie Rowell.

Chamber music is integral to life at ANAM. Why should musicians be trained with chamber music at the core of their training?

Chamber music proficiency is unbelievably important for any career in music. Obviously, skills of blending sound, musical flexibility with others and communicating through gesture is integral. Less acknowledged are the equally important aspects of gaining independence in running one’s own rehearsals and being a good colleague. Working diplomatically, with patience, kindness and respect is paramount to happy music-making!

What were your chamber music highlights at ANAM? 

Definitely the performance of Messiaen’s Quartet for the End of Time with Oliver Russell (Cello), Oliver Crofts (Clarinet) and Matthew Garvie (Piano) [which won the Ursual Hoff Prize for Best Chamber Music Performance of 2022]. The 50-minute piece ends with a violin and piano duo depicting the soul’s transcendence into paradise. We finished the quartet and there was a 90 second ‘time-stopping’ silence before the applause. I’ve never experienced anything like it before.


First published in volume 49 of Music Makers

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