Alumni ProfilesSTEWART KELLY (PIANO 2013)

Since his final year at the Australian National Academy of Music in 2013, Stewart has created a comprehensive portfolio career for himself as pianist, teacher, artistic director and even in the world of retail; he is founder and owner of South Melbourne’s premier piano salon, House of Pianos.

Looking back, Stewart gives credit to his teachers for their support and inspiration throughout his formative years, including Marie Nicholson (not ABC Classic’s Mairi Nicholson!) who tutored him as he accompanied the school choir, and his very first teacher, Bill Murray, who gave Stewart strong theoretical and technical grounding. “Even in my teens – before I started university – I knew I much preferred playing with others to solo work.”

After completing his Master of Music at the Queensland Conservatorium Griffith University, Stewart looked at his next steps; the main options were ANAM or going overseas. “I had friends at ANAM who raved about it so tried my luck with 100% confidence that I stood no chance. Fate had it otherwise!”

What followed for Stewart was a literally life-changing experience. “I met an incredible network of contacts from within and beyond the music world. There were so many important teachers and guests, but overwhelmingly I’m grateful to Timothy Young, who was revelatory for me as a teacher. He has an ability to combine a deep, scientific understanding of physiology with a profound musicality and grasp of artistry in his teaching, like no one else I have met.”

“It was hard at Uni to find chamber music partners with the time and commitment to really pursue that sort of playing, so I was ecstatic to be in a place where that was literally a significant part of how we were supposed to spend the day!”

Stewart broke new ground at ANAM, becoming the first ANAM musician to benefit from the generosity of a group of donors who banded together as an ANAM Syndicate to support him through his studies. This is how he met Jan Grant, who in 2024 was honoured as the Patron of the ANAM Syndicate Program due to her formidable energy conceiving the ANAM Syndicate program back in Stewart’s first year at ANAM, in 2011.

“From the moment I was first introduced to Jan I was taken by her positive energy and wry humour. From my years at ANAM as the first syndicate student and for nearly a decade since, she has been a source of wisdom, humour, advice and encouragement and has become a very dear friend. I always say my time at ANAM was the single most important thing to have yet happened in my life and Jan and the syndicate program were such a large part of that. The support of my broader syndicate, and their interest in my career, was marvellous and many of them have become friends.”

Since his time at ANAM, Stewart’s chamber music career has led him to collaborate with many of Australia’s finest musicians and singers, including violinists Sophie Rowell and Elizabeth Layton, violists Caroline Henbest and Christopher Moore, cellists Josephine Vains and Blair Harris, and singers Michael Petruccelli and Sofia Troncoso, to name a few. For seven years he presented Stewart Kelly and Friends concerts at the Melbourne Recital Centre, and the Con Brio concert series at HOTA on the Gold Coast. He is currently the Artistic Director and founder of Music by the Springs Festival in Hepburn Springs, central Victoria, which since 2018 has brought Australia’s highest calibre chamber musicians together for sold-out weekends of chamber music every February.

Stewart is passionate about sharing his expertise with the next generation, and has been a member of music faculty at the Victorian College of the Arts Secondary School (VCASS) since 2017. He also works as collaborative pianist for students of leading string and voice teachers, and remains a casual staff member of the Melbourne Conservatorium at the University of Melbourne.

In other words, Stewart is rarely idle, which is just how he likes it.

“I’m most proud of my two ‘babies’ – Music by the Springs and House of Pianos. I love performing with friends and colleagues all around the country, and have a number of long-term collaborators who, to my constant surprise, are still happy to work with me! And my position at VCASS gives me the immense privilege of working with the students there to shape and inspire their musical journey. It’s all extremely rewarding.”

Reflecting back on his time at ANAM, Stewart considers the advice he would give to his younger self. “Never take for granted this time you are given to really practice and consolidate your technical and artistic mastery.”

“Dream big and set ambitious goals.”

Stewart’s Syndicate Support while at ANAM was generously provided by the inaugural ANAM Syndicate: Jan Grant, Mary and Arnold Bram, Dulcie Boling, Elise Callander, Eric Dias and Roger Bau, Anthony Grigg, Barry Jones, Ashton Kable and John Howell, the late William Murdoch, Luke Wagner, Robert Whitehead.

Interview by Phillip Sametz, updated by Laura Panther (May 2024)
Photo credit: Trish O'Brien

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