Life at the Conservatorium – Matthew Garvie
A degree from the Queensland Conservatorium Griffith University can take you down many career paths. From Eurovision finalists Kate Miller-Heidke and Dami Im to Tim Davies, who orchestrated the music for La La Land and Frozen, many of the Conservatorium’s graduates have found remarkable success.
In this series we asked students from the Conservatorium to share their experiences at university. This week we are highlighting Matthew Garvie, Bachelor of Music student majoring in classical piano.
What do you love most about Queensland Conservatorium and why did you come here to study?
The thing I love most about the Conservatorium is the support amongst peers. Music is a somewhat competitive occupation, but it hasn’t stopped us working together, discussing music and just being. friendly. Similarly, the teachers are very supportive and encouraging, and you can really feel that they’re all passionate about their students doing well.
The main reason I chose the Conservatorium was for my teacher, Daniel de Borah, who I met in Wagga Wagga and decided I had to study with him. I also heard that the Conservatorium had an excellent reputation, especially in the piano department.
Why classical piano?
It’s funny because when I was younger, I never thought I would be a classical pianist. I started learning from my grandma after school aged 7 as a hobby, and it became a larger and larger a part of my life as I grew to love music more and more. Soon I was having lessons at the Riverina Conservatorium of Music, competing locally, completing the higher AMEB grades, and before I knew it, it was all I wanted to do.
Have there been any classes or specific teachers who have inspired you throughout your time here?
That’s hard to answer because I feel like there have been so many great classes. Every teacher is passionate about what they’re teaching, and it really rubs off on everyone’s learning. If I had to name a few teachers, I would firstly name my teacher Daniel de Borah, who has not only inspired me in my lessons but also from watching him perform. I’d also like to mention Stephen Emmerson and Mark Griffiths, who through their passion and depth of knowledge have made their classes the highlights of my degree.
What is a regular day in the life at university for you?
A regular day at university for me consists mostly of practice. I try to come in 6 days a week and at around 7am – earlier or later is usually best so you can avoid the busyness in the middle of the day. A few days a week I’ll have class which I try to schedule around that busy time of day, as well as some rehearsals with my chamber groups. Between all of that I take lots of breaks to make sure I can stay focused. I’ve realised it’s the only way to make sure I’m practicing productively throughout the day, and it gives me a good excuse chat with other musicians and get some well needed sunlight. On a typical day I’ll finish around 4-5pm but can be earlier or later depending on how busy it is.
Have you had many opportunities to perform while at the Conservatorium?
There are many opportunities to perform at the Conservatorium. Firstly, there are numerous opportunities for everyone to perform in piano workshops, which happens weekly and are good opportunities to perform for your peers in a friendly environment where you can receive constructive feedback.
Exams are often open to audience members and sometimes even advertised such as the chamber music exams. I’ve also had some opportunities to perform in student lunch-time concerts, as well as perform in public masterclasses with great musicians such as Roy Howat, Alexander Strukov and Tanya Gabrielian. The Conservatorium also hosts a wide range of internal competitions which gives you yet another opportunity to perform for professional musicians in a more pressure filled environment.
In 2017, I was selected to perform in the Side-by-Side chamber music concert where, alongside other lucky musicians, I had the opportunity to perform with highly-acclaimed musicians Paul Dean, the previous artistic director of the Australian National Academy of Music (ANAM), and David Mitchell, principal bassoonist of the Queensland Symphony Orchestra.
There are also opportunities to perform through the Conservatorium in external venues. It is mandatory in the chamber music class ‘Small Ensemble’ to perform twice in a public. A popular venue is the Queensland Children’s Hospital, as well as in churches and retirements homes.
I’ve also recently performed in some external venues such as in the ‘Con Spirito’ concert series at St. Andrews Uniting Church, St John’s Cathedral and in my home town of Wagga Wagga.
What is your proudest achievement so far?
I am proudest about some of the performances I’ve done, especially performances with challenging works that seem impossible when you first start them. My proudest moment would probably be quite recently when I flew back home to Wagga Wagga. I hadn’t performed there in a while and I felt there was some expectation I had to meet after all this time, so I was quite nervous. The main piece on my program was a work I’d been working away at since my first year, but I finally managed to pull it together for this concert, which felt like a big milestone in my journey as a musician.
What are you doing once you graduate from the Conservatorium?
Once I finish at the Conservatorium it would be awesome to do a bit more study overseas, especially in Europe or America. After that it’s hard to say. The one thing I’ve learned during my time here is that you need to keep your options open and dabble in everything as you never know what path you might head down. Despite which direction I go, I want to keep performing, especially through collaboration with others which I find is the most rewarding musical experience.
Would you like to share anything additional about your journey?
On my journey, I’ve realised it’s very easy to stay in the world of piano: practice your solo repertoire, talk to fellow pianists, and listen to piano music. But, there is a whole world of music out there, and a whole conservatorium of people to talk to, collaborate and engage with. Not only will it increase your knowledge of music, but it will increase your connections with other people, on both a friendship and professional level which opens up opportunities later in life. For any pianist reading this who wants to study music, I would strongly recommend opening your eyes to everything the Conservatorium has to offer and push yourself out of your comfort zone.
Study at the Queensland Conservatorium, one of Australia’s leading music and performing arts schools.