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 Jubilation: Handel & Haydn, Sydney Philharmonia Choirs, 2022

Con students premiere new works for Sydney Philharmonia Choirs

23 May 2022

Three composition students from the Sydney Conservatorium of Music have had the unique opportunity to compose for one of Sydney’s major arts organisations.

Aija Draguns, Tomas Parrish-Chynoweth, and Aidan Charles Rosa, three composition students from the Sydney Conservatorium of Music, premiered new works for the Sydney Philharmonia Choirs this Sunday at Sydney Town Hall. 

The three new orchestral interludes were commissioned as part of a partnership between the choir and the Conservatorium, allowing the students the chance to work with a major arts organisation, receive mentoring, and have their work performed at a mainstage concert.

Each student’s work tells a different story. Aija’s Lavander Paper Cranes reflects on the hardships experienced by many over the past two years, while looking forward in hope. Tomas’ work, The Fractured Crown, is a fictional story between the English monarch Edward II and his lover Gaviston. It is a love letter to the strength and beauty of the queer community, reminding them that their ‘crown’ is only fractured in the eyes of the others, and should be worn with pride.  Aidan’s work, Ineffable, is a musical expression of the mystical experience cultivated in Western esotericism. It refers to traditions involving 'sacred names', which have been embedded into the piece by assigning letters and characters to the chromatic scale.  

Valuable mentorship

Program Leader for Composition Dr Daniel Rojas

Program Leader for Composition Dr Daniel Rojas

Throughout this opportunity, and through their degree, the students have been guided by the Con’s Program Leader for Composition, Dr Daniel Rojas

“We strive to create an environment for our students to boldly express their musical ideas and challenge them to think beyond their current status quo, prompting them to push beyond perceived creative boundaries,’’ says Rojas about the Con’s composition program.

Alongside his work in education, Rojas has extensive industry experience as a celebrated composer and concert pianist, experience he is passionate about sharing with his students.

“We offer our students mentoring not only with their creative ideas but also with navigating the myriad of contextual factors such as professional conversations with performers and industry personnel,’’ he says.

Through collaborations and partnerships with organisations across Australia and the world, students have the opportunity to connect with industry leaders, compose for major arts organisations, and have their work performed by orchestras, ensembles, and guest artists.

The opportunity to receive expert musical training and mentorship through the Bachelor of Music (Composition), in addition to the program's strong links to the industry, were major drawcards for Aija when considering her study options. It was the right decision, with Aija's time at the Con resulting in many joyful experiences and positive relationships.

“I had such an amazing time at the Con and made so many lifelong friends. I now have many memories of exciting premieres, performances, and projects.”

Bright future ahead

Composers and Sydney Conservatorium of Music students Aija Draguns, Tomas Parrish-Chynoweth and Aidan Charles Rosa

After completing their studies, the future looks bright for these three students. Tomas is contemplating a doctorate, while Aija is moving towards the instrumental scene as an orchestral conductor with the Sydney Youth Orchestra. She was also recently commissioned for a children’s opera, which will premier at the Sydney Opera House in August. Aidan hopes to continue teaching music after completing his degree and dreams of fostering a Sydney-based concert series that unifies the experience of ceremony and sound for the audience. 

For students planning to audition for the Con, Tomas offers this advice:

“When applying, don’t try to present what you think the Conservatorium are looking for, because in the process, you will lose the exact thing they are looking for: you and your authentic self. Leave your ego at the door. Be hungry for critique. That way, you have a chance to grow,’’ he advises.

Aija’s advice is to immerse oneself in the experience and foster connections.

“Studying music not only gives you technical skills and musical tools to achieve greatness in the field but also helps to make connections to make it in the industry. By joining ensembles and collaborating with your colleagues at the Con, you are creating future business partners,” she reflects.

Thinking about pursuing a career in music? Visit the Sydney Conservatorium of Music to discover our programs. 

Academic Profile

Dr Daniel Rojas
Dr Daniel Rojas
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