Julia’s Bio

If I could become a flautist, I would look like Barbie and I would be getting in on the ground floor of something big, or at least that is how things looked from my 12 year old perspective. It was my mother who booked me in for clarinet lessons (she preferred the sound) and I found I was addicted from the start. Thanks Maureen!

But how to nurture musical talent in an adolescent girl? Len Pearson and then Phillip Miechel were the teachers of choice and winning a music scholarship to the MacRobertson Girl’s High School was great. However, this didn’t guarantee my good behaviour, and the school thought our relationship should end after only a couple of years (cringe). I auditioned for Blackburn High School and enjoyed a thrilling final year at my first co-educational school. I was able to bask in hormonal glory with less vigilant observation by those in authority.

It was life education time and I flew off to London after high school to work as a nanny. Oh, and have a few clarinet lessons with Claire Boughn at the Royal Academy of Music. It was an amazing year where I learned to change nappies (a skill which would later prove to be quite handy), navigate my way around pretty much any public transport system and make do with just half a loaf of bread and a bottle of soy sauce in the pantry.

When I arrived home I hedged my bets by studying Music Education, Psychology and English literature at the University of Melbourne. Fortunately, I had to give Psychology the boot when the statistics component kicked in. What is the deal with that?

The University of Melbourne was the perfect place to be. A visit to the university by Henri Bok and Miguel Bernat of Duo Contemporain, in my last year, left me inspired about music performance. Surely I too could play the bass clarinet and make a living out of it? After all, isn’t it the coolest instrument ever invented? Well, isn’t it?

I graduated from university and took a job in a country school where I managed a whole year before ringing international directory and getting Henri Bok’s home phone number. Really, I did this! My mother called it ‘gumption’ but I prefer ‘initiative.’

It went something like this: I call him up, he’s keen for me to study with him, yes he remembers me (I think he was lying), I have a bass clarinet with me, I put the phone on speaker… Presto: my first bass clarinet lesson with Henri Bok!

I was going to England to visit friends that summer so I made a stop over in Holland to do a live audition. I knew about Europeans kissing on both cheeks, I’ve seen films, but nobody can be prepared for the triple kiss thing they’ve got going on there. I lost my balance the first time, and had to grab hold of a roll of Henri’s stomach to stay upright. “Welcome to The Netherlands, Julia!” I passed the audition.

I spent four glorious years at the Rotterdam Conservatorium living and breathing music. It was intoxicating (on several levels) and I was given the opportunity to sit with my clarinet teacher, Jan Jansen, in the Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra and Doelen Ensemble. Walter Boeykins taught me about filling the clarinet with air, demonstrating this by taking a huge drag of his cigarette, then playing the clarinet and showing how the smoke came out of all the holes and the bottom of the instrument! True story!!

Henri Bok never failed to turn up with a brand new composition hot off the presses and we’d sit together and work out how to approach it. He sent me off to contemporary music courses with Ernesto Molinari in Graz, and introduced me to the legendary (late) Joseph Horak. I was in a bass clarinet class with 11 other students and the vibe was amazing. I was a founding member of Treble Wind Trio. A career highlight was performing at the Schleswig Holstein Music Festival in Germany.

I was in love too. I met Daniel, the very hot tuba player, and got motivated to learn the language. He was an excellent teacher! The week I did my final recital was the same week we got married – because there can never be enough pressure – and we lived happily together in Gouda, both gigging in orchestras and chamber ensembles. Luc, our first baby busted in unexpectedly on us a couple of years later. Jamie came as per the invitation two and a half years after that. Funnily enough, they’ve reversed those roles since being born.

Quite unexpectedly, I collaborated with Laila and Leigh in a concert where we played one of the coolest pieces I’d ever heard. It was either fate, luck or the aligning of planets – syzygy — which kinda brings you up to speed (for now at least).