Q&A with Emma Ayres


23 July 2014


Anita Levy speaks with Emma Ayres about music, travel and more!


Emma Ayres



1. As a viola player you spent some years in Hong Kong, meeting, travelling with and playing with some outstanding musicians. Can you tell us about some of your memorable experiences there?

The HK Philaharmonic played with lots of great conductors – I think my favourite was Rafael Fruhbeck de Burgos, who was endlessly, relentlessly elegant and the deepest musician.


2. Who are some of the musicians you have interviewed yourself? And who gave the best interview?

I had a great interview with the Pacifica Quartet for last year’s Musica Viva Chamber Festival. They were very open, and amused at being interviewed by a tattooed viola player!


3. As a teacher of viola and cello, you must have some wonderful stories about your students. Can   you tell us some?

There was a man recently who couldn’t remember what a mnemonic is….I think my greatest thrill is just seeing people blossom, as their playing blooms. It doesn’t matter what age. And seeing how older students behave exactly like young ones, when they haven’t done their homework.


4. How did you become involved  with teaching at a Vietnamese Detention Centre?

I knew the person who was running the school, so I simply asked if I could help. I taught at the centre for about two years. All instruments, even the trumpet. There were some very talented musicians there, but the best thing was being able to provide an outlet for them, so they could leave their shelf in their Nissan hut for an afternoon. The conditions there were pretty grim, and extremely hot in the summer.


5. You have just returned from a huge solo adventure cycling from England to Hong Kong on your bicycle ‘Vita’, with ‘Amelia’, your 3/4 length violin strapped to your back. 

    •       What was the highlight of the trip?

Pakistan, and cycling over the watershed of Asia.

    •       And the lowlight?

Being detained by Chinese police after I had knocked over a small boy (he was ok)

    •       Did you play music on the way to earn money, or just for fun?

Just for fun, I played to whomever asked me. Read my book to find out more!

    •       What’s in your mind for the next big adventure?  

A trip around Australia. Watch this space for more details later in the year.


6. Music has given you entry to so many experiences. Can you tell us some of the unexpected ones?

Every body loves music. Even when people can’t listen to it, as in the north of Pakistan, they still are somehow captivated by it. The ability to enter into that experience with other people is endlessly satisfying and inspiring and actually humbling.


7. You say ‘That’s the beauty of playing an instrument – you can always go further. Just like cycling.’  Do you think a pianist could replicate your adventures with your violin ( a piano on wheels with a tow bar….)? How do you think that might work?

They would have to have VERY strong thighs. Or a tiny piano.


8. You played Samuel Barber’s Adagio on the air recently, commenting that ‘we all have transcendent moments in our lives.’  When you present such a perfect piece, knowing that your audience will be transfixed and held by its beauty, what do you do whilst it is playing?

I sit and listen. and try to open my heart to the music, so I can have a genuine, authentic reaction at the end. If you don’t, as a presenter you will sound like you don’t care. You have to listen to the music.


9. The life of a radio presenter must be very rigorous, especially starting as early each day as you do. Have you had some close calls getting to work on time? Or any other little dramas you can share with us?

Yes some close calls, where I have forgotten to set my alarm and my partner Jane has woken up and had to drive me to work. Another time, in Melbourne, I saw an unconscious woman on the pavement in Fitzroy, so I stopped and called the police, waited till they arrived and rushed to work. I got there just in time, and it seems that the woman would be ok.


10.  To paraphrase something you said recently, what are seven words which might change the course of your life?  

Hmm, I think the original ones were ‘You could cycle from here to Paris…..now i think they would be ‘I love radio, but the world awaits!


Emma, centre, with Nyree & Ara Vartoukian at a recent music festival

1 Response to Q&A with Emma Ayres

  1. My friend’s aunt played viola and has many accompaniments to dispose of. She also taught piano. The address 145 Buckley Street, Essendon

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