Jayson Gillham is returning to Australia for several concerts in March 2014.
Now based in London, Australian pianist Jayson Gillham takes time out of his busy schedule to answer a few questions and offer advice to others developing their career.
Jayson will be performing a solo recital in Brisbane on Sunday 9 March, 3pm, as part of the Medici Concerts Series, Conservatorium Theatre, Qld Conservatorium, Southbank, Queensland.
Tickets can be purchased through QTIX
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Q & A
What or who has been a significant influence until now?
Probably the two most significant influences, apart from my parents, would be my teacher Leah Horwitz (and through her I have come to find many other musical influences) and the people I met at Goodenough College in London.
How has participation at major piano competitions helped in your career development?
International piano competitions are great for increasing stamina and ability to perform under pressure. They force one to prepare very thoroughly and develop practice strategies for how to manage a large repertoire. If you are lucky enough to reach the final they offer a chance to play with a good orchestra and conductor.
Like other professions, the life of a concert pianist often requires several ‘hats’. How do you divide your time between all your responsibilities?
I am learning about this all the time. I work most effectively if I submerge myself completely in one task and do that exclusively until it is finished. It is easy to become distracted by small tasks and never end up doing the important ones.
How would you plan and present your “perfect concert”?
Unfortunately, and fortunately, nothing is ever perfect. A great concert is a combination of many things coming together on the night. The hall needs to be the right size for the size of the ensemble performing, and it helps if everyone can see reasonably well and not just the head of the person in front of them. Acoustics are important, and need to be sympathetic but not drowning. Lighting is also important. I think the Con Theatre ticks all the boxes as well as any concert hall, because it is not too large for a solo piano recital, has a lovely acoustic and a Steinway Model D concert grand.
Programming is very important and I like to choose programmes that have a variety of styles, with something a little out-of-the-way as well as something familiar. Just as a piece of music has its formal structure, the programme as a whole should have a structure that takes people on an emotional journey.
The other ingredient in a great concert is the human factor – both performer/s and audience. The performer needs to be well-prepared and committed and give everything in the performance. It usually helps if they speak directly to the audience as it immediately breaks down barriers and allows the performer to guide the way the audience listens. Ideally the audience will give their energies to listening.
In your experience, what makes a “good” concert venue?
Mostly answered above. Also it is very helpful if the performers and audience can easily mix after the concert. The modern way that concert halls are set up so that back-of-house and front-of-house are completely separate robs both the performer/s and the audience of the chance to interact after the concert.
With your international travel, how do you deal with the time-zones when preparing and presenting performances?
The best way to deal with long-haul travel is to make sure that there is plenty of time to recover from the flight and to reset the body clock. I am not sure what I would do if I didn’t have enough time, as I don’t sleep well on planes and cannot get comfortable. One of my singer-friends just told me about a humidifier mask to wear on the plane which is supposed to help not just with singing but generally with jet-lag as well. Maybe I will try it!
Can you tell us your impressions of London as a long-term resident?
London has something of everything, and something for everyone. It is a truly world city and that diversity can be wonderful for curing people’s parochial views. It is the perfect place for people to come and ‘find their tribe’. It is particularly suited to students and young professionals, but I think it is a harsh place for a child to grow up and becomes too stressful as people get older. There are always pros and cons, but for me at the moment the pros outweigh the cons. There are endless concerts, exhibitions, plays, shows, operas, ballets, etc. etc. and almost everything is at a very high standard. I have a circle of friends here and the ones that don’t live here will often visit or pass through on their way somewhere else as it is a world transport hub. Most of the greatest musicians pass through and perform every so often and many of them live in London. Most of the classical musicians’ agencies are based in London, so that even people who are based in other parts of Europe will often have a London manager as their general manager.
What advice would you give to young musicians leaving Australia to study or work in the UK?
London is a great place to study as a musician. It is almost impossible to get a post-study work visa now so unless you have EU citizenship don’t expect to stay on after studying or even to be able to earn one penny while you are a student, because the government does not allow it. You need to have plenty of funding, probably more than you think, in order to really be able to enjoy what London has to offer. Tuition fees and rental costs are very high, and there is no point being in London if you can’t go to all the cultural things on offer. One thing that is cheaper in the UK is that you can see all the general exhibitions at art galleries and museums for free. Cheap concert tickets can often be found for classical music concerts (e.g. £7 to sit on the stage at the Royal Festival Hall, £5 Wigmore Hall student tickets), and a lot of the masterclasses and performances at the music schools are free to the public.
However, general living costs are high. My advice is don’t necessarily think of London as better than any other recognised European city where you might want to study. Pick the place where you are given a scholarship and work with that. Try to get the best teacher in that institution and then learn the rest from playing with other musicians and going to lots of concerts.
What do you appreciate most when you return home to Australia after living abroad?
People are generally quite positive – they feel that anything is possible if they work at it. Those who work in service and hospitality seem genuinely pleased to be able to help people. The weather is consistently good, and there is more space. I think a lot of people in Australia don’t realise how incredibly high their living standards are. Australia doesn’t have everything, but it has pretty much the best of most things for sure. And my family is here!
What are your highlights in your 2014 – 2015 season?
In October 2014 I will be playing Mozart’s Concerto No. 21 in C major K. 467 with the English Chamber Orchestra at the Royal Festival Hall in London. In November I will play three recitals at the Louvre Auditorium in Paris, which I’m very excited about.
Jayson will also be performing at the Linari Festival, Italy in July 2014.
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A small excerpt of Jayson performing Beethoven Piano Concerto No. 5 with the Hallé Orchestra conducted by Sir Mark Elder at the Leeds International Piano Competition 2012
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We extend our gratitude to Mr Jayson Gillham for taking the time to answer this Q&A and hope this gives a brief insight into a side of the concert pianist that inspires the general public to support the pianist and the presenter of public concerts.
Official Website for Jayson Gillham is here
In addition to the Medici Concerts recital in Brisbane, Jayson will also be performing in two other concerts in Australia in March 2014:
7:30pm Friday 14 March
Melbourne Town Hall, Victoria
7:45pm 15 March