We took five with Huw Jones (Section Principal Oboe) from the Queensland Symphony Orchestra to talk about his career to date, QSO’s upcoming Kiddies Cushion Concerts and where his go-to places are in the precinct…
We’d love to hear a little about your journey so far. Where did your love of music first begin and what path saw you eventually secure your position within QSO?
I naturally gravitated towards studying music, I just always knew that’s what I wanted to do. When I was around six I nagged my parents into letting me play the saxophone and I just took to it really quickly and loved it. Three years later I wanted to play another woodwind instrument and my Dad recommended the oboe because he said that not many people play it and that turned out to be true. I auditioned for the Sydney Conservatorium and was the only oboe player in my year and one of only around half a dozen of us at the Con across all the years. Over the years I have appeared with every orchestra in Australia and New Zealand, as well as playing with the Philharmonia London Orchestra which really helped to build my confidence.
Getting a job in an orchestra is incredibly difficult. There’s only seven to eight orchestras in Australia and one to four positions in your instrument. For oboe, there are only four positions in the QSO. It’s very hard to get into an orchestra and it is very hard to leave one.
You’ve accomplished many things in your musical career (performing in the Sydney Symphony Orchestra and Philharmonia London Orchestra to name a few), What do you consider your greatest achievement to date?
I was very shocked when I won the position for principal oboe in the QSO. I didn’t think that I would be anywhere near good enough and having spent many years doing auditions and freelance work, I assumed that’s what I would keep doing for the rest of my life. After you do the audition you have a six month trial and by the end of the trial they vote yes or no, so it’s quite brutal and stressful. I moved up (with my wife) from Sydney when my daughter was 2 months old and we thought ‘well we could be here for six months, or thirty years.’ To be told that I passed the trial and got the job was a wonderful feeling.
QSO’s popular Kiddies Cushion Concerts (sponsored by eatSouthBank) are about to begin this year which introduce children to a range of orchestral instruments. What do you enjoy most about performing in these concerts and why do you think they are so beneficial to children?
Everyone in the QSO loves the kiddies concerts. We love being able to see the children react to the music, whether that be by shouting, clapping, dancing or just listening really intently. It’s a wonderful opportunity for them to see a sound that they are probably quite familiar with from their favourite movies however don’t necessarily realise is a symphony orchestra. As classical musicians we are also really passionate about education because there are so many studies which prove the benefits of listening to music and the benefits to human development by being involved with it from an early age.
We know you don’t get a lot of down-time with your busy performance schedule however when you do get a night off, which South Bank restaurant do you go to?
We used to live in South Brisbane when we first moved to Brisbane so we used to go down to the River Quay restaurants quite a bit. Aquitaine in particular is impressive as there is a lot of artistry in the dishes. I also really like Baba Ganouj on Little Stanley Street.
Rehearsals are a large part of your job. Do you and your colleagues ever get any particular food cravings during them? If so, where do you head to in the precinct?
The orchestra loves The Charming Squire to hang out after work and Mister Fitz for ice-cream sandwiches.
QSO has recently secured Ms Alondra de la Parra as Music Director who is widely regarded as one of the most compelling conductors of her generation. What has it been like working with her so far?
I think she’s fantastic. She’s very enthusiastic, passionate and works incredibly hard. We’re not sure how she manages to do everything that she does, between conducting the orchestra, having meetings with countless amounts of key stakeholders and sponsors plus having a three month old baby! We just can’t believe her capacity. She’s also very interested in community engagement which I would say is very rare in chief conductors. She’s very passionate about making QSO part of the fabric of people’s lives in Brisbane, in whatever context that may be.