Words by Stephanie Eslake
A young musician’s pathway to success is deeply personal. They can be challenged by limited access to resources – particularly to those who live rurally, or who may not have the funds to participate in extra-curricular training programs.
While Australian government schools provide a valuable introduction to musical instruments and theory, students who dream of achieving a professional career will often face a more complex and competitive journey.
It’s this gap in music training Melbourne Recital Centre fulfils. Outside the classroom, passionate young performers are provided with a unique opportunity to pursue their dreams through hands-on industry experiences and high-quality development opportunities.
The arts and music institution’s year-long Accelerando Program gifts Victorian Government Secondary School students with access to lessons, world-class concerts, workshops, and performance opportunities.
“I have seen this program transform emerging student musicians into confident and professional artists,” Learning and Access Manager Belinda Ashe says.
“These young people have such incredible spark and drive, and they take advantage of every opportunity.”
The program is designed to supplement the classroom education Victorian students gain through years 10-12. It creates ongoing avenues for career-launching activities that “accelerate their music studies with help from people who do it for a living”.
“We want to ensure that a select group of motivated musical students are engaged in practical and inspiring events across the course of a year,” Belinda says.
Accelerando is structured to provide a variety of essential industry skills, such as marketing, networking, grant writing, concert attendance, and performance opportunities.
Perhaps most importantly, the program provides these experiences for free.
“It's critical that all of our programs are free to participants, and remain so,” Belinda says.
“These types of opportunities need to be made available to people with the talent and drive, who may not necessarily have the financial or geographical means to make it happen.”
The program is philanthropically funded through Melbourne Recital Centre donors, trusts, and foundations. It sits alongside Melbourne Recital Centre’s various Young Artist Development programs, from regional music awards to specialised performance competitions – each tailored to make a vital difference to the lives of young and creative Victorians.
Accelerando alumnus Ashwin Krishna (2018-2020) is an 18-year-old multi-instrumentalist who joined the program to expand his opportunities and take his burgeoning career to the next level.
“I understood the immense value the program brings to young musicians who wanted to succeed in the music business,” Ashwin says.
“It opened my eyes to so many avenues, and actually influenced some of the musical strategic decisions I have made in the last few months following the program.
“Furthermore, it really added clarity to how I can pursue music effectively, which gave me more confidence.”
Donations to Accelerando help connect students like Ashwin with critically acclaimed artists and high-level development and training. But they also fuel a powerful contribution to the Australian arts ecosystem, enabling the next generation of performers to upskill, to be mentored, and to find direction in their futures.
“We certainly recognise that the good work we do now with these students will benefit the entire arts industry,” Belinda says.
“We know what we are doing is working when we have Accelerando alumni go off to study music at a tertiary level, find their sound, and then come back and apply to play as part of our Primrose Potter Salon series.
“It’s incredibly encouraging to see these musicians working hard in the industry.”
Also encouraging is the continued faith of the programs’ musicians, donors, and facilitators during COVID. An investment in these programs is an explicit investment in the future of the arts industry. That these programs continue to be in high demand, and continue to be supported by our communities, is an acknowledgment that the arts will continue to thrive.
“It does feel like the arts may be down right now. But when you look closely, our grit, determination, and resilience has shone through this pandemic,” Belinda says.
“The way that artists and organisations transitioned to digital platforms, found more creative ways to make and deliver art, and banded together as one huge and diverse community has been inspiring.”
It's a note that resonates with Ashwin. His introduction to the music industry has been challenged by the onset of the pandemic. With the critical guidance supplied through Accelerando, Ashwin’s eyes are wide open to the work that lies ahead.
“I can’t really see a life of mine without music,” Ashwin says.
“It’s always something I’ve wanted to pursue. I have always wanted to share a piece of myself to the world, and I believe music is the best way I can accomplish this.”
One of Ashwin’s most impressive collaborations to emerge from Accelerando is with Simon Cohen. The Grammy-nominated audio engineer – who has worked with Justin Bieber, Jessica Mauboy, and Guy Sebastian – is introducing Ashwin to the worlds of pop and music production.
They’ve recently partnered on Georgia Kay’s Found you, and Liza Rez’s Love Dilemma – and now have a “regular working relationship”.
“Working with Simon is loads of fun and is easy going,” Ashwin says.
“He understands my music skills, and gives me freedom to break conventional rules to achieve a greater outcome in the music.
“I was always ready for such an opportunity. However, I couldn’t make it into a reality as easily without the help of the Accelerando Program.”
To Belinda, herself a trained musician, helping people like Ashwin is a reward in itself.
“I love being able to connect them with their musical heroes, or organise concert tickets to their favourite bands,” she says.
“Facilitating these life-changing moments is pretty magical.”
The Accelerando Program is one of the many opportunities offered through Melbourne Recital Centre. Its Learning, Access and Community Engagement Programs are all philanthropically funded and provide free professional development to young musicians. To learn more, visit Melbourne Recital Centre website.