You’re appearing at Music By The Sea in November alongside pianist Jeremy Eskenazi. What are you most looking forward to when appearing at Sandgate Town Hall?
I love playing in new places and to new people. One of the challenges we face when performing is being able to stay in the moment, to shed any preconceptions or expectations and worries and maintain a sense of discovery and wonder while playing even very familiar music. A totally new environment can facilitate this.

You’re performing pieces by Johannes Brahms, Claude Debussy and Ludwig van Beethoven. What is it about those particular pieces that you enjoy the most?
They are all such different pieces, each a masterpiece in that composer’s respective musical language and rhetoric. The Brahms sonata we are playing is the composer at his most haunted and introspective, although there are moments of heroic triumph and expansive warmth. The Debussy is a sparkling, impressionisti palette of colour and character. The Beethoven sonata is the famous Kreutzer Sonata, so diabolically impassioned that Tolstoy was inspired to write his novella of the same name, imagining that the piece would be capable of inspiring adulterous passions and murderous rages.

What do you want people to get out of attending one of your live performances?
The ideal is that every performance be a shared journey of wonder and discovery of the music and the world of expression and emotion it can convey without words, that both performer and audience members are experiencing together. Rather than the spotlight being on the performer, it should be on the music, with the player being just a catalyst enabling its communication.

How did you first get into music?
I think I used to sit under the piano at my sister’s music lessons when I was two years old and begged my parents to let me have lessons as well. The first violin I had was a tissue box with rubber bands string over it!

You gave up a career in medicine to pursue music, and have since played as part of the Australian Chamber Orchestra as well as in various state orchestras. Do you ever regret your decision?
The two best and proudest decisions of my life were when I decided to pursue music after my medical studies and when I decided to leave my long term job at the Australian Chamber Orchestra to pursue other musical passions.
Epiphanies don’t happen very often in one’s life and I feel lucky to have had these ‘moments of truth’ where I’ve had an opportunity to reflect deeply and lucidly about who I am and want to be as a person and musician, and also grateful to have had the support and opportunities to be able to take these leaps of faith.

What are some of the highlights of your career thus far?
I’ve always revered string quartets and have treasured any time I have had the opportunity to explore the art of playing them with like minded and communicative musicians. It has been huge buzz too to lead or be up the front of a great symphony orchestra, especially for epic, large scale works like Mahler and Strauss. And of course it has been a bit of a thrill to have had a few chances to play concertos in front of thousands of people and to play in renowned halls such as the Musikverein, Concertgebouw, Carnegie Hall and such like.

Who are some of your favourite composers?
Bach, Beethoven [and] Mozart.

Who inspires you?
Musicians who treat music with reverence and wonder and are always searching, with integrity and humility, without narcissism or egocentricity.

When you’re not performing, what do you like to do?
I live near the ocean so spend a fair amount of my free time in, around or on it! Also reading, yoga [and] painting.

How much time do you spend rehearsing?
It depends a lot on the repertoire and the situation. For an orchestral concert there would generally be two to three days rehearsal of five to six hours a day before the first performance. With chamber music, it can vary greatly.

If you could perform with anyone in the industry, who would it be and why?
Too many to name! I’ve been very lucky to have performed with some musicians who I think are absolutely incredible though.

How has the music industry changed over the years?
The recording industry has vastly changed the music world. The general aesthetic has become much more stereotyped, aimed at ‘perfection’ and cleanliness, often at the expense of different colours and textures and risk taking.

What advice would you give to aspiring musicians?
To always take advice with a grain of salt and to try to hold onto their ideals, no matter what paths they are led down. To focus on music as a good in itself and to see things like competitions, exams, auditions as simply token goals to improve one’s playing, rather than being too invested in outcomes. To try to get experience in a different walk of life even just to appreciate how incredibly lucky we are to play music.

What else is in store for you this year?
I’m touring India with the Australian World Orchestra; I’m leading a couple of orchestral project and have several concerts at the Sydney Opera House and Melbourne Recital Centre with my piano quartet.

Rebecca Chan and Jeremy Eskenazi will perform at Music By The Sea on November 7th 2015. Tickets range from $25 -$30 and can be purchased via

Written by Jackie Smith

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