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Profile: Next Gen Artist Katya Willett, flute

Updated: Apr 28, 2020

2020 Next Gen artist Katya Willett shares how she is making the most of her home-isolation practise and gives us a peek inside her home studio.


Katya entered the Next Gen Artists Program in 2019 and in July of that year was invited to play with the Southern Cross Soloists in our Maps and Journeys Subscription concert at QPAC. Currently in her third year studying a Bachelor of Music at the University of Queensland on flute with Patrick Nolan as her teacher, Katya has been finalist of many local awards such as the James Carson Memorial Prize and the O’Brien Family Prize. She has played as principal flute with UQ Symphony Orchestra and numerous Queensland Youth Orchestra ensembles.

Born in Brisbane, She describes her earliest memories of music at age two or three, sitting with her grandma at the piano learning about the high notes – the fairies, and low notes – the giants. At age five she started piano lessons, picked up the cello at age eight, and then to the flute when she was ten.

"The support of my family and excellent teachers kept me going with the flute, and here I am now!"

What does a typical practise session look like for you?

During uni semester, I like to start practicing at 7am. I tend to do 3–5 hour long sessions throughout the day, often working with other musicians to keep things interesting. I have too many metronome and tuning apps on my phone to turn it off, but the “do not disturb” setting is definitely my friend!

What keeps you energised and motivated?

Surrounding myself with like-minded people helps me to work the best I can. I find setting myself both small and larger goals is a great way to keep motivated. I make sure to not overwork myself, and still leave enough time for some socialising and Netflix!

How has the COVID-19 pandemic affected your study and musical life?

Just as it has for every musician around the world, the COVID-19 pandemic has drastically changed my way of life. I no longer go to uni for any classes. I have my flute lessons online, and I don’t have any upcoming performances. I now have to teach all of my students online, which has proven a good challenge to overcome. As disappointing as the lack of future performances is, I’m trying to make the most of my free time by practicing things I usually wouldn’t have time to. I’m lucky enough to live in a household of flautists – having other people to play alongside with and bounce ideas off is invaluable!

What's on your music stand today?

Three challenging studies; two by Anderson from Op.15 and Op.60, and one from Donjon’s 8 Etudes de Salon. I usually like to work my way through studies week to week, but my upcoming (recorded) technical exam for university means that more time and refinement is needed. Over the holidays I’m staying at my parent’s place, so my practice setup is pretty straight forward right now – just my iPad, music stand, and flute!

Best thing about playing chamber music?

For me, chamber music is getting the joy of performing alongside friends. The feeling of playing with people you know well and getting to express wonderful music with them is like nothing else I’ve experienced. Apart from the nerves that creep in, I love performing for absolutely anyone that will listen! It’s the most fun when it’s a piece you love and are really passionate about sharing. It’s even more special when you get to share the performing aspect with friends.

Do you have any pre-concert rituals?

Before concerts, when the nerves might be taking hold, I try to remember how much I love performing and sharing music with others. Going out on stage excited to play makes the experience more enjoyable for everyone involved. Somehow, after most concerts, I end up at San Churro with my friends!

What do you hope to gain from your year as a Next Gen artist?

Although the unforeseen circumstances surrounding the coronavirus have definitely changed what this year will look like, I hope to continue building my playing and industry skills with help from the wonderful Southern Cross Soloists. Getting opportunities to play and organise concerts ourselves has and will continue to prepare me for whatever may happen out of university. At this stage, my next major goal is just to finish my Bachelor of Music (Hons) degree at the end of next year. I’d love to play with the Australian Youth Orchestra and continue playing with other ensembles and chamber music groups. I’d also love to keep raising my profile through competitions, masterclasses and performances. Sitting in an orchestra would be the ultimate career dream, but I would absolutely love to be part of a professional chamber music ensemble like Southern Cross Soloists. Wherever I can make a living doing what I love, I’d be happy!


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