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Profile: Next Gen Artist Dario Scalabrini, clarinet

SXS sits down with 2020 Next Gen artist Dario Scalabrini to discuss Brisbane's young artist opportunities and what it's like to play side-by-side with the Southern Cross Soloists.


Recipient of the 2019 Brisbane Club Award’s Jim Massie Memorial Prize, Brisbane-based clarinettist Dario Scalabrini is a recent graduate of the Queensland Conservatorium studying with Paul Dean. He joined the Southern Cross Soloists' Next Gen Artist Program in 2020. Dario is also a Brisbane Music Festival Young Artist for 2020 and has as appeared as a featured artist in the St John’s Cathedral and Lord Mayor’s Brisbane City Hall chamber music series. Has performed with the Queensland Pops Orchestra, Opera Queensland and Expressions Dance Company.

Describe you typical practise day – what inspires your musical studies?

Practice is a very calming and a rewarding daily ritual for me. I like to start early in the morning with breathing exercises to gently awaken my respiratory muscles ready for a productive day. I think it's important that the first thing I play in the morning is a piece of music that I really love. This is usually the legato passages from the Adagio of Mozart’s Clarinet Concerto, or excerpts from Resphigi’s Pini di Roma. Working on air and breathing is always a very calming process and it is a perfect start to the day.

I tailor my practice to the repertoire I'm preparing at the time–I believe mixing up my regular practice routine is key to staying alert and flexible. For me, experimental practice is crucial because there is so much that you can learn about yourself and your instrument in the practice room that way–I think it is key to establishing a natural musicianship. I am most inspired by the power of music and its ability to express emotion. I am particularly passionate about instrument timbre and the endless possibilities that can be conveyed through a single note.

In tough times like these our community looks to the arts, and it has been a pleasure to be a part of so many new COVID-safe performance initiatives.

What influenced your decision to study in Brisbane?

Queensland has a reputation for great music education. When I graduated high school I was thrilled to have the opportunity to continue my music studies in Brisbane. The Queensland Conservatorium is a highly regarded institution both in Australia and internationally, and the opportunity to study with Paul Dean has shaped my life and career as a musician. The classical music scene in Brisbane is quite special–we have a melting-pot of musicians and ensembles ranging from community to professional orchestras, as well as new and established ensembles like the Southern Cross Soloists. What excites me most about the scene here are the variety of young artist initiatives currently offered which help young musicians to establish ourselves within the industry.

How has the COVID-19 pandemic affected your musical life, and what positives, if any, have emerged out of these circumstances?

As a recent graduate, the pandemic has certainly made things challenging. With travel restrictions in place and many concerts cancelled, it has been a period in which I have had freedom and time to truly experiment in my practice. I have been collaborating with friends online and it has been fun to record and compile lock-down arrangements. Recently, it has been really great to have the opportunity to perform as part of Brisbane Music Festival’s online season and appear on the Melbourne Digital Concert Hall alongside Ensemble Q. I think that in tough times like these, our community looks to the arts, and it has been a pleasure to be a part of so many new COVID-safe performance initiatives.

Which musicians do you most look up to and draw inspiration from?

My inspiration comes from all over the world, ranging from the powerful and rich tenor voice of Pavarotti to the influential music of The Beatles. In terms of clarinettists, I greatly admire the musicianship of Martin Fröst, Andrew Marriner, and Alessandro Carbonare as well as my teacher and mentor Paul Dean. Their beauty of sound, musical abilities and willingness to push musical boundaries inspires my own music-making immensely.

What has it been like to play side by side with Southern Cross Soloists this week?

It’s been an absolute pleasure to rehearse with the group in preparation for our concert on Sunday. I think audiences are going to love the program that we have lined up. I’ve particularly enjoyed playing with didgeridoo for the first time and soloist Chris Williams sounds incredible. There's certainly a buzz of excitement about the concert and I can’t wait to perform to a live audience for the first time in seven months!

What are your top three career highlights to date?

Playing Verdi’s Requiem with Opera Queensland at HOTA in the Gold Coast, playing Mahler’s 8th Symphony with Queensland Conservatorium Orchestra at QPAC, and recently having the opportunity to perform in live-streams with Ensemble Q and the Brisbane Music Festival.

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

As a Next Gen artist, my main objective is to focus on collaboration. With the COVID-19 restrictions starting to ease in Queensland I am looking forward to commencing regular performances for live audiences and collaborating with my Next Gen colleagues more. The relationships that we create now can last our entire careers and the Next Gen group is a great mix of Brisbane’s top young professional musicians.

Looking to the future, what is your next major career goal?

With the pandemic still looming, some of my international travel plans are on hold. However, the next step in my career will be moving interstate to further my clarinet studies. I’ve spent most of my life here in Brisbane and am excited to further explore the Australian music scene and collaborate with musicians across the country.


Hear Dario perform with the Southern Cross Soloists in SXS RETURNS live in the QPAC Concert Hall Stage on Sunday, October 18 at 3pm. For full details and ticket bookings, visit the QPAC website.


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