SXS sits down with 2020 Next Gen artist Jemima Drews to discuss re-energising during the pandemic and the two halves to her practise routine.
Jemima Drews loves bringing flute music to life through engaging, energetic performance. Described by Blue Curtains as “virtuosic” and “eccentric” (2020) for her performance in the Brisbane Music Festival, Jemima is the 2019 and 2020 winner of the James Carson Memorial Prize and the 2020 winner of the O’Brien Family Prize. Jemima was nominated for the 2020 Freedman Fellowship through the Music Trust, and featured twice as a soloist in the UQ Concert Series. She is a Young Artist with the Brisbane Music Festival, and recently completed her Bachelor of Music with honours. Jemima is very interested in orchestral music, and has performed as both the Principal Flute and Principal Piccolo of the Queensland Youth Symphony Orchestra. She was also featured as a concerto soloist with the Brisbane Symphony Orchestra. Jemima enjoys exploring the more contemporary capabilities of the flute, and continues to experiment with bringing her background in visual arts and drama into her flute playing. Jemima has been a Next Gen Artist with Southern Cross Soloists since 2019.
What inspired you to seriously pursue flute studies?
I spent most of my childhood in a little town in Far North Queensland called Atherton. A bit later, we moved to Lismore in New South Wales. I decided to pursue the flute after I had the opportunity to play in a workshop run by the London Symphony Orchestra for young musicians from regional NSW. The students got to go to the Sydney Opera House and see the LSO play Stravinsky’s Petrushka– which has to have some of the most dynamic and enchanting flute solos out there, I immediately thought to myself, “Ah yes. That right there is what I want to do.”
What does a typical practise session look like for you?
There are two halves to my practise routine, the physical side and the conceptual side. The conceptual side is what gets me excited; I love creating and expressing, pushing the limits of the instrument to uncover stories, colours, and feelings. However, most of my practise is actually spent on what I call the physical side of practise. This is developing the technical facility to express my intentions without difficulty. Even though this can be a bit less “fun,” I’m always still motivated by the knowledge that it’s a necessary step in the production–the effort before the reward.
The ultimate dream is playing in an orchestra, but I’m also very interested in contemporary flute and blending classical and contemporary flute with text and drama.
How has the COVID-19 pandemic affected your musical life?
The pandemic experience has been a mixed bag for me. I’ve had to miss out on opportunities I’d competitively auditioned for, unfortunately. And I definitely missed collaborating with lots of other musicians. On the other hand, it afforded me the chance to re-energise and achieve higher quality in the performances that remained. The extra time and space between performances helped me tap into my creativity as well. I’ve missed performing for a live, in-person audience on a regular basis, and I’m so excited that restrictions are lifting in Queensland to make this possible again!
What repertoire is on your music stand at the moment?
I love performing a whole mix of repertoire and styles, so I have a pretty eclectic combination on my stand right now! I have the bubbly, joyous Serenade for flute, violin and viola by Beethoven, which will be performed at the Next Gen @ Kenmore concert coming up on Sunday December 13th. I’m so excited to collaborate with fellow Next Gen artists Julia Hill and Liam Mallinson on this piece. I’m also working on the Jolivet Flute Concerto, and Ian Clarke’s ‘Zoom Tube’ for fun.
Jemima performs Amy Beth Kirsten's
'Pirouette on a Moon Sliver' at the UQ Prize Winner’s Concert
Where do you go for musical inspiration?
I’m inspired by the world’s great orchestras, like the LSO, the Berlin Philharmonic and the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra. Some of my flute inspirations are Emily Beynon, Dennis Bouriakov, Ian Clarke and Joshua Batty. On a more local level, the Southern Cross Soloists have actually been a massive inspiration of mine since high school when I first heard them in 2015!
Reflecting on your time as a Next Gen artist so far, what have been the most memorable moments?
The 2019 Bangalow Music Festival was absolutely incredible. I was lucky enough to play the first movement of the Mozart Flute Quartet in D with the SXS artists in the Coffee Concert, and it was so memorable to play chamber music alongside brilliant musicians who I look up to so much.
You just graduated from your Bachelor’s degree - congratulations! What’s next for your musical studies?
COVID-19 is making it super hard to plan for the future, but the one thing I do know is that it holds a lot more flute for me! I’m currently taking a year to freelance and continue to develop my skills with a few Australian teachers before applying for postgraduate studies, both in Australia and overseas (when lockdowns have hopefully eased). The ultimate dream is playing in an orchestra, but I’m also very interested in contemporary flute and blending classical and contemporary flute with text and drama.