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  • Writer's pictureFlow Australia

Playing until the cows came home key to Harry's success

Harry Macpherson is one of a handful of rural musicians in the Australian Youth Orchestra. The prestigious ensemble is urging more country kids to apply.

A supplied undated image obtained Thursday, May 23, 2024 shows Australian Youth Orchestra trombonist Harry Macpherson posing for a photograph in Sydney. Image AAP

Trombonist Harry Macpherson grew up on a vineyard where the neighbours were too far away to be bothered by the sound of his instrument.

The booming brass notes had the opposite effect on occupants of the family farm at the foot of Mount Canobolas near Orange, in central-western NSW.

"When we had the cows in the paddock, they could be down the back of the property and when I started playing - even inside - they would come up to the house," Macpherson tells AAP.

"The trombone is loud and in Sydney practising is often a challenge.

"I live in an apartment now and trying to find a space where I don't bother the neighbours is tricky."

Macpherson this year earned a spot as the Australian Youth Orchestra's principal bass trombonist after years of auditioning throughout high school and university.

The 23-year-old, who also plays in the Sydney Youth Orchestra and recently graduated from the Sydney Conservatorium of Music, credits his country upbringing and a thriving regional music scene for his rise.

"After school, I could walk up to the (local) conservatorium ... and do my ensembles," he said.

"That support from Orange Con and Orange High ... is the only reason I still do it."

The Australian Youth Orchestra, a prestigious training ground for pre-professional musicians aged 12 to 30, is hoping to offer opportunities to more regional artists next year.

The orchestra is urging regional, rural and First Nations musicians to apply for its 2025 programs, which range from residencies, performance camps and training in music management and promotion.

"We are committed to ensuring that all eligible musicians are able to participate in our programs, regardless of financial and geographic barriers," chief executive Kimbali Harding said.

Students are encouraged to apply for every course they're eligible for and can choose programs that work around their school schedule.

Application fees will be waived for First Nations students.

Macpherson is not the only regional musician to make it into the orchestra, which has trained more than 12,000 artists and completed 23 international tours since 1948. 

Annabel Wouters, a flautist from Figtree in NSW, and Leon Spikmans, a double bass player from the NSW Blue Mountains, are also members.

Samuel Hooper, a 14-year-old violinist from Tasmania, and 15-year-old Jethro Llewellyn, a horn player from Darwin, will join in September.

Macpherson, who first picked up a trombone at the age of eight because of its unique look, said students growing up in country areas shouldn't feel exciting opportunities are out of their reach.

"Even if you feel like you don't stand a chance, there's always a point to put an audition in," he said.

"The absolute worst they can say is 'no'."


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