Q&A with Camryn Nel

Gemma Henderson chatted with APO’s 2023 Young Composer-in-Residence Camryn Nel.

Q. What is your earliest musical memory?

I started doing guitar lessons in Taupō when I was in primary school. I was really lucky that we had an old guitar lying around or else I may never have started music lessons at all.

Q. Can you tell us a bit about what drew you to focus on percussion, and/or composing?

I was drawn to percussion through my involvement in community bands and orchestras. It was through one of those ensembles that I was offered a lesson with NZSO Principal Timpani Laurence Reese. From that lesson forward I began to take my playing a lot more seriously, and began private tuition with APO Principal Percussion Eric Renick. My experience as a performer has significantly influenced my taste and style as a composer, and has given me an extremely practical education on orchestration and orchestral composition.

Q. Who are your biggest musical influences?

Mahler has been an obsession of mine for the last year or so. Every note, dynamic, and articulation imbues character in a really unique and refreshing way. His music spans such a wide depth of emotion and sentiment that listening to his symphonies often feels like a synopsis of life itself. I am constantly surprised by his music, even after the 100th listen. Besides Mahler, I also have a lot of love for Shostakovich, Respighi, Strauss and Tchaikovsky. I also have to mention my composition tutors Leonie Holmes, Chris Gendall, and Eve de Castro-Robinson who have never been short of honest and practical wisdom.

Q. Can you describe the most challenging or exciting project you’ve worked on so far? Is there a project that’s particularly special to you?

In early 2022 I started writing a symphony, something that I’ve wanted to do for a few years now. It began as supervised work for my honours composition degree, and has now become a personal project since my studies ended. This work has been both significantly challenging and immensely rewarding. It has forced me to question what exactly it is that I love about music and what it means to express that through my own musical voice. I plan to have the work finished before the end of 2023.

Q. What is your favourite smell?

Feijoa gummy lollies.

Q. Do you sing in the shower?

Unfortunately for my flatmates, I do.

Q. What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?

Ask the conductor for forgiveness, not permission.

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