Meet Kate Suthers, the ASO’s new concertmaster! In this interview, Kate talks about her love of music, her new role as concertmaster, and the emotional connection that music brings. Read more to discover what she has planned for ASO’s 2023 Season.
Do you come from a musical family? What sparked your passion for music and in particular the violin?
My parents were both in music education, my brother’s a cellist, so music has always been part of the fabric of my life. I think I actually wanted to to be like Patrick and play the cello too, but I picked up the violin when I was 3 (my first violin was so tiny that the body fit in my dad’s palm!) and never looked back.
Musicians often describe their instruments as becoming an extension of yourself, do you agree or disagree and why?
I’d agree with that statement. We spend so many hours alone with our instruments that sometimes I think we can communicate better with them than with words. I can’t remember a time without the violin, so it feels natural to be carrying it or playing it, or to always instinctively know where it is.
Tell us about your violin.
My violin was made by Carlo Carletti. He was based in Pieve di Cento, near Bologna, and was a carpenter and antiques dealer before he was a luthier!
What excites you most about your new role?
It’s really exciting to be ASO’s new Concertmaster and to be joining the ASO family. It’s not long until my first concert now, and I’m looking forward to coming home and getting started! There is such storytelling we can do through music, and it’s a privilege to be part of an organisation that aims to bring that to everyone in South Australia.
Being the concertmaster of an orchestra is a big, multifaceted role. There are lots of things I’m looking forward to about it and also plenty that I’m looking forward to finding out, because it’s a different job with every group of people. I’m looking forward to all musical aspects of the job, along with the human aspects too, working with all the musicians and meeting people in the community. Right now though I’m mainly just excited for my first concert in the role!
For those that don’t know what a concertmaster is, what is the job?
This is a great question. Probably the simplest answer is that the concertmaster is the leader of the orchestra; the first violinist, the person you see on stage shaking hands with conductors and soloists, and standing up to tune the orchestra. My own simple answer is, “that’s what I’m about to find out!”. This is my first concertmaster job, and I’m fully expecting to learn a lot as I do it, particularly about how to become a good concertmaster for the ASO.
I think the long answer is that the job of a concertmaster spans many skills. It’s a high pressure violin job that involves annotating parts before rehearsals, learning scores and preparing solo passages. It’s a diplomatic job that relies on good communication, interpretation, negotiating and listening skills. It’s a figurehead role that should inspire colleagues and make visiting artists feel relaxed.
What is your emotional connection to music?
Music is a unique art form in the human experience. It goes beyond words, it’s simultaneously individual and communal. The way music connects us to each other and also to ourselves emotionally is extraordinary, and is one of the reasons that I love playing. Music has the power to evoke emotions and memories unique to each individual, regardless of whether it’s familiar or new, and is probably the greatest common language we have.
A simple illustration of the emotional power of music is in film. If you watch a movie scene without the soundtrack, most if not all emotional power is lost. There’s a great example on YouTube of the throne room scene at the end of Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope. Without John Williams it’s just two lads and a wookie walking through a room, not a triumphant conclusion!
What makes the experience of live music special?
Live music is, in my opinion, the ultimate unique experience. It’s a finite event that exists exclusively for the people in the performance space. It can’t be captured or recreated, no matter how good recording technology might be, and can never be fully recounted. I think a great live performance is as close to magic as you can get. Whether performing or in the audience, each live performance is a once in a lifetime thing that has the power to affect us, move us, change us.
Live music was what I missed the most about music during the Covid-19 pandemic lockdowns.
How can music take you on a journey?
Music takes you on journeys you can’t have in any other way. I think music taps into the subconscious mind and allows all kinds of connections to happen that wouldn’t be possible otherwise. Music is also a powerful tool for recollection. The music playing at moments – whether significant or fleeting – in your life, can evoke those memories years later. I think it can also evoke something basic in our human instincts that’s unique for every person. It’s an enigma.
What are you looking forward to performing in 2023?
ASO’s 2023 Season will have something for everyone, there’s a huge breadth of repertoire and styles of music programmed. The Symphony Series and Matinee Series contain some of my favorite works. I can’t wait to play Mahler 4, and Mozart Jupiter Symphony is one of the most joyous works in existence. I’m looking forward to the productions of Verdi Macbeth and Tchaikovsky Swan Lake, and to performing the score of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix with the film!
I’m also excited by the number of pieces programmed that are written by women. Some of the works are familiar to me like Jessie Montgomery’s very cool piece for strings, Starburst, and some works will be new discoveries.
When you are not on stage performing or practising where can we find you?
At home with a book is a safe bet, but if I have a day off I like going to markets, cooking, and going for walks in the bush or on the beach .
Do you have any superstitions or routines before you perform?
Not really, but I can’t perform on an empty stomach!
What are you most looking forward to doing when you are in Adelaide?
Discovering the city and exploring beyond it, there are so many places in South Australia I want to go!