Helen studied piano as an eight year old, taking up viola at the age of twelve. As a teenager, she was a leader in the Melbourne and Australian Youth Orchestras, touring overseas several times. She studied and graduated from the Victorian College of the Arts, while working as a casual in MSO and taking lessons with William Primrose, one of the 20th century’s greatest violists.
With scholarship support and savings, she completed postgraduate studies in the USA with legendary violist, teacher and composer Lillian Fuchs at the Manhattan School of Music. Returning to Australia, Helen joined WASO in 1982, where she has played continually, aside from a two-year stint as Principal Viola with the WA Arts Orchestra and three maternity breaks.
As a musician and presenter, she has worked in schools and communities throughout WA and interstate with various small and larger ensembles. She enjoys teaching viola and beginner violin to students of all ages, is a member of the Australian Society for Music Education (ASME), presenting at several state and national conferences, has been a council member of the WA Music Teachers’ Association and from 2017-19 served as the National President of the Australian Strings Association (AUSTA) which held a successful National Conference in Perth 2018 in conjunction with WASO and many other arts organisations. In 2019 she became President of AUSTA WA. As an Australian Music Examinations Board examiner, she has contributed to viola syllabus development in Australia and has commissioned repertoire for viola.
In 2020 she collaborated online with American electro-acoustic violist Martha Mooke and a team of international multi-style violists on a new YouTube multi-styles tribute to Bach’s Brandenburg 6.
After the loss of her grandson baby Riley Hughes in 2015 to whooping cough, Helen and family have become active supporters of vaccination and for finding a cure for this terrible disease. As well as family interests, Helen enjoys literature, nature and the visual arts.