For many of us it was our mum, dad, grandfather or grandmother who first introduced us to the joy of music. We asked some of your West Australian Symphony Orchestra musicians what first drew them to a life of music.

Rachael Kirk, Viola

Rachael was always surrounded by music growing up, “With the encouragement of my parents, my four siblings and I all learnt musical instruments, starting first on the recorder, then moving on to a range of other instruments.”

“My first memory of music was when I was about three when I used to traipse along to my viola-playing mum’s weekly chamber music day with her friends, all of whom had young children of their own. I distinctly remember lots of kids, cackles of laughter, delicious lunches and plenty of music.”

Rachael finally got a violin for her sixth birthday but the novelty quickly wore off and the violin was put in the cupboard. “I resumed my violin lessons when I was nine and when my interest began to wane, my mum suggested I change to viola because ‘you always need viola players’. “

Lucky for all of us, and for WASO, the viola would be where Rachael would stay, “Sure enough I was in the local youth orchestra within three months of changing to viola (we violists call it ‘seeing the light’, other disrespectful colleagues call it ‘going over to the dark side’) and I suppose I’ve never really looked back.”

For Rachael, viola playing must be in her genes with seven viola players of varying abilities in her extended family, “My mum still plays chamber music with friends from time to time, my daughter, a nephew, a niece and two cousins, one of whom is in the NZ Symphony Orchestra.”

Rachael Kirk and daughter Sally

Semra Lee-Smith, A/Associate Concertmaster

Semra was born in Penang, Malaysia where her mum was one of only two violin teachers on the island where they lived, and started her own orchestra consisting of all of her students.

“I’ve been surrounded by music since I was in the womb. She was my first teacher and taught my brothers as well.”

Between 1984 and 1987, Semra’s mum took her orchestra to Singapore each year, “In Singapore, we joined forces with another children’s orchestra and I was lucky enough to be soloist with them.”

Semra Lee-Smith in The Straits Times, December 1984

Jenna Smith, Trumpet

As one of five children, Jenna and her siblings all learnt piano from a young age, “My oldest brother, who plays the trombone, is the one that got us onto brass instruments. His best friend played the trumpet and invited my brother to the local brass band.”

This friend also gave Jenna her very first trumpet lesson, “I wanted to play the trumpet because I thought my brother's friend was cool.”

Jenna’s family musical talents extend across generations with her mum being a self-taught flautist and her dad taking up guitar while at university. “My grandfather even played in British brass bands and later gifted his flugelhorn to me when I was in year four.”

Jenna still plays that flugelhorn today. 

Jenna Smith with grandfather on flugelhorn

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