Violist snares top scholarship

Tara Houghton has received an Australian Youth Orchestra 2010 Scholarship.
Tara Houghton has received an Australian Youth Orchestra 2010 Scholarship. Craig Warhurst

GYMPIE girl Tara Houghton is one of just three gifted musicians from across Australia to receive an Australian Youth Orchestra (AYO) 2010 Scholarship worth $10,000.

Considered one of the world’s most prestigious and innovative training organisations for young pre-professional musicians, the AYO nurtures the musical development of Australia’s finest young instrumentalists.

It’s a windfall the talented violist didn’t anticipate and will go a long way to helping her with AYO fees, a new case for her viola, music, new strings and instrument maintenance.

“I was initially quite shocked – you go into these things not expecting anything,” Tara said, adding she was very aware of the depth of talent that would be vying for an AYO scholarship; it was a case of “nothing ventured, nothing gained”.

The former St Patrick’s College student has participated in AYO programs since 2007, recently returning from Perth where she performed a full season of Benjamin Britten’s opera Peter Grimes.

Mid-year, as Associate Principal Viola of the orchestra, she will travel with the 2010 AYO International tour, performing in some of the world’s most eminent concert halls.

Embarking on her first overseas trip is an exciting prospect for the 23-year-old, who commenced her musical journey learning to play the violin at seven years old.

At just 16, Tara would travel to Brisbane by train every fortnight for violin lessons with Michele Walsh. It’s Michele who Tara credits with planting the germ of an idea that she might perhaps be better suited to the viola.

“She didn’t push it,” Tara recalls, but when she commenced her uni studies, “Michele casually suggested that I might like to play viola”.

It proved to be an ideal match, and Tara says she loves everything about the viola.

“There’s a personality difference between the violin and the viola,” she says. “Viola has a richness and mellowness… and I completely credit Michele with why I’m a viola player.”

And with the eisteddfod season looming, Tara owns up to being an “eisteddfod kid”.

“They were great and they still are great,” she says.

“If teachers support the fact that you are performing and not competing, it is a positive experience... you feel like it’s a natural thing, and the committee always managed to create a warm and loving atmosphere.”

Tara is Sydney-bound where she will commence a Master of Music Studies in Performance at Sydney Conservatorium of Music.

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