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Young Musicians Programme: Anna's Story

Posted on 19 April 2017

Anna Appleby, 23, composer and songwriter

How were you involved in the Young Musicians Programme?
I was in Young Sinfonia for three years as an oboist (second oboe for a year in 2008/9 I think, then principal oboe 2009-11 including a trip to Sweden to play the Planets with VAGUS and Young Sinfonia, and a trip to Milan)

When did you decide to audition?
I decided to audition and get involved when I was going into year 11 (I think, hard to remember exactly!), because I’d heard that the Weekend School was excellent and I was starting to take the oboe seriously (I played Mozart’s oboe concerto with my school orchestra that summer).

How did you hear about it?
My parents suggested it, and I was quite nervous at first as I thought I wasn’t a good enough oboist for it, but I auditioned anyway and was delighted to be accepted!

What impact has being part of YMP had on you?
It changed my life – I’d never been in a serious/professional musical context before, except for going to concerts and playing in school ensembles, and I suddenly realised just how much there was to learn about Classical music and also that it was accessible to me.

I will never forget how emotional I was when I realised I would be performing on stage at Sage Gateshead, let alone on stages abroad and as a principal oboist! Those first concerts in Hall Two and later Hall One made me start taking music more seriously and gave me confidence as a performer.

I was also very happy socially in Young Sinfonia, I made lots of quirky musical friends who made me feel accepted and confident and like I belonged there. The leaders were friendly and supportive and approachable while expecting high standards of behaviour and musicianship, so I think that helped too.

I think I might not have become a composer if it hadn’t been for Young Sinfonia – I remember deciding on my way home from the residential course in Sweden that I had to do music for the rest of my life, that I was happy spending every day on music, that I wanted to write music for the amazing performers I had met, that I could study music at university and start understanding more about what I was playing. I wrote my very first classical compositions for musicians I met through Young Sinfonia.

The only downside for me was that I wasn’t quite physically ready for that intensity of rehearsal, and ended up with an injury in my right arm due to poor posture and technique and compensating with the wrong muscles while playing oboe. I am passionate about young people learning more about how to be well and healthy as musicians. Ironically, this injury meant I became a composer rather than an oboist, but I think that was the best outcome for me!
Is your family musical?

Yes my older sister is an amateur guitarist, singer, bassoonist and pianist. My brother doesn’t play music but he loves listening to it and has a very musical and creative ear. I started playing the piano when I was five because I was envious of my big sister taking her ABRSM grade 2 piano!

Tell us about where you’re from and where you are now?
My parents have moved around the North East but have been up here for over 30 years, including Heaton (where I was born), Fenham, Battle Hill in Wallsend, Durham, and next Whitley Bay.

I moved to Manchester to study for my Masters in Composition at RNCM, having done my undergrad in Music at Oxford. I applied for university when I was at Whitley Bay High School, and was very unsure about Oxbridge but was encouraged and supported by staff there. When I was younger I didn’t always want to do A-levels, let alone a degree – I wanted to drop out of school and start a business! I’m self-employed now, so I think that’s where that came from…

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