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DSO: Master Series II

New Darwin Symphony Orchestra (DSO) artistic director and chief conductor Jonathan Tooby conducts his first concert at this year’s Darwin Festival. 

Welcome to the DSO, Jonathon! Can you tell us a bit about your journey  to us?
I’ve always heard great things about the DSO and have been to Darwin twice before as a cellist, but it was my transition into conducting that ultimately led me here. I started playing cello at 11 and have spent the bulk of my 30-year music career as a professional cellist. But 11 years ago I took the crazy, winding road to conducting. Over the last few years it’s really begun to pay off and I’ve done some fabulous concerts and productions with the West Australian Symphony Orchestra. When I saw this position advertised it seemed like the obvious next step.

How did you end up playing cello  at such a young age?
I started at Darlington Primary School in Perth. It was part of the instrumental music program, which offered instrumental lessons to students at the school in year two. Asked would I like to play an instrument I said yes, and was ushered along with a few others to a room with a violin, a cello and a bass for us to try. Someone was already trying the violin and making a god awful noise, so that was right out of the question. Then there was the bass, almost twice my size, and I remember thinking it was quite silly really. Then I saw the cello and, without playing it, just said ‘I want that one’. I call it my Goldilocks moment; it was ‘just right’. I laugh a lot now because my older brother took up the double bass a year later – he wanted it because it was bigger than mine. Don’t get me wrong, the double bass is an important instrument in the orchestra, but I still think it’s quite silly. My brother Mark is an excellent professional bassist but I can’t help but chuckle whenever I see him carrying it around or getting it into the car.

Will you be looking for opportunities to play in Darwin?
I love my cello – a lovely 200-year-old Tyrolean cello – so much, and I know I will play it for as long as I am able. It has taken me all over the world and I have had so many memorable experiences with it. Any opportunity to play in Darwin will be a no brainer for me, particularly chamber music. I would love to build a chamber music series in Darwin or even an international chamber music competition.

What else are you looking forward to about living and working here?
I have known a number of players who have worked with the DSO over the years and all I have ever heard is great things, including the sense of community, the touring, the outreach, the amazing volunteer base and of course the amazing performances they deliver, all of which I’m looking forward to being part of immensely. I’m also keen to catch a barramundi and maybe a mud crab or two.
Can you tell us about the show you’re conducting during the Darwin Festival this month?
Opening the show will be Danzón No. 2 by Marquez – a Latin American work – so it’s festive and fun and a real crowd pleaser. Then we’ll have DSO concertmaster Monica Naselow perform Mozart’s 4th violin concerto, showing off what a remarkable musician she is. The concert ends with the New World Symphony by Dvorak, a giant in the symphonic repertoire full of hope and optimism and one of the most stunning slow movements ever written. As the new chief conductor I feel like I’m starting out on a journey with the DSO much like Dvorak did when he went to the USA where he wrote this piece.

Sat 25 Aug | 7.30pm | Darwin Convention Centre | See the event listing

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