Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Jonathan O'Brien - violin music by the campfire

A little night music . . . Jonathan O'Brien plays Brahms Hungarian Dance No. 5 by the light of the campfire and (what looks like) the full moon (but is actually a speck of dust caught in thecamera flash) to colleagues in a mining exploration team camp in a very remote tent camp in the Northern Territory, about 80km from Wollogorang homestead. The exploration team consisted of two geologists, a metallurgist, an aboriginal field assistant and the cook.

Jonathan O'Brien graduated with a Bachelor of Creative Arts degree in Music from USQ in 1994.

He feels greatly privileged to have known and studied under Associate Professor Peter Rorke OAM, founding Head of the music programme at USQ, and he has very fond memories of all the members of the music lecturing staff, the ancillary staff, and his fellow music students.

Studying music at USQ was a very positive experience for him.

In early 1995 after graduating he travelled to Kuching, Sarawak, where he worked as a musician and teacher for four months before returning to Australia to begin bridging courses in Mathematics and Chemistry.

He was accepted into a science degree at QUT in 1996, and graduated with the degree of Bachelor of Applied Science, majoring in geology, in 1999.

By the time he was completing his final year of the science degree there had been a downturn in the industry and jobs were in short supply.

Within a week of graduating he was offered a job, not as a geologist, but as a music teacher.

He accepted it, and for several years taught instrumental music, mostly in the north Brisbane and Caboolture area, and also in Toowoomba, Pittsworth and Oakey.

Since 2006 prospects in the field of geology have improved so Jonathan has left teaching and is now working as a geologist, putting his science degree to good use.

He gets to travel to some very remote and wild places sometimes.

He takes his violin with him on trips afield and keeps up with his regular practice.

Jon sends greetings and best wishes to all USQ friends and colleagues.
Jon can be contacted by email at

Monday, September 14, 2009

Andrew Finden to sing with State Opera of Nuremberg

One of Toowoomba’s best young operatic singers returned to perform in Toowoomba in August 2009 at a lunchtime recital at USQ.

Toowoomba audiences first saw Warwick-born teenager Andrew Finden on stage when he was 14, in USQ’s production of Mozart’s opera The Magic Flute.

Andrew’s talent was spotted by Peter Rorke who was adjudicating the Warwick Eisteddfod and suggested the boy should have singing lessons.

Andrew learnt singing with Delith Brooke during his high school years, joining in the chorus for the annual USQ opera seasons.

Once at University, he learnt singing with Arthur Johnson during his Bachelor of Music at USQ, winning the prestigious Joyce Campbell Lloyd overseas study scholarship which enabled him to take singing lessons in London in 2005.

He returned to Australia to complete a graduate diploma in Opera from the Sydney Conservatorium and won an overseas performance scholarship to sing in Tel Aviv, Israel, last year.

His career was then fast-tracked when he won a $52,000 scholarship from the Guildhall School of Music in 2006 to undertake a Master of Music in London which he completed in July this year.

During his time in London Andrew also sang in an opera in London under the baton of another former USQ music student Stephen Moore, who is a repetiteur and assistant conductor at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden.

Andrew has returned to Australia to visit his family before returning to Europe to take up a young performers program with the State Opera of Nuremberg in Germany.

“When I left Toowoomba I was probably na├»ve to believe I would succeed in such a competitive field. I was thrown in the deep end but my career has turned out the way I’d hoped,” he said.

“It might seem surprising that students from a small regional university can excel in such a competitive international field but the quality of music teaching at USQ meant anything was possible for graduates,” he said.

Andrew performed a lunchtime recital of German and English songs with Senior Lecturer in Music Dr Phillip Gearing.