Aaron Wyatt: Viola Performer, Conductor and Academic (Victoria by way of Western Australia)

“It’s just been a far more varied career than I thought it would be, which is good because it keeps things fresh and interesting.”

Perth-raised and now Melbourne based viola player, Aaron Wyatt has worked across a variety of roles for over a decade in the music industry. Undertaking a range of teaching, casual orchestral work, and conducting community ensembles roles has seen this Indigenous musician develop a unique perspective of working across the classical, chamber and new music sectors.

Having begun playing the violin at age five, and undertaken private music lessons and appreciation courses through his childhood, Aaron initially studied science and engineering at university, before switching to music at the end of his first year,

“I couldn’t imagine not being involved in orchestras and ensembles […] I just couldn’t see music not being a fairly major part of my life.”

 

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(Photo: Nik Babic Photography)

Conducting work, particularly that which engages with community orchestras, has grown to become a central, but unexpected, component of Aaron’s work (“there’s been a lot more in the conducting side of things that I never would have expected to have happened”). As Aaron explains, his teaching work is one role which he particularly values, explaining,

“I think most important for a musician, if they can teach, should teach, just because it gives so much back to the next generation of musicians and I think it’s a very important role to have.”

With over a decade’s experience teaching and casual performance engagements, Aaron explains that one of the biggest challenges he has faced has been balancing his schedule, and in ensuring he can financially sustain himself during periods of little work:

“There’s always those times where there’s really not a lot to do comparatively, so there’s always that build-up to just try and save as much as possible knowing that you need to survive for a few months without necessarily much of an income; and there are other times when all the work seems to come at once.”

With such a diverse portfolio of roles, and a particularly strong engagement with freelance-based engagements, Aaron explains that making time for self-care is vital:

“There are times where it does get a bit much, especially when there’s major productions, [you need to] make sure you still remember to schedule time for things like getting dinner, or sleeping, those small essentials.”

With so many things on the go – and a particularly high reliance on contract-based work – Aaron explains that he has found himself having to spend considerably large amounts of time on administration, which can become particularly frustrating:

“When a whole of bunch people just haven’t gotten around to paying that becomes annoying then having to waste otherwise productive time chasing people up […] It’s little things like that could cause burnout in the freelance world.”

Having studied a Bachelor of Music, an Honours degree, and being part way through a PhD, Aaron says that administration skills were one aspect missing from his training,

“In terms of working out all the admin side of stuff or working out what you have to do for invoicing and tax purposes and all that kind of thing, that was a very much learning-while-doing, a baptism of fire […] I suddenly found myself struggling with [that].”

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(Photo: Nik Babic Photography)

The structure of Aaron’s day-to-day music career, being based around performances, and contract work, has meant that he has worked through sickness, which has seen him also need to be flexible in making up time taken off,

“I’ve never taken a call off […] I’ve just kept going. And teaching, because I only teach a day or two a week, if I’ve been sick, I’ve at least had the flexibility of just be able to shift my teaching day.”

Reflecting on his time within Perth’s music community, Aaron explains that one of the biggest challenges he experienced was being able to access professional development opportunities due to the city’s isolation. Of particular interest have been conductor training programs (“the biggest problem with conducting is that the only way to get better is to do it”), as he explains,

“There used to be a program for conductors around the country to actually get podium time with professional orchestras, but now it kind of doesn’t exist […] state orchestras run their own programs and often there haven’t really been programs in place to take over from that.”

Aaron expects that a recent relocation to Melbourne in order to take up a full-time academic post will afford him an ease of access to undertake further professional development opportunities, while also affording him sick and holiday leave entitlements as well as a regular salary:

“I’m looking forward to that as a nice change and not having to worry about any invoices, and not having to worry about having money that regularly appears. Actually, the biggest things are things like just having sick leave and all those sorts of benefits that you don’t get as a casual.”