Veronique Serret: Violinist (New South Wales)

“I don’t think I thought it would be this good.”

Sydney-based violinist Veronique Serret has carved out a dynamic career working across classical, chamber and contemporary musical genres. With her sights originally set on becoming a diplomat, Veronique studied law before switching to a Bachelor of Music degree. Reflecting on the initial decision-making process:

“Everyone was, like, “you’re going to play the violin”, which was super annoying! I just wanted to do something else.”

Veronique has found that the time she spent in youth orchestras and in the youth development programs offered by the Australian Youth Orchestra and the Australian National Academy of Music assisted in the development of her dynamic career in music. This is a career in which she has been able to work across classical, chamber and contemporary music and genres. Explaining her practice she says:

“I used to only play classical violin. I still do some of that […] I’ve still tried to keep that because for me, it keeps my chops up, and it’s also a different kind of accuracy and some of that music I still really enjoy. But for me, it came to a point where I needed to be creative as well.”

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(Photo: Supplied)

Having initially performed predominantly in orchestras, which she did for 15 years, Veronique’s career is now largely made up of performing on a sessional basis in both recorded and live music settings. Reflecting on the shift in focus she explains:

“As amazing as any orchestral job is, and a lot safer in terms of just being able to survive, I just felt like I needed to do other things – and also just work with people on my terms, which is not how it really works in an orchestra.”

Networks have played a critical role in the development and sustainability of Veronique’s career as she has continued to diversify—”I think my career’s developed only through that” use of networks—while also allowing her to contract other musicians for recording- and performance-specific orchestras. Having carved out a unique niche for herself, Veronique is confident in taking creative risks, and trusted to do so by those she works with. As she reflects:

“If you work slightly outside the box, people expect you to be taking creative risks, and so, even though it might be frowned upon at first […] I feel like a lot of things I do, people expect that. So I just more push it until I’m told not to, ‘cos otherwise why do it? That’s what people want.”

 

Veronique admits that it can be difficult to balance her myriad engagements and also maintain friendships (“important things, like friends’ birthdays and weddings and stuff like that, often you’re away and people stop making the effort”); however, she now ensures that she takes time off. While initially slow to take time away from her work, she explains that time away also provides her with the opportunity to get away from the city:

“Until about five years ago I never took chunks of time off, and I think that’s a very violin thing, where you just think, “Oh, I’m not going to be able to play if I take like a month off”, or something. But now, if I can afford to, I try and do it every year. Also, for me, playing music is a city activity and it’s so important to get out into the bush [the countryside]….] At the end of last year I took six weeks off, and it was fine. And I started doing—I like doing treks. I do things where you can’t take your violin anyway.”

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(Photo: Supplied)

Working across genres in venues and recording spaces of varying size, scope and capacity, has provided Veronique with a unique perspective of the challenges which exist for Sydney’s local music sector. She identifies the closure of recording studios and small-to-medium sized venues as being of particular concern:

“When you do small ensemble work, or small band things, that’s more interesting to me … I feel you can touch people more that way, and so many of those venues are just getting lost.”

 

Making a living as a musician in Sydney is a particular challenge due to the high cost of living, which continues to rise and ultimately impacts the viability of careers in much the same way a reduction in recording and performance spaces limits affordable opportunities. Veronique reflects,

“I just hope that some musicians can continue to live in Sydney. … For classical musicians that actually have jobs, it’s okay; but for anyone that’s not doing that, it’s actually becoming really, really quite difficult. A lot of people are starting to move out or looking for that possibility. It just would be such a shame.”