In love with the sound of his cello

  • Sound men: the joint winners of this year’s Menuhin Foundation Scholarship, Conor Hay, left, and Clark Jeffrey (Photograph by Blaire Simmons)

    Sound men: the joint winners of this year’s Menuhin Foundation Scholarship, Conor Hay, left, and Clark Jeffrey (Photograph by Blaire Simmons)

Clark Jeffrey’s love affair began seven years ago. It was then he had his first cello lessons with the Menuhin Foundation as part of a programme offered through Saltus Grammar School.

Six months later, he signed up for private classes with Menuhin teacher Alison Johnstone. He has been there ever since.

“As soon as I could, I joined the Menuhin First Orchestra,” the now 14-year-old said. “Menuhin has three orchestras.

“You start with the First,” Clark explained. “Then you go to [the Junior Orchestra] and then to the Youth Orchestra, where I am now.”

The Menuhin Foundation scholarship he received from the music charity this month was a bonus.

He shared the award with violinist Conor Hay.

“It never crossed by mind that I might win,” he laughed. “Mostly, I did it to get more comfortable playing in front of people, especially as a soloist.

“So I was kind of nervous doing it, mainly in one of my pieces, Sonata for Cello and Piano . I don’t normally get nervous, unless the piece has been giving me trouble.

“Ms Johnstone was accompanying me on the piano and there was a bit where the cello part was exposed and if I messed up, you would really hear it.

“It actually went quite well. I don’t think I messed up anywhere, but I was kind of happy it was over. When I found out I won, I was very surprised, and happy.”

The cello section leader for the Menuhin Youth Orchestra and the Saltus Senior Orchestra said he has stuck with the cello “mostly because of the sound of the instrument”.

“It has a large range of notes you can play and has a nice tonal quality, a very rich sound,” said Clark, who also plays the bass guitar and piano and sings in his school choir. “It’s not too hard to play. I like it.”

For the past two summers, the Year 10 Saltus student has received a boost from the National Music Camp of Canada, a music camp he has attended.

His hope is that next year he is able to inspire other students there. “The camp to me was really enjoyable both times I’ve gone,” he said. “It seems a fun experience to participate.

“They have counsellors who look after the other students and advise them and my main goal right now is to become a counsellor there. Once you’ve completed your grade exams you can become one.

“There are two types of counsellors at the camp: music counsellors and rec counsellors. Each cabin of campers is assigned one rec counsellor and one music counsellor.

“The music counsellors supervise the music activities and the rec counsellors supervise the rec activities.

“The counsellors look after the campers in the cabin and, at the end of the day, the music counsellors put on a concert for the campers.”

Meanwhile Conor, who this summer earned a distinction in the Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music Grade 8 exam with a mark of 141 out of 150, was thrilled to receive the Menuhin award for the second year running.

“It’s always a bit nerve-racking waiting for the results,” said the 16-year-old co-leader of the Menuhin Foundation Youth Orchestra. “It was nice to know that I’d been successful.”

He decided to try for the $750 scholarship again, on the back of his exam experience.

“I enjoy the violin and it’s nice to be able to prepare for something and work towards it,” said the Warwick Academy pupil who studies under Kerry Haslam at the Menuhin Foundation.

“It was nice to be able to perform some of the pieces again. They mentioned [the achievement] at school and I got a nice bit of recognition for it. It was nice to have recognition from them.”

In his final year of high school, Conor plans to continue with his music studies after he graduates.

In the meantime, he is working towards the ARSM, a performance-only diploma.

“I’m going to university next year to study law in the UK,” he said. “I’m looking at ones that have an orchestra I can play in because I find it a rewarding and enjoyable activity.”

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Published Dec 27, 2018 at 8:00 am (Updated Dec 27, 2018 at 8:20 am)

In love with the sound of his cello

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