One of our longest-serving, current members takes a moment to look back on her time in WAYO before heading off on an international adventure! Her thirteen-year-long journey with us has taken her across many Western Australian and International stages, culminating in a Perth Concert Hall swan song on Sunday 5 June, 2022. Breanna Fernandes had her start on violin at the age of seven on the Fremantle Town Hall stage, playing such classics as The Nutcracker (Tchaikovsky), Hungarian Folksongs (Bartók) and Menuetto from Symphony No. 39 (Mozart). It was onwards and upwards from her 2007 Sinfonietta beginnings, spending time in Collegium and Philharmonic before joining the ranks of the WA Youth Orchestra in 2016. In this same year, Breanna became the custodian of the eminent Henry Pether Scholarship violin (pictured) which she has played for the past six years.

The musical experiences she has collected over her time with us are diverse and colourful, from performing classic masterpieces under international conductors (Tze Law Chan, Vladimir Verbitsky, Benjamin Northey), collaborating with renowned superstars across disciplines (Tim Minchin, Little Birdy, The Waifs) and through cultural exchange (Don Nunggarrgalu, Richard Walley, Vickneswaran Ramakrishnan). We are proud to have played a part in her musical journey and thank her for her joyful contribution to the WAYO family. Breanna shares some of her best memories in Take Five below!

What inspired you to learn an instrument?
I’m not too sure where my exact inspiration to start learning an instrument came from but to be completely honest, I was 6 when I first picked up a violin and I chose it because it looked like the coolest instrument in the store! In all seriousness though, I am so privileged to have an extremely supportive mother that has always encouraged me to give everything a go at least once. When 6-year-old me told her that I wanted to play music, she was the one who drove me to the store to pick out an instrument, and then drove me to all my lessons for years. She inspired me to keep learning violin even when it got really tough, and I could not be more grateful for it.

Who is your favourite composer? What is your favourite piece?
Tchaikovsky. 110%. I don’t think I’m exaggerating when I say I’m his biggest fan. I have way too many orchestral favourites, but Tchaik 4 is very close to my heart because it was the very first piece I ever played in WAYO. Quite literally actually, I have a vivid memory of showing up to my first ever WAYO rehearsal absolutely terrified sitting at the very back of the strings and the first thing Pete says was “Okay, Tchaik 4, last movement” and starts conducting without any introductions. It was truly a shocking, yet great, welcoming to WAYO (if you know the symphony you will know EXACTLY what I mean). It was also the last thing we played on the WAYO Japan/Singapore tour and listening to it brings back such nostalgic and fond memories. Rachmaninov 2 and Mahler 1 are also big favourites – come to think of it they’re all from my first year at WAYO!

Breanna Fernandes and the Henry Pether Scholarship violin

What has been the highlight of playing in WAYO?
In terms of a specific event, the Japan/Singapore tour was absolutely one of the best musical experiences I’ve ever had. Being able to play with such talented musicians both in and out of WAYO not only grew my technical skills immensely but it was just so much fun, and I have so many great memories from that trip. Playing with international conductors during the July seasons and Verdi’s Requiem were also major standouts. In general, having the opportunity to play huge and amazing works has been one of the best parts of WAYO. It has always been a unique experience going from that first rehearsal thinking ‘there is absolutely no way I am ever going to be able to play this piece’ to actually managing to play (most of) the notes by the concert and being able to participate in the communication of these amazing works to the audience. Another huge highlight has been all the amazing people I have met and encountered – I’ve truly made. lifelong friends from my time in WAYO orchestras.

Do you have a favourite conductor quote? A favourite Pete moment?
My favourite Pete moment was when he surprised us all mid-concert on tour and pulled out a Harry Potter wand to conduct! I think choosing one singular quote from Pete is way too difficult though, and even though he is the master of the ‘dad joke’, I have also really loved listening to all of his stories about his life and experiences. Another favourite conductor moment I can remember was when the bird sounds played a bit too loudly during the Pines of Rome concert, and Chris Dragon couldn’t contain his laughter!

Where to from here?
It has always been a huge dream of mine to live in Germany and I finally have the opportunity to study there for the next year. Even though this means I’ll sadly be leaving WAYO after playing in these orchestras for so long, I am quite excited to take the next step in my future International Relations and Law career by gaining this international experience. I’m not quite too sure where I’ll be in the long-term, but I am hoping to continue studying and living in Germany, while also taking every possible opportunity to play music of course!

All of us at WAYO wish Breanna the best of luck on her next adventure, and look forward to witnessing a very bright future indeed ♡