Proving passion and work can collide when the timing is right
Hesitant to commit to pursuing music full-time, Parkville resident Stuart Riley explored various careers before finding his way into Orchestra Victoria.
A dedicated musician since his youth, Mr Riley started playing the cello at the age of eight before moving on to the bass at age 17.
Despite music being a big part of his life, the Manchester-born musician’s uncertainty around job security led him to pursue a vast range of careers in civil engineering, consulting, marketing and software development.
Choosing to keep music as a hobby, he educated himself through private lessons, performing in professional music gigs around his career at the time. And while the decision to not study and pursue a passion full-time is a hard choice for many creative artists, Mr Riley was happy with the path he chose.
“I’ve always had this dilemma between music which I love and am good at, and the job security, income side of it. I’ve been lucky enough to leave it till later in life when I can afford to be a musician,” he said.
Now the principal double bass player for Orchestra Victoria, Mr Riley believes moving to Australia in 1996 with his wife of 31 years was the right move for both of their professions.
Successful in his music career, he has not only had the chance to record music for The Australian Ballet, perform at the MCG and record soundtracks for films but has also dedicated time to helping educate and teach passionate bass students.
Now comfortable enough in Melbourne to call it “home”, Mr Riley and his wife have lived in Parkville for the majority of their time within the state.
And while COVID restrictions and lockdowns made working for Orchestra Victoria impossible, Mr Riley has remained adamant to find the positives.
“I always tried to motivate myself by convincing myself that lockdown is not this terrible prison but rather a wonderful opportunity where we as busy people have the luxury of time,” he said.
I’ve been using the time to learn new skills. I’ve been practicing the piano, fixing some technical things with my double bass playing and learning some software for my bird photography.
Grateful to have Royal Park and Princes Park within his five-kilometre radius, Mr Riley has been able to soak up some sunshine and fresh air, all the while focusing on his newfound hobby of birdwatching.
But as positive as nature has been in focusing on mindfulness, the moment of reuniting with his beloved bass, which was left inside his work building, was enough to bring “a little tear” to his eye.
Keen to get back into the building and prepare to tour with The Teskey Brothers next year, Mr Riley said Orchestra Victoria was focused on a gradual return-to-work process.
And while a certain date of when Orchestra Victoria’s music could be enjoyed again is uncertain, he is keen to get a head start on practicing alongside other musicians, organising 30-minute concerts for live audiences on Storey St in Parkville.
Referring to the concerts as a “sunset series”, the first cello-bass duet took place on November 2.
“The aim of these little concerts is to get us playing again for our audiences who really want to hear some live music and to help our freelance musicians who have really suffered financially the last two years,” he said.
While the Kammermusik events will be free, there will be an option for audiences to raise money for musicians impacted financially due to no paid work.
Excited at the prospect of the event, Mr Riley is also currently organising future events to share with audiences on the Kammermusik Facebook page •