Q&A with Karen Heath

We posed a few questions to NPCO clarinetist/woodwind multi-instrumentalist Karen Heath, ahead of her duo concert with Gemma Turvey for the first of our NPCO Essence Series at Melbourne Recital Centre on April 23rd. ¬†Some things even we didn’t know about her!…


Q. What made you choose the clarinet/how long have you been playing?

A. This is a funny story actually. The reason I ended up on clarinet at the age of twelve after taking lessons on violin, flute and organ is because the head of music at my school, a clarinetist, decided she wanted to teach me and thought I ought to swap to clarinet. At the time, I was taking lessons on flute and was about to get braces on my teeth! The head of music, Sally, told me that unfortunately, you can’t play flute with braces, so I had better swap to clarinet. Years later she told me she made this up – you could indeed play flute with braces, she just wanted me to play clarinet! She apologised, but I thought the whole thing was awesome. I am of course eternally grateful to her, because it set me on a fantastic journey that might not have happened for me otherwise. We are friends even to this day and catch up whenever we can. In fact, just the other day, I gave her son a lesson on bass clarinet, and even found myself using some of the same teaching methods as Sally did in my lessons!


Q. Of all the instruments you play, which is your favourite?

A. It really seems to be the one that I’m playing at the time – that’s my favourite!


Q. Where did you study?

A. I studied my Bachelor of Music and honours, Bachelor of Education and Master of Arts in Music Performance at Monash University under Peter Handsworth, Philip Miechel and Robert Schubert. I went to Germany and took lessons with Wolfgang Meyer and Suzanne Stephens.


Q. What/who is your chief inspiration?

A. That’s a tricky question. I guess the best I can answer this would be to say the joy of expression.


Q. Favourite place in Melbourne? 

A. I am really getting into Bikram Yoga again at the moment. It’s such a great way to wind down and release, but yet increases your focus and strength at the same time. So right now, I’d have to say my favourite place is the Bikram Yoga Studio on Johnson Street in Fitzroy!


Q. Any pre-performance habits or superstitions?

A. Just to breathe slowly and deeply before walking on stage, and to try to practise so much beforehand that you’re able to forget about actually playing your instrument. The focus shouldn’t be on the craft but the art when you’re performing!


Hear Karen and Gemma in the first of our NPCO Essence duo concerts on Thursday April 23rd 6pm at Melbourne Recital Centre Salon. Buy tickets>