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Sunday, 26 November 2017 12:30 am

Month of fame for ex-orchestra member Vicki Jones

vicki400THE last month has been a thrill ride for Vicki Jones.

After an appearance on TV1 and winning a South Wairarapa Civic Award, she said November was her month of fame.

The former New Zealand Symphony Orchestra double bass player was interviewed for TV1’s This Town which aired late last month.

The show followed Vicki while she taught at her local church homework club.

She also now plays for the elderly, teaches high school students to play instruments and runs her own choir since leaving the NZSO

“All that stuff just feels good to me to be doing that,” she said during her interview on This Town.

Her time dedicated to spreading her musical knowledge also landed her an award last month.

Vicki said a “cheeky friend” nominated her for an award for services to arts and culture which she won.

“That was very nice and put a big smile on my face,” she said.

Vicki and her husband Ed Allen, who is also an ex-orchestra member, found their Martinborough home in the mid 90’s.

The pair, who met in the orchestra, were only looking for a weekend home but decided Wairarapa living was for them.

They ended up commuting for about 17 years to their jobs in the NZSO.

“Even though it was only going to be for the weekends we just liked it that much,” Vicki said.

“This just became home.”

Their home, where they have lived for over a decade, clearly belongs to the two artists as a grand piano is sat in the living room near Vicki’s double bass and shelves of books.

Ed, who played the horn in the NZSO and also recently retired, said the commute got difficult at times.

“Logistics of bass and horn transport could get complicated but over all we enjoyed our time together in the orchestra,” he said.

The city to country move was a change for Vicki and she said there are some differences.

“I notice people live on top of each other in the city and they are really close together,” she said.

In the Wairarapa the two musicians can play their instruments as loud as they like.

“It was really really good for us because I can go right down the far end of the house and Ed can play his horn at this end and we don’t even hear each other,” she said.

”It’s so peaceful here and I can practice without any interruptions. I just like having a lot of space. It’s pretty greedy for two people to have this much space.”

Vicki called herself a “country bumpkin” and said she prefers the country lifestyle at this time in her life.

“I just like the peacefulness and you can really feel the seasons. For me it’s a lot more fun than the city.”

“The city for me, it’s kind of lost its appeal but I think if you’re younger this could be boring,” she said.

Vicki and Ed both agreed living in the rural area was “perfect for this time of our life”.

However, traveling to larger places and coming home to the Wairarapa is a contrast Vicki enjoys.

“I do like really big cities. I like going to London and Paris and then being able to come back here. I like the extremes.”

Recently, the pair travelled around Europe for a large bike race around France Ed was in.

“We went to Spain, France, Italy and Switzerland so we saw lots of big places but it was so good to come back here,” she said.

For Vicki, coming back to Martinborough means getting back into teaching and volunteering work.

“I do some voluntary stuff. I teach at the homework after school club at the church next door. I teach at Kuranui, Waicol and Rathkeale. I teach cello, bass and piano,” she said.

Vicki also holds a choir on Tuesday nights.

“It’s stuff that I wouldn’t do if I was in a big city where there are people who are much better at teaching choirs or much better at teaching piano than me,” she said of her work.

Since there aren’t that many music teachers in the area, it means Vicki gets more opportunities to do part time work.

Ed agreed the opportunities are different in the country compared to living in the city.

“Living in a rural community is a big change from the city environment. Mostly for the better but the opportunities are much different,” he said.

Vicki studied at Victoria University where she gained a bachelor’s degree in arts and music majoring in French, German and cello performance. After graduating, she taught at the university for many years.

While she enjoys teaching younger children, she said it is “like a completely different career”.

“I taught bass at the university for quite a long time so I was teaching much older quite advanced kids. For me now, it’s like a completely different career really,” she said.

Despite the difference, she still gets excited by her work and the progress children make.

“There is just a few that really like it and are quite keen and practice and everything. I find that kind of exciting. I’m sort of imagining how far they might go.”

Vicki recalled how far she went in the orchestra industry including becoming sub-principal bass in 1993 for the NZSO. This position is the number two bass player in the section where seven others play.

She also said attending “the legendary” Gary Karr’s bass camps in Canada four times was another of her favourite achievements.

A spokesperson from the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra said the “valued member of the double bass section” was a part of some of the orchestra’s recent highlights.

“Victoria was part of the orchestra for the very successful 2010 International tour in which the highlight was the NZSO’s performance at Vienna’s ‘Golden Hall’ the Musikverein,” they said.

Vicki said another high point was switching from cello to bass in 1977, a year before she started her 34 year career in the orchestra.

The decision to swap instruments came during a time of feminism, she said.

“It was like cello, what a sissy little instrument.”

During her time in the orchestra, Vicki said she was the only woman full time bass player among seven men.

“Generally speaking this sort of ‘guy instruments’ thing, it absolutely shouldn’t be but it’s sort of a bit like that,” she said.

She said that some fellow orchestra members did not understand her leaving.

To that Vicki said, “thirty years, that’s a pretty good amount of time.”

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