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Phoebe Russell: “Playing Solo and Orchestral Music on the Double Bass Are Two Separate Kettles of Fish”


This interview with accomplished double bassist Phoebe Russell offers a comprehensive exploration of her musical journey, from the serendipitous initiation into the instrument at the age of eight to her current position as the principal double bassist in the Queensland Symphony Orchestra. Russell shares pivotal moments, such as her early exposure to the instrument through Gary Karr’s legendary performances and her decision to pursue a career as a bassist during her formative years under the guidance of teacher Damien Eckersley.

The narrative delves into Russell’s transformative experience in Germany, where she auditioned successfully for the Berlin Philharmonic, illustrating the challenges of adapting to a new cultural and professional environment. Russell emphasizes the significance of cohesive collaboration within the double bass section, drawing from her tenure with the Berlin Philharmonic and highlighting the integral role the section plays in shaping the symphonic sound. The discussion also touches on her subsequent return to Australia, joining the Queensland Symphony Orchestra, and the unique aspects of performing in different orchestral settings.

The interview further explores Russell’s multifaceted career, including her forays into solo and chamber music performance. She delineates her distinct approach to solo and orchestral playing, underscoring the nuanced techniques required for each. Russell expounds on her involvement with Ensemble Q, elucidating the diverse repertoire the group engages in and the profound influence of personal connections within the ensemble on her career, including collaborations with composer and director Paul Dean.

As an educator at the University of Queensland and the Queensland Conservatorium, Russell shares insights into her teaching philosophy, stressing the importance of resilience, hard work, and curiosity for aspiring musicians. The interview concludes with Russell offering valuable advice for students aspiring to pursue a career in music, emphasizing the enduring love for music as a guiding force amid challenges and setbacks.

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ISSN: 2792-8349

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International Journal of Music