Blake Cutler was a prominent member of the BYO for many years, and we are delighted to have had the opportunity to catch up with him and learn where life has taken him.

When did you play with the BYO?

I began with BYO in Year 7 when I was at a different school and would drive over to Bello each Thursday afternoon. I moved to Bellingen High in Year 8 and continued with BYO until I finished school. After that, I made some occasional reappearances during my final teaching placement at Bellingen High and when I was briefly teaching in NSW.

What instrument/s do you play?

When people ask me this, I say, “I did my music degree in Classical Clarinet performance,” but I feel that I didn’t play clarinet that often with BYO. More often, I was on percussion, oboe, or conducting the orchestra alongside Annie. Beyond BYO, my mix of instruments also included some piano, saxophone, and viola (much to Liam’s entirely justified dismay).

Where could we find you now? 

I’m now living in Melbourne and loving every minute of it. I initially spent some time teaching music across a few different schools and ended up settling in a lovely primary school, teaching classroom music for Prep-Grade 2 students. After a few years, I made the shift to educational research and joined a 5-year project looking at how educators work with research in their practice.

You can now find me (thankfully) nearing a full draft of my second co-authored book, which summarizes that 5-year research effort, and writing my PhD thesis about how educators use research when working with queer young people.

What was your most memorable moment with the orchestra? 

There are many performances that are memorable for me: Rhapsody in Blue, 1812 Overture, Grieg Piano Concerto, and when I made my conducting debut, to name a few.

But the moments I often think about came before these concerts. Annie would have an ambitious idea and say, “I’m thinking about doing [insert ambitious idea]. What do you think?” Everyone would immediately spring into action. In no time at all, we’d have the logistics, the music, the plan, and the rehearsals underway. These moments were a masterclass in making what seemed impossible possible.

What is on your playlist this week? 

My playlist is very much a mix of anything (much to the confusion of my Spotify algorithm). At the moment, I’m enjoying:

  • Some Jazz with Cory Wong;
  • Various Alt/Indie bands including The Hails and Royel Otis;
  • A little pop with FIZZ, AJR, and Philip Labes;
  • There’s also a bit of Will and Esther’s “Gimme Gimme” in there for good measure.

I also have the Cabaret recording on near-constant repeat after seeing the London production earlier this year. It immediately shot to the top of my ‘Best Shows’ list.

What was the best thing you took away from the BYO? 

For me, BYO epitomizes the beauty and power of music in regional areas. When I got to university and would tell people about all the incredible concerts we put on, they immediately assumed I must have lived in a capital city. While I wish it wasn’t such a surprise when I told people it was in a small country town, it captures how there’s something really special in what BYO has achieved.

We have lots of new players every year. Do you have any advice for our young players?

Find folks who get you and your music both within and beyond BYO. In many ways, music can be very focused on yourself—you spend lots of time alone in practice rooms, trying to hone your individual craft. But I love music most when it is collective. From the little musical comedy trios and small just-for-fun ensembles we made at school, to the jazz bands and massive symphony orchestras I played in at university, these are the musical moments that leave me feeling fueled and recharged.

What essential creative experience should we be adding to our ‘to do’ list this year?

Some people will roll their eyes, but I’m going to say rock climbing. While not traditionally seen as a creative activity, it is for me. There’s lots of problem-solving, experimentation with movement, and creativity in how you complete a route. It’s been a wonderful creative experience for me, with a great community too.

If you could travel to one place in 2024, where would it be?

Japan has been at the top of my list for a very long time. While 2024 is looking unlikely, my fingers are crossed for 2025.

More than just an orchestra
More than just music

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