Exciting to capture a brief insight into the world of BYO Alumni, Esther Henderson. Alongside Nitida Atkinson, they formed the dynamic duo known as ‘Don’t Thank Me, Spank Me! Esther and Nitida have crafted a sound that promises to captivate audiences and leave a lasting impression on the Melbourne music scene. Esther is also found playing violin with other bands around Melbourne, including her band with her brother Will ‘Gimme Gimme!’ as well as one of my personal favourites  ‘TEK TEK Ensemble’.

When did you play with the BYO?

 I played with BYO from its inception until 2010.

 What instrument/s do you play?

I play violin, electric bass, guitar and sing.  Through teaching I have also learned how to play basic things on cello.

Where could we find you now? 

I live in Thornbury, Melbourne now. Melbourne has been my home for the last 11 years. I teach violin and cello 3 days a week, rehearse on Fridays with my band Don’t Thank Me Spank Me, and on the weekends I play violin with various bands around Melbourne. I also arrange and record strings for different projects from my home studio, and record things for mine and Will’s band ‘Gimme Gimme’ so we can make music together from afar. last 11 years. I teach violin and cello 3 days a week, rehearse on Fridays with my band ‘Don’t Thank Me Spank Me’, and on the weekends I play violin with various bands around Melbourne. I also arrange and record strings for different projects from my home studio. 

 What was your favourite memorable moment with the orchestra? 

I loved playing Porgy and Bess, and spending time with my friends Suzanne and Robert Sherrington during orchestra breaks and all the musical jokes we would come up with with Annie also. For example, at one point we worked out the stand for the Wenger music stands was called the ‘Wenger Wenger Stand Stand’ at from that moment on we always called it that. It’s not that funny in writing… but I loved those silly in jokes that made life more fun! I also looked forward to the afternoon tea spread that parents brought in!! 

What is on your playlist this week? 

– ‘Gonna Die Alone’ by Hanni El Khatib – found it watching a series called Laudermilk that has a great soundtrack of pop songs from the 90s/2000s.

– ‘Dear Gina’ by Kadhja Bonet – my brother Will put me onto her. This track is magical. Kadhja Bonet is a string player and records/arranges her own strings as well as produces her own music. She’s worth checking out. 

– ‘Future Lover’ by The Sacred Souls – another magical track.

– ‘Yama Yama’ by Yamasuki – found it on my Spotify discover weekly. It’s faux Japanese psychedelic rock (what does that even mean?! Lol!) from an album released in 1971. One writer/producer was French/Jewish Daniel Vangarde who is interestingly the father of one of the members of Daft Punk. The other writer/producer is Belgian, Jean Kluger. They became obsessed with Japanese musical aesthetic and taught a French children’s choir to sing in Japanese for the album that this track comes from, with the help of a Japanese Judo master to teach and record alongside them. Anyway! This track is awesome, and the album Le Monde Fableux Yamasuki is a strange and cool piece of psychedelic history. I don’t think you could get away with taking so much inspiration/aesthetic/language from a culture that you’re not part of nowadays, but I really love this track. 

‘Chains’ by Tina Arena – love her voice, love the pop sensibility from 1994, love it’s cheesiness and simplicity and how epic it is. I heard it on the radio yesterday! 

‘Jealous Guy’ by Donny Hathaway – such a great song and Donny Hathaway is one of my favourite singers of all time

‘Bolero’ by Django Reinhardt – this is my favourite Django tune for sure

‘Deep Down Body Thirst’ by N.E.R.D. – I love this band. 

‘Consideration’ by Rhianna and SZA – this song is about music industry guys making all the money and taking cred for what female artists do. 

‘Mortal’ by Baby Rose – this track is beautiful and epic and is close to my heart!!

‘Mother Beautiful’ by Sly and the Family Stone – I love the strings in this track (in the whole album too) and the track is about mothers being the best, which is 100% true ❤️ 

‘Aguas De Marco’ by Eli’s Regina and Jobim – it is pure joy!!! The music video is a must watch also.

This list is accidentally huge!! 😱 (That’s ok Esther. We LOVE new and old music suggestions!)

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

I think that playing orchestral music, in fact ANY music in a large group is an incredible experience, especially when you’re young!!! The vibrations in the air, the range of sounds that an orchestra can make, the friends that you make, the skills that your pickup etc etc, all help your heart feel things and switch your brain on. I loved being in BYO and have much to thank the incredible Annie Phelan for, and all the amazing teachers like my mum Lizzie Scott and Barbara Trist that gave their time for free (this would never happen in the city) for so many years building the music community around BYO. 

We have lots of new players every year … do you have any advice for our young players?

Yes! I was never a super strong reader but if I listened to the repertoire I was learning in orchestra and in my 1 on 1 lessons I learned much faster and way more fun doing so because I felt a connection to the music through familiarity with it. This would be my main piece advice. Closely followed by watching the conductor and listening to the cellos/basses to stay in time. 

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

I’m not sure! There are so many ways to connect to creativity and all are right if you get something for them… hmm. Maybe asking your parents for their top 10 favourite songs and listening to them with headphones on in one sitting to understand more about their love of music?! I might do that. I have always wanted to play a piece in an orchestra that moves through chords really slowly, making a sound bath. It’s not about fast notes or groovy rhythms, just about being inside harmony and texture on a large scale. This seems like a beautiful creative experience to me. I went to Bali a few years ago with ‘Tek Tek’ ensemble and my favourite memory was sitting in the crowd in the humid night air watching two duelling Gamelan ensembles made up of women only. In the past the ensembles would curse each other through their music (spooky!!) but it was outlawed I’m not sure how long ago. The sound and textures of both ensembles was incredible, and I think everyone could feel the magic happening. This was a kind of sound bath, but then again, every performance can be if you’re in the right headspace to listen like that.

If you could travel to one place in 2024 

I would travel to Japan for the mochi, baths, the OTT rock n roll scene and to see beautiful Japanese design in everything. 

Check out Esther and Will’s band ‘Gimme Gimme’ here.



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