The SSO's Associate Principal Oboist Shefali Pryor says: "Aim to be the broadest musician that you can be." Just a taste of the advice you'll get at our Vivid Ideas event

Shefali Pryor Music Love

As the countdown to Music Love's Vivid Ideas event Pathway to Platform continues, we have been interviewing the panellists to give everyone a head start on just how much gold there will be on Saturday 10 June in Sydney. (By the way, did you know The Sydney Morning Herald, Collective Hub, Broadsheet Sydney, Vice and Pedestrian TV have all highlighted our event as one to be at?). So far we have profiled Vicki Gordon, Jacqui Louez Schoorl, KLP, and our performers, Iluka, and Sophie Koh. Today, we bring you Shefali Pyror

Shefali holds the position of Associate Principal Oboe with the Sydney Symphony Orchestra.  She completed her studies at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music and Universität Mozarteum Salzburg and joined the orchestra as 2nd oboe in 2003 before being appointed to her current position in 2005.

Shefali has played extensively as guest principal with the Australian Chamber Orchestra, Melbourne Symphony Orchestra, Western Australian Symphony Orchestra, New Zealand and Auckland Symphony Orchestras.  She has performed as soloist with the Sydney, Melbourne, Tasmanian and Canberra Symphony Orchestras, including performances of double concerti by Bach and Vivaldi with Violinist Nigel Kennedy.  In 2015 Shefali premiered the concerto A Shaft ofLight by Alan Holley with the Sydney Symphony, a work written for her by the composer.

Shefali was twice a finalist in the Symphony Australia Young Performer awards, winning the Other instrumental category in 2006.  She is an active chamber musician, performing with the Australia Ensemble, Sculthorpe Quintet, Southern Cross Soloists, Sydney Soloists, and the staff of the Sydney Conservatorium where she teaches oboe.  Shefali is a director on the board of the Australian Youth Orchestra and has been involved with AYO on many occasions as tutor for various programs.  She is also the Artistic Director of SSO Vanguard, an innovative membership program for Gen X and Gen Y arts lovers who want to ensure a vibrant future for their orchestra. In this role, Shefali programs pop-up chamber music performances in unexpected venues around Sydney, challenging traditional perceptions of classical music.

Shefali will no doubt offer invaluable advice to everyone when she comes to present as a panellist for Music Love and Vivid Ideas. In the meantime, she took some time to offer Music Love a taster of her wisdom.

There are.... all the women that I work with day to day in the orchestra who manage to juggle all of the demands of life and then turn up to every performance to play with focus, dedication and passion.
— Shefali Pryor, Associate Oboe, Sydney Symphony Orchestra
Shefali Pryor, Music Love

What does music mean to you?

It’s a part of who I am, and I feel passionately that it’s an integral part of our society and community.  Music has been, and continues to be, a source of discovery, expression, communication and inspiration for me, and I just feel incredibly lucky to have grown up with it in my life!  My experiences as a musician have without doubt coloured who I am and how I see the world.

What does a typical day at the SSO look like?

Rehearsal days run from 10am til 4pm, although I’ll try to arrive at the Opera House by 9am to fix my reeds and cover any last minute preparation.  On the day of our first performance we’ll have a general rehearsal that morning to run through the program, and then a concert later that day or in the evening.  For the rest of the week we usually just have performances, with the days free to practice and prepare for what’s coming up next.  Each week there’s a new program, so there’s always something something to look ahead to. I love the variety.


When did you start playing the oboe?

At the start of high school.

What has been your most memorable performance to date?

That’s a tough one!  There have been so many... My first concert with the SSO stands out, as does a concert we played for children with profound disability when I was part of the SSO Sinfonia. Performing Schoenberg’s extraordinary work Gurrelieder in my final program with the Australian Youth Orchestra, and playing the offstage part in Berlioz’s Symphonie Fantastique  at the London Proms where I stood from high up in the top tier looking out over a packed Albert Hall.  It’s not always the big events that stand out, it can be working with inspirational conductors and soloists that make your jaw drop, or seeing a connection with a child or audience member that you know will stay with you both.

Shefali Pryor

What didn’t you expect when you started performing with orchestras? Something people may not realise from the outside looking in…..

I never expected that I would actually get a job!  But once I did, I don’t think I expected the emotional roller-coaster that comes with every single performance.  Some things get easier, but others get harder, and you never get to the point of feeling like you’ve arrived. Or at least, I haven’t yet!

Who are your favourite Australian women in music? 

The SSO’s Principal Oboe Diana Doherty, my inspirational colleague, mentor and beautiful friend who has always been incredibly supportive. She practises the integrity and generosity as a musician that I aspire to.  And Mary Vallentine, who I had the privilege of working with for several years in her role as the chair of the board of the Australian Youth Orchestra.  But there are also all the women that I work with day to day in the orchestra who manage to juggle all of the demands of life and then turn up to every performance to play with focus, dedication and passion.

What are you most looking forward to in the second half of 2017?

Can I say all of it?? I can’t wait to work on Pelleas et Mellisande with Charles Dutoit at the end of June, and Bartok’s Opera Bluebeards’ Castle with our Chief Conductor and Artistic Director David Robertson at the end of the year.  There’s something about working with singers that I love, and I learn a lot about how to approach my own instrument.  I’m also looking forward to our tour to Beijing and Shanghai in September, and a big SSO Vanguard (the SSO’s membership program for Gen X & Gen Y) event that we’re currently in the process of planning which should be a lot of fun!


What type of music do you relax to when you are at home?

A lot of jazz and soul, mostly the old stuff, though there are a couple of contemporary jazz pianists that I love like Brad Mehldau. I’m also discovering a bit of bluegrass and folk music at the moment.  Often I find myself listening to quieter things, a lot of solo piano music- Bach’s Goldberg variations have been featuring a lot lately.  And of course, whatever I’m preparing for the orchestra.

What is one piece of advice you would give a budding classical musician?

Work hard, but not just in the practice room.  Listen, go to concerts, talk to your teachers and the musicians you admire, take risks and be ready to take every opportunity that comes your way. Read, learn, be inspired and inspire others, and aim to be the broadest musician that you can be. 

What is your favourite place in Australia?

Any trail in Tasmania, with my hiking boots and pack.

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