Striking all the right notes

College life has been music to Elena James’s ears since joining the Emmanuel College community in February this year. The first-year University of Queensland student from Townsville started on a high note, powering through a very competitive audition for UQ’s Symphony Orchestra (UQSO). As a result, she was named as the UQSO’s Assistant Concertmaster. This achievement is even more remarkable considering the Arts and Music student is in her first semester of her first year at university, in an ensemble made up of undergraduate and postgraduate students.

Elena’s accomplishments extend to being awarded The Paula and Tony Kinnane Music Scholarship. This scholarship, funded by a bequest from passionate arts advocates Paula and Tony Kinnane, is awarded to the two Bachelor of Music (Honours) applicants showing the greatest merit in an audition, with preference given to applicants from a rural or remote region of Queensland or the Northern Territory. This North Queenslander is among the first and very few to receive this honour.

Elena says that her passion for music started as a very young child. “My father enjoys classical music and playing the piano, and I had always been surrounded by music.” She decided to learn to play violin at the age of seven, choosing the instrument for its light weight, but, most importantly, for its enchanting melody and to be able to play duets with her father.

Believing in moderation in all things, Elena wanted to harmoniously combine her music studies and her love of the French language, which was sparked by an exchange experience in Switzerland. She seized the opportunity to study a dual degree at UQ with a Bachelor of Arts (French and International Relations) and a Bachelor of Music (Honours).

Once her mind was set on her degree, the young prodigy looked for student accommodation in Brisbane. The thought of finding the right balance far away from home and from loved ones was daunting. Following advice from her school, Pimlico State High School in Townsville, Elena chose Emmanuel College. “I felt at home straight away,” she said. Emmanuel College’s connection to Townsville and Pimlico is reinforced by the fact that Emmanuel’s Principal Dr Jane Thomson lived in Townsville for 36 years and she and her children also attended Pimlico State High School.

College life is also allowing Elena to exercise her sports skills. Elena qualified for the Emmanuel College running squad, and her team won The University of Queensland Inter-College Competition Cross Country championships. “I am very happy here. I wanted to make friends and have a balanced life between academic, music, and sport, which I found at Emmanuel College.”