Meet violin student Sara Barbagallo


Get to know a student’s experience studying at The University of Melbourne’s Faculty of Fine Arts and Music. Sara Barbagallo is studying for a Bachelor of Music at the Melbourne Conservatorium of Music.

What is one of your favourite memories playing the violin?

One memory I always look back on is my first Australian Youth Orchestra National Music Camp. I was so nervous, having just met new people, but I instantly felt a connection.

I quickly learned how alike we all were. It was exhilarating to perform with others who were just as enthusiastic and passionate about music as I was.

Since then, I have always been pursuing that same energy that is created in a performance. This was a main factor which led to me choosing to pursue music at university.

 You are concertmaster of the University’s Symphony Orchestra – how do you prepare for a big event?

I listen to many recordings of the repertoire and study my part in detail, making sure I know the piece well enough to be able to lead effectively.

The technical aspects (bowings, fingerings, phrasing, etc.) are considered and it’s very useful liaising with conductor Richard Davis to discuss any issues or specifications he may have.

Then it’s down to practice, both on my own but more importantly with the orchestra. Sectionals with the tutor are very valuable, as is working with the other section leaders for consistency. So, I guess the preparation for a big event is mostly in the lead-up.

Concert day is really just a matter of leading attentively and diligently to express the conductor’s intention. Most importantly, it’s about enjoying the musical experience.  

The Australian World Orchestra (AWO) has recently visited the University – how did you work with them?

Melbourne University hosted the AWO as it prepared for its Australian performances. I have been selected as their academy player for 2023, which involves rehearsing and performing with them Gustav Mahler’s 9th Symphony at Melbourne’s Hamer Hall and the Sydney Opera House.

The students at the Melbourne Conservatorium of Music also had the opportunity to participate in masterclasses with members of the orchestra. This valuable experience is something that will enrich students as we continue our journey as young musicians.  



What did this visit by the AWO mean to you as a student?

The AWO is made up of some of the best musicians in the world. Getting to work so closely with them for a week was so inspiring for me, as I dream to be a professional musician like them one day.

To be part of the amazing sound that they make is mind-blowing. I focused on learning as much as I could.

How do you feel working with the AWO on their visit helped to prepare you for working as a professional musician?

This experience will allow me to see what it is like working with other professional musicians, how they do things, how they interact, how they prepare for a big event. 

What are some of the professional benefits and opportunities you’ve received being a student at the Melbourne Conservatorium of Music?

I am grateful for so many opportunities the University has provided including, The Mimir Chamber Music Festival in Texas, The Australian Chamber Orchestra workshops in Sydney, and a three-concert Symphony Orchestra tour in Melbourne, Singapore and Malaysia.

There are also frequent masterclasses with many musicians including the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra, Australian String Quartet and Gewandhaus Orchestra.

As a result, I have been offered professional opportunities, all playing a part developing my professional career. My string quartet is regularly called upon for various concerts and functions.

You’re currently in your final year of the Bachelor of Music – what are some of your goals for the near future?

I plan to finish my honours at the University of Melbourne and continue to be involved in as many musical opportunities as possible.

Orchestral and chamber music are of particular interest to me as it’s what I enjoy the most. Because of this I plan to audition for casual positions in orchestras and continue performing chamber concerts with my string quartet. • 

What advice do you have for students beginning their Bachelor of Music degree at the Melbourne Conservatorium of Music?

Get involved in as much as you can, taking every opportunity that comes your way as you never know where it might lead.

The Melbourne Conservatorium of Music offers so many incredible opportunities for students. It takes a lot of dedication, commitment, and practice.

Have confidence in yourself, you are good enough. If music is truly your passion, you will embrace the journey and reach your goals! 


Photography by Maria Vasileva.

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