Homegrown conductor to run Queensland Youth Orchestras
IT'S been impossible to imagine anyone replacing the legendary conductor and music director John Curro, who died last November.
Curro founded the Queensland Youth Orchestras and led them up until his death.
He was renowned all over the world by generations of musicians and would be a hard act to follow. Then along comes the perfect replacement, conductor Simon Hewett, a boy from Brisbane who has strutted the world's great concert halls.
Hewett, 44, has been appointed as the new Director of Music for Queensland Youth Orchestras and will take up the position in January although he's already in Brisbane helping with future planning.
QYO president Peter Geroff says it's a thrilling announcement.
"His conducting experience with professional and youth orchestras in Europe and Australia ensures he is well equipped to take on this important role," Geroff says.
"Under John Curro's inspired leadership, Queensland Youth Symphony established a reputation as one of the world's leading youth orchestras through the consistently high quality of its performances in Australia over five decades and overseas during 13 international tours. I am confident that Simon Hewett will continue this pursuit of excellence and lead the orchestra to even greater heights in the coming years."
Established by John Curro in 1966, Queensland Youth Orchestras has 500 musicians aged from 8 to 24 in seven ensembles including three symphony orchestras, two wind orchestras, a junior string orchestra and big band.
QYO ensembles perform more than 50 concerts each year, including three concert series in Brisbane and regional tours.
Hewett, grew up at Chapel Hill in Brisbane and completed a Bachelor of Music at the University of Queensland.
Over the past 20 years he has built an impressive international career working with some of the world's leading opera and ballet companies. He has been Principal Conductor of the Hamburg Ballet since 2008, and he was Principal Conductor of the Stuttgart Opera from 2011 to 2016. He has appeared as a guest conductor with the Paris Opera Ballet, the Royal Ballet Covent Garden, the Vienna State Opera Ballet, the Australian Ballet and Opera Australia in Sydney and Melbourne.
Hewett says he's thrilled with his new job. "I am excited to be returning to my roots in Brisbane and working with the talented young musicians of QYO," he says.
"After the passing of John Curro in 2019 and the tremendous upheavals of 2020 due to COVID-19 I look forward to a period of renewal in 2021, bringing together our musicians and our audiences, rediscovering the joy and inspiration of young people making music together. I came through the QYO myself 25 years ago and started conducting with them at the age of 20 mentored by John Curro."
He started out playing the clarinet but says conducting was more his style.
Hewett had a busy year in Europe planned after moving his wife Maria Crealey and their three children (aged between 5 and 12) back to Brisbane in January with a plan to transition back to a life in Australia. But COVID-19 meant that his European engagements were cancelled.
"Aside from the lost income it's been nice to be all together back in Brisbane," he says.
He's looking forward to the day when the QYO musicians can all come together again and he's more than ready to take over as their leader.
Originally published as Homegrown conductor to run Queensland Youth Orchestras