Q&A: musician Jenny Banks
When Jenny Banks left Alexandra to study music at Otago University in 2000, the world was her stage.
She went on to string up an enviable mountain of qualifications, awards and orchestral appointments, before making Germany her home in 2010, where she lives with 3-year-old daughter, Ella.
In 2011, Banks was just the second New Zealander to be appointed to the Gewandhaus Orchestra (founded 1743), after violinist Alfred Hill in the 1880s.
She was made a permanent member in 2013 and is based in Leipzig, about 150km south of Berlin.
I’m still playing in the Gewandhaus orchestra, and thoroughly enjoying it, as well as looking after my daughter Ella. We travelled home in winter 2017 for six weeks off, so we’ll be staying in Europe this year to get a real hit of vitamin D and travel around with my parents. I’ve been playing chamber music with a piano trio and recently played with a wonderful Stockholm chamber orchestra in London’s Wigmore Hall.
I still regard Central Otago as home, and it gave me many musical opportunities. I was able to perform a lot around the district and received a lot of support. I played in the Central Otago Orchestra and sang in Dunstanza, and in the school band. My main support was my violin teacher from age 4 until 16, Rosanne Forde. She is a wonderful lady and still teaches.
I hope to contribute to the Central Otago scene next time I’m home – perhaps turning up to a high school music class! I was scheduled to play concerts in 2016 as a soloist with the Dunedin Symphony Orchestra in Wanaka and Dunedin, but I had to cancel because of a thumb injury.
I am inspired by my orchestra colleagues, conductors and soloists to make music on a high level. Leipzig is an inspiration in itself. Many great composers and writers lived and had their works premiered here by my orchestra. Bach, Telemann, Mendelssohn, Schumann, Wagner, Mahler, Goethe, Schiller... So it’s a nice feeling to make music in a city that has always lived and breathed music.
I used to sing in a rock band and played Irish fiddle when I was at Otago University. Right now I’m purely playing classical, but the chamber orchestra I’m playing in incorporates improvisational elements. Later this year I’ll be involved in a crossover project with a famous electronic musician and DJ called ‘The Micronaut’. We will create a new work together in open rehearsals and perform it in the Gewandhaus.
A journalist! I always enjoyed writing and photography. I would love to get out there and tell other people’s stories.
Hmm, that’s a tough one. So much music to choose from! I could never handle only having one piece of music. Beethoven is my favourite composer. Perhaps the Ode to Joy theme from the 9th Symphony? Or Eye of the Tiger!
This Q&A has been abridged for brevity and clarity.