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Meet the CSO’s Veronica Bailey

Laura Peppas

For most of her life, Veronica Bailey has been surrounded by classical music.

The 29 year old began playing the piano at the tender age of three, and later moved to percussion, enjoying it so much she studied a Masters in percussion at the Australian National University.

Now as the co-principal percussionist for the Canberra Symphony Orchestra (CSO), Veronica showcases her talents to packed crowds of around 1,300 people at the Llewellyn Hall. When she’s not rehearsing, she teaches percussion to students five days a week and works in the library at the ANU School of Music.

With so much of her life related to music, I ask her if she ever gets sick of it. She puts it simply: “This is what I do.”

“It’s the adrenalin, that performing high you get—that’s what’s really great and I’ve always loved it, because there’s nothing quite like it,” she says. 

Marketing manager of the CSO Rafe Morris says many of the roughly 65 orchestra members, who perform at the Llewellyn Hall around 10 times a year, have similar back stories to Veronica. 

“Theres also others who have full-time roles that aren’t related to music—we have one who is an audiologist and another who works at the Museum, for instance, but then there are others who just live and breathe it,” he says.

CSO members range from all ages—one of the youngest is just 21 years old—and are a mix of interstate and Canberra-based musicians. Instruments range from the flute, violin, trumpet and trombone to create what Rafe describes as a “whimsical” yet powerful sound.

“I think when people come to the orchestra for the first time, particularly the younger members of the audience, they’re really surprised by the scale of the orchestra; they don’t realise it’s that big. That size and intensity really moves people,” he says.

In 2014, the orchestra sold out over half of its concerts, and this year is set to be even bigger, says Rafe, with the CSO performing alongside the Australian Ballet.

With different programs for each concert, CSO members get to rub shoulders with famous soloists from around the world who travel to Canberra to perform. The orchestra’s next concert, in April, will pay tribute to Finnish composer Sibelius on the occasion of his 150th anniversary, with soloist Edward King to perform.

According to Rafe, CSO orchestra members go through a “rigorous” process in order to be selected. Veronica says she was lucky to have joined in 2008 after applying for and receiving a scholarship to join the orchestra. She describes the audition process as a “high pressure environment.”

“At the audition you’re competing against other people to win a job and you have to step up and perform as best you can and impress everyone on the panel, so it can be quite intense,” she says.

Once they join the troupe, members attend about five to six rehearsals before a concert.

Chief conductor Nicholas Milton divides his time between Germany and Australia, flying in for performances and rehearsals. The energy he brings to the orchestra is “integral”, says Rafe.

“He is the driving force behind it all, he’s the one who’s inspiring everyone to play at the best level they can,” he says.

“I’ve been told, and I’m not sure whether it’s true or not, that if you get looked at by the conductor, you’re in trouble.”

I check back with Veronica to verify this.

“It’s true,” she confirms with a laugh.

“If the conductor looks at you, you’ve either done something really good or something really bad.”

But she adds there is a “team atmosphere” amongst the orchestra members backstage.   

“Everyone there supports one another, and everybody gets quite excited for the performance,” she says.

“We’re usually just in a happy good mood when we’re [backstage], there’s not too much nerves. There’s a real rush because we’ve shared this amazing experience with each other.”

The essentials
What: Llewellyn Series 15.1: Sibelius
When: 7.30pm Wednesday 1 and Thursday 2 April
Where: Llewellyn Hall, ANU
How much: Tickets start from $53
Tickets: Visit


Laura Peppas

Laura Peppas is HerCanberra's senior journalist and communications manager and is the Editor of Unveiled, HerCanberra's wedding magazine. She is enjoying uncovering all that Canberra has to offer, meeting some intriguing locals and working with a pretty awesome bunch of women. Laura has lived in Canberra for most of her life and when she's not writing fervently she enjoys pursuing her passion for travel, reading, online shopping and chai tea. More about the Author

  • Catherine Carter

    Veronica is not only an accomplished musician but a gifted teacher to a new generation of musicians. She’s a wonderful asset to Canberra and we’re lucky to have her.