From the heart, teen musician needs a little help

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Isaiah Bondfield… “As my technique is improving, I’m realising, and others are realising, that I don’t have a good enough violin.” Photo: Holly Treadaway

IT’S rare to find a musician who plays from the heart, but 16-year-old violinist Isaiah Bondfield does it easily. His musical journey, on the other hand, has been a little harder, says his teacher.

Sydney-based Madeleine Easton became Isaiah’s music teacher after he approached her and asked for lessons while he was volunteering at the Canberra International Music Festival last year. She was performing with her orchestra Bach Akademie Australia.

Even though Madeleine is a well-established, internationally recognised violinist, she still loves teaching and says Isaiah is a deserving student. 

“He is facing circumstances quite different to the average music student of his age,” she says.

“He is from a family of six children, he pays for his own lessons, he pays for his own travel from Canberra to Sydney, sometimes even getting up at 3am in winter to get the bus up. He also pays for all his own music, strings, instruments and instrument maintenance.” 

But, for Isaiah of Dunlop, his love of music drives his violin playing, even if it does mean long bus trips to Sydney, or busking for money. 

“I always had an interest in music. My parents have always said that I sang a lot when I was younger,” says Isaiah, who picked up the violin in year three, through a strings program at his school.

As a child he wanted to play the piano, but Isaiah’s parents were hesitant to put him in lessons because one of his siblings quit after a term of music lessons. But, after Isaiah persisted with music, his parents eventually put him into private lessons. 

Now, Isaiah pays for his own lessons and gets a weekly allowance of $60 from his parents to help him out. 

“I have five siblings and they can’t really afford to give [the money I would need for all of my music costs] to each kid,” he says.

“Every time I go to Sydney, that costs about $140-$160, including the lesson and travel costs.”

Then there are maintenance costs such as the replacement of strings, which would cost Isaiah about $280 every two to three months, and then the cost of a re-bow every two months.

Violinist Madeleine Easton… hopes someone might be generous enough to sponsor Isaiah.

Madeleine, who was sponsored as a young player, says the support helped her study at the Royal College of Music in London, and helped her procure a violin to perform on, and now she hopes someone out there might be generous enough to sponsor Isaiah. 

“Without these amazing members of the general public to help us, succeeding as a professional musician is nigh on impossible if one doesn’t come from a wealthy family,” she says. 

“There is no way I could ever have purchased [my violin] without a great deal of help.”

And Madeleine says she can’t think of anyone more deserving to help than Isaiah. 

“He is from a large family who simply do not have funds to supply him with the instrument and bow he needs,” she says. 

“Isaiah also should not have to be thinking about how on earth he can work in the hours outside school in order to raise the money for his violin lessons, and also a new bow and violin. He’s only 16 and should be focusing on school.”

Having lessons with Madeleine has made a world of difference for Isaiah who says he has learnt more in the last year than he had in the past four years.

“But as my technique is improving, I’m realising, and others are realising, that I don’t have a good enough violin,” he says.

“I haven’t been able to afford one because I’m always paying for my lessons, but an upgraded violin would help in many ways.

“You always aim the highest. I’d want to go to Europe if I could. I’m really interested in music in Germany but I don’t know if I can do it financially.” Otherwise, Isaiah says he would look into expanding his music knowledge in Sydney or Melbourne.

But it seems like Isaiah is already on the road to musical success, and this year was appointed concertmaster of the Canberra Youth Orchestra, and has been accepted into the Australian Youth Orchestra as one of its youngest members, says Madeleine.

Isaiah also does some chamber music with the ANU open school of music. 

“My favourite music is chamber music,” he says.

“It’s my favourite thing because when there’s no conductor, everyone in the orchestra leads, and that’s what brings music to life.

“It’s my favourite thing, when you get a group of people who are putting their souls into the music.

“It’s never the music that impacts me, it’s about how it’s played, and it’s the deliverance of the music that stays with you, which is why I love chamber music.”

More broadly Isaiah says he wants to get to a place where he can create music that affects people “emotionally and on a ‘spiritual’ level – not religious spiritual but life-changing spiritual”.

“[That’s] my final goal, and what all the goals of studying are all about,” he says. 

“It’s also related to, in a way, why I like the ‘life’ of chamber music.”

Anyone able to help Isaiah should contact madeleine@bachakademieaustralia.com.au

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Danielle Nohra
Danielle Nohra is a "CityNews" staff journalist.

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