Let there be music!
The donation of the Gerald Westheimer Instrument Collection to the Sydney Conservatorium of Music gave Madeline Procopio the extraordinary opportunity to play the Bernadel – a prized mid 19th century French-made violin.
Madeline Procopio, a solo violinist at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music, has always had a passion for performing. “It gives me great satisfaction to be able to communicate what I feel about the music to the audience, so they can feel the same emotions I do,” she says.
Procopio has pursued a passion for the violin ever since she first played one at age seven. From childhood, her studies in violin continued through school and on to a bachelor’s degree in music performance.
After completing her undergraduate studies Procopio enrolled at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music to study with renowned violin teacher and string npedagogue Alice Waten, Chair of Strings at the Conservatorium.
Encouraged by a Conservatorium scholarship, Procopio is aiming high. She recently gained a Graduate Diploma in Music (Performance) and is now working towards a Master of Music Studies (Performance). The next step is a three-year doctorate in Musical Arts, researching the pedagogical aspects of teaching and the psychology behind learning as a child and an adult.
Procopio is no stranger to precious violins, having previously played with a Tomaso Eberle and Arthur E Smith violin. However, she describes the opportunity to play the Bernadel as “a life-changing experience. It makes me enjoy practising,” she says. “I love learning how to make the most gorgeous sounds on this instrument.”
The Bernadel was given to the Sydney Conservatorium of Music as part of a series of donations by alumnus Professor Gerald Westheimer AM (BSc ’48). Professor Westheimer has since given a second Bernadel, an 1879 Anton Sprenger violin, and an endowment to care for the collection.
These instruments form the beginning of the ‘Gerald Westheimer Instrument Collection’, which Professor Westheimer hopes to build on during the coming years. In his own words, he wants the collection to “enable talented young Australian artists studying at the Conservatorium to perfect their performance skills on high quality instruments”.
Alice Waten believes the Bernadel, in Procopio’s hands, is already fulfilling Westheimer’s wish. “This beautiful French violin is helping Madeline to explore a richer and finer sound, as well as discover more subtle tonal qualities. She is already a talented violinist, but is now taking her performance skills to the next level.”
Professor Westheimer’s donations are a magnificent addition to the resources of the Sydney Conservatorium of Music – gifts that will benefit students for generations to come, according to Kim Walker, Dean of the Conservatorium. “Our young performers need to learn on quality instruments, to develop and refine their virtuosity and musicianship. We can’t thank Gerald Westheimer enough for beginning a collection on behalf of young Australians who deserve this vital opportunity.”
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