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Anna pulls out all the stops

Anna Duan playing piano
Anna Duan performing with her classmates at Wesley College’s St Kilda Road Campus Music Festival

Anna Duan was one of only four young musicians selected to work with British concert organist Thomas Trotter at a recent masterclass in Melbourne.

Anna Duan, a Year 11 student at Wesley College’s St Kilda Road Campus, was recently selected for a masterclass with the renowned British concert organist, Thomas Trotter, at the Scot’s Church in Melbourne.

Organs are grand features of many great concert halls – and Anna has played on a number around Melbourne and even Sydney – but playing the instrument is still uncommon, especially for a 16-year-old.

Anna and the renowned organist connected instantly over their love for the unusual instrument. ‘Talking to Thomas about how he became interested in the organ, and his experience with playing was definitely fascinating,’ Anna said. ‘The best part about the masterclass was how helpful his advice was. One little change he suggested could then make such a big difference to how beautifully I played.’

While Anna is in many ways a typical teenager, her love for classical music differs from the playlists most of her peers enjoy. As much as the world changes, some things have a timeless appeal.

‘Asking me why Bach’s music is beautiful is like asking someone to describe why they like milk, or tea,’ Anna says. ‘Classical music shows a true combination of all the subtleties of human emotion. Love, passion and hope, and other pieces can be so full of darkness, despair and anguish.’

Although she loves the organ now, it was only at the encouragement of a teacher that she first started learning the unusual instrument. ‘My Year 8 piano teacher asked if I’d be interested in starting the organ. I began listening to organ music, and it was Buxtehude’s organ music that first captivated me. All the different colours, and sounds; so exciting for a teenager like me!’

That same year, she completed her AMusA Diploma and received a scholarship to learn the organ from Toorak Uniting Church, under Director of Music Jennifer Chou.

In a few short years, she has developed as a player and has performed on a number of different organs, each with their own characterful sound and history. Playing on Wesley’s own heritage-listed organ and the famous Melbourne Town Hall organ are highlights.

As she completes her first year of the IB Diploma Program, Anna has continued with her music (on both piano and organ), volunteering and community service throughout the year. She finds playing music relaxing and has discovered one of the best ways to break up long periods of study.

Anna’s holistic approach to her education is a fantastic example of the mindset Wesley aims to instil in its graduates, encouraging students to be involved in activities across their many interests and valuing arts, sport and other endeavours equally. ‘The Senior School at Wesley College is definitely supportive of my musical endeavours, and having the support is so meaningful especially in a non-specialist arts school,’ Anna says.

Asked if she has any final tips for other students, Anna is ready with an answer. ‘Meticulous organisation is crucial!’ she quips.

Anna passed her high-level LMusA exam in the September school holidays and is now formally recognised as a Licentiate of Music, Australia. She is currently studying for the IB Diploma.

Did you know – playing music can be an incredible body-brain workout! Read more.

Read more about our music programs and opportunities at Wesley College.