Conversations With Former Students – Meet Sylvia Hoskings

We spoke with former student, Sylivia Hoskings, about her time at Kilvington, her journey to where she is today, and some advice for current Kilvington students.

Hi Sylvia, thanks so much for sitting down with me for a chat. First things first, tell us a little bit about yourself.

I am the Assistant Principle Double Bass with the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra. I have a young son Zac who is seven and a half years old. Outside of work and family, I am really into cycling and yoga.

What year did you finish at Kilvington?

I finished Year 12 at Kilvington in 1988.

What is your favourite memory of Kilvington?

The musical life by far is my favourite memory of being at Kilvington. It was a huge program. I was in The Madrigals, choir, I had private music lessons, and orchestra. I was always in the production – lots of Gilbert and Sullivan back then. Mrs Venn and Mr Logie-Smith were my inspiration. The musical life at Kilvington was huge and I may not have discovered music without it. It was completely serendipitous. The size of the School really suited me – everyone knew who I was and cared.

Any funny stories?

Not really, I was a very serious girl – it was all about the music. I wasn’t one of the naughty ones…

What happened after you left Kilvington?

When I left in 1988 I did a year of a teaching degree and then realised I needed to perform, so I went across to the Victorian College of the Arts. While I was doing my Diploma of Arts, my teacher said I needed to go overseas and get some experience. I was recommended to a friend of theirs who lived in The Hague in the Netherlands. I went there with the idea of studying at the Royal Conservatory of The Hague for a school year, but I met a wonderful old lady who offered me free accommodation, so that meant that I could stay for another year.

I then went on a trip to New York where I met with the principle bass player of the New York Philharmonic. I had some lessons with him and after the lessons he asked me when I was auditioning for Julliard, so I did. I got into Julliard and I completed my Bachelor and Masters degrees in three years. I then came back and was offered a job at the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra (MSO). It was an incredible journey. I have now been at the MSO for 16 years.

Did you end up where you expected you would when you finished school?

It was one of those of things – I didn’t know the ultimate place, I just knew I had to play. I kept going and practising and practising and eventually the forest cleared and things appeared. I just kept trudging along.

What have been some of the biggest challenges you’ve had to face to get where you are now?

The incessant practice and having to have that commitment has been the biggest challenge. You can’t slack off. You just have to do it. It’s an intense commitment. I didn’t start playing the double bass until Year 10 so it has taken a lot of effort and practice. I had joined the Kilvington choir and then was asked by Mrs Venn, the head of music, to learn the bass as the bass player was finishing Year 12 and it meant that there wouldn’t have been a double bass player in the orchestra, so I learnt. I hated it for years. If it wasn’t for Mrs Venn I wouldn’t have kept going. I was so lucky to have so many trusting teachers. They had faith in me, so I had faith in myself.

What advice would you give to others who might be faced with similar obstacles?

Have faith and trust the voice inside that says keep going. You mightn’t see the end goal but keep going. Good mentors are also so important. Have people in your life who can, at times, see more clearly than you can.

What has been your biggest highlight so far?

Apart from having my son (which is the best thing that ever happened to me), I just got back from a European tour with the MSO and we played the London Proms at Royal Albert Hall. [Lauren: Did you cry at Royal Albert Hall?] On the night I didn’t because I went to two concerts there the night before, so I was prepared for the awe. I’m so glad I got to inside before we played. It was pretty extraordinary.

What excites you about the future?

One of the things I am really excited about is learning more about myself and the people around me. Throughout my career I have worked so hard and as a musician you have to be so self-centred, but now I’m thinking about other people. I am excited to build my understanding of others and moving away from a tunnel vision view of my career.

How did what you learnt at Kilvington help make you the person you are today?

During my time at Kilvington, a lot of people had faith in me. I was a prefect and I was given responsibilities. Being given opportunities changed my life – to perform, be on the stage. I was a fairly average student, but I capitalised on what I was good at and was supported by the School and those around me to excel.

Any advice for our current Year 12 students as they embark on the next phase of their journey?

Your ATAR score doesn’t define you as a person or your life. You can choose and you can make the decision. There is a lot more choice and freedom out there than you realise. It’s just another door that’s opening.