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The violinist who won two scholarships to study in Switzerland and Japan

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Julia Hill is earning her bachelor of music from the Queensland Conservatorium Griffith University which boasts successful alumni such as Tim Davies who orchestrated music for “La La Land” and “Frozen”. Source: Silver Rose Photography

Did you know playing the violin burns approximately 170 calories an hour? Imagine the workout Julia Hill, a long-time violinist, gets.

This Australian is earning her bachelor of music in performance from the Queensland Conservatorium Griffith University which boasts successful alumni such as Tim Davies who orchestrated the soundtrack for “La La Land” and “Frozen.” 

Hill rehearses every day. She preps for the orchestra three times a week, practises at home and attends events in between. “As you can probably see, the days are filled up very quickly! I try to practise around my scheduled events with appropriate breaks to rest my mind. Sometimes I practice at home before I go to uni and at night,” she says in a Griffith News piece.

bachelor of music

All those long hours practising, rehearsing and studying have paid off because this Bachelor of Music in Performance student has won not one but two scholarships. Source: Kate O-Brien

All those long hours practising, rehearsing and studying have paid off because this Bachelor of Music in Performance student has won not one but two scholarships. The ThinkSwiss Research Scholarship will have Hill spend three months in Switzerland before she heads off to Japan under a New Colombo Plan scholarship.

However, due to COVID-19 restrictions, she’ll have to complete part of her research project in Geneva remotely before heading to Japan for a full year. Her aim is to collaborate through music to explore how different identities come together as she finds it really rewarding to work with composition students. 

Below we talk to this Bachelor of Music in Performance student on what spurred her interest in the violin in the first place and all about her plans with her two scholarships:

As a Bachelor of Music student, where does your interest in this and violin stem from? 

I picked up the violin after I saw my primary school orchestra playing during assembly in the second grade. It looked really fun and interesting to my seven-year-old self so I took the strings programme to my parents and began learning it at school during Year 3. 

I loved playing from the moment I started. Once I started Year 4, I began taking private lessons to complete the Australian Music Examinations Board exams. 

I felt very privileged to have such a fantastic support network behind me. My teachers always put a huge amount of effort into my learning and my parents made sure I was able to reach for any opportunity available. 

My efforts paid off eventually and I am now in my fourth year at Queensland Conservatorium Griffith University earning my bachelor of music studying classical violin. It’s been an absolute blast. 

Walk us through your New Colombo Plan Scholarship application process. 

My New Colombo Plan journey began when the manager of Griffith Honours College brought it to my attention during my first year. That conversation planted the seed and got me thinking about how wonderful it would be to study and work in a different country. 

For six to 18 months, I’d imagine gaining a completely new perspective and appreciation for life. So, I applied when I was in my second year of uni and in all honesty, the process was quite challenging. 

I had to navigate how my passion for music would align with the goals of the New Colombo Plan. It was a balance of being authentic to myself at the same time as writing to the criteria. 

I could explain where I eventually got to with that but you would be here for a while reading all about it! At the end of the day, my case was that music is a universal language. 

bachelor of music

Hill’s aim is to collaborate through music to explore how different identities come together as she finds it really rewarding to work with composition students. Source: Katelyn Gillard Photography

It doesn’t matter who you are or where you’re from — we can always communicate through music and with that, use it to build more understanding and friendship across cultures. 

From there, walk us through applying for another scholarship — the ThinkSwiss Research Scholarship. Was it an easy application process?

The ThinkSwiss Research Scholarship is a brilliant opportunity to build my research as an undergraduate. With my New Colombo Plan trip having to be put on hold due to the pandemic, I had to shift my plans for study. 

Instead of doing six months of third-year coursework, I’m now planning to do a full year of honours in Japan. So, why not practice and build my research skills in Switzerland before I go to Japan?

The application process went by very quickly but I couldn’t have done it without the support of the Griffith Honours College and the enthusiasm of my host professor at the Conservatoire de Musique de Genève. 

The main thing I took from the whole process was when there’s no interview round, your writing has to be absolutely top-notch. Everything you write must link together and have relevance to the criteria. 

What were you looking forward to doing in Geneva?

Due to the travel restrictions, I’m unfortunately unable to go this year. However, I’m aiming to apply for an arts individual grant to go in the future. 

The research process focuses on musical collaboration which I will still complete but online. If I can eventually go, I’m very much looking forward to meeting the student composers at the Conservatoire and playing with them in person. 

I think we’ll be able to make something really special in our performance. 

Are there any fun memories you can share so far from being a New Colombo Plan scholar?

Although I haven’t been to Japan yet, I’ve had some wonderful experiences meeting fellow New Colombo Plan scholars. In 2019, we all attended a three-day training session in Canberra where great friendships were born. 

Every month, a Queensland New Colombo Plan scholar organises a catch-up day somewhere in Brisbane, Sunshine Coast, or Gold Coast. The last event I made it to was the ice-skating one — heaps of fun (although I fell over many times). 

What about preparing to overcome the language barrier in Japan? 

Unfortunately, the pandemic hit before my New Colombo Plan start date so I haven’t been able to head to Japan yet. However, I’ve been studying for a Diploma of Languages in Japanese at Griffith alongside my bachelor of music degree. 

I have loved learning the language in class and I could probably hold a basic conversation now. I’m very excited to go over there and fully immerse myself in the experience. Even though it’s probably a year away, I still get butterflies thinking about it. 

bachelor of music

“Although I haven’t been to Japan yet, I’ve had some wonderful experiences meeting fellow New Colombo Plan scholars. In 2019, we all attended a three-day training session in Canberra where great friendships were born,” she says. Source: Oliver James Photography

What’s one thing from Geneva you plan to bring back home?

I would love to show them the product of my collaboration with the Conservatoire students in performance. I want to display what we’ve created in a co-produced piece of music, expressing culture and identity. 

I’m hoping that when friends and family see this performance, they’ll learn more about other cultures honing a deeper understanding and appreciation.

What advice do you have for international students who want to apply for the same scholarships as yourself?

My advice would be to get yourself a mentor (or two). Someone passionate about helping you achieve and get you where you want to go. Write concisely and clearly, you might only have 300 words to answer a deep question so think about the most efficient way to do so.

Be prepared to go through several written application drafts and if you’re doing an interview, practice! Practice as much as you can even if it’s to yourself in the mirror or with your dog.

Again, for interviews, dress appropriately. Perhaps think about formal attire and however you can, add a bit of personality in there. Most of all, be authentic to yourself. 

Don’t simply write what you think they want to hear as the panel of judges will be able to tell. Make sure your application is a true reflection of yourself — be you!

Tell us a bit about where you’re from. 

Hervey Bay is a quiet and laidback place where you can drive from one side of town to the other in 20 minutes. If I were to take you there, I would definitely take you to the rockpools where I used to find crabs as a child. 

I’d also take you to the Urangan Pier on the other side of town. It’s a lovely walk and if you’re there on a Saturday, you can check out the markets.

Lastly, let’s finish with three fun facts about yourself: 

  1. I really want a dog!
  2. As well as playing classical music, I can also do loop pedalling on the violin. 
  3. I walk to uni every day — a big believer in eco transport.