Julia Doukakis: alumni profile | Central Coast Grammar School

Julia Doukakis: alumni profile

Julia-Doukakis

What have you been up to since graduating from CCGS in 2011?

After school I studied at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music, learning from Sydney Symphony Orchestra Principal Viola Roger Benedict. During this time, I was also a member of the Australian Youth Orchestra, which included an international tour in 2013. This tour was my first experience in Europe, performing in the Konzerthous in Berlin and Concertgebouw in Amsterdam and working with conductor Christoph Eschenbach and violinist Joshua Bell. My eyes were opened to the vast musical history in Europe and I was hooked.

In 2016, I was a Fellow with the Sydney Symphony Orchestra and worked with the orchestra full time, including performances under world-renowned conductors and with incredible musicians all over Australia. Then in 2017 I gained a scholarship through the Australian Elizabethan Theatre Trust and moved to London to take part in Southbank Sinfonia. This was a year long program that allowed me to perform in some of London's leading venues including the Royal Festival Hall, The Barbican and Cadogan Hall, as well as taking part in the Anghiari Festival in Tuscany as the orchestra in residence. 

Since that program finished I have been freelancing around the UK, performing with the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra, City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra and the Eufemia String Quartet around the country as well as in Ireland and Sweden. I've also just started studying for a Masters at the Royal Academy of Music, learning from Juan-Miguel Hernandez.

What’s your big dream in life?

I believe music is an incredibly powerful tool, and my big dream in life really boils down to sharing that with as many people as possible. Music has the power to unite and inspire, and in the world we live in today that's more important than ever.

The areas of music that I'm most passionate about are orchestral and chamber music performances, and these have the potential to reach a vast number of people. Orchestras are becoming more and more dedicated to outreach and education programs, bringing music to places and people who in the past would not have had the chance to experience it. I think that this is indescribably important, symphonic performance in particular has a bad reputation for being elitist or exclusive and I think there's a lot that can be done to break down these perceptions. 

Outside of music, what are you passionate about?

Music can be such an all-consuming career. When you're not rehearsing or performing, you're practicing and the nature of the profession means perfection is always out of reach, so there's always more work to be done. This can make it hard to switch off - that's a skill I've had to work very hard to learn.

Perhaps because of this, combined with struggles I've had with performance anxiety, I've become very interested in psychology and mental health. There is finally a growing discussion emerging among performing artists about mental preparation and resilience, built up through techniques including meditation, visualisation, cognitive behavioural therapy and talk therapy. If I woke up tomorrow and couldn't play my viola any more, I would definitely pursue my interest in this area further by following a career path in psychology. 

What is your favourite memory of CCGS?

I look back very fondly on my memories of the school orchestras.

From when I first started in Kindergarten I would often sit in on the morning rehearsals of what was then called the 'Training Orchestra' as my three older siblings were all involved at one time or another (even my mum moonlighted on the bassoon at one point!). I was so happy when I was old enough to join in myself. I then remember when I moved up to the senior orchestra when I switched from violin to viola in Year 6.

I vividly recall performing music from the film Pirates of the Caribbean, conducted by Phil Rutherford. Phil had an amazing ability to get the absolute best out of every member of the orchestra regardless of what standard they were at.

These memories are some of the first that I think of when recalling my time at CCGS. I feel so incredibly privileged that I was able to have that experience of playing in an orchestra at school and it makes me so sad that this is something that most kids miss out on. 
 
What is one piece of advice you would give to your high school self?

I would tell myself not to worry about having it all figured out, and that education is never a waste of time.

When I was finishing Year 12 I was very conflicted about what I wanted to do when I graduated. At that stage I was very passionate about music, but I didn't see myself pursuing it as a career. My family have always been incredibly supportive, but I was on the receiving end of a few raised eyebrows from other people when I brought up the idea of studying music at university as they didn't see how that would translate into a job.

Even though I had barely considered the idea of being able to play music as my career, I thought there was a very good chance that I'd finish my bachelor degree and then continue on to study something else as a postgraduate. It was only through exploring music more deeply that I started to see that there was the potential to turn my passion into a career and continue to play for potentially the rest of my life.