On the Couch with Anna Stegmann

Anna-Stegmann-AAR-On-the-CouchWho is Anna Stegmann?
Anna Stegmann is a musician. And if you were to ask further, I’d tell you she’s a recorder player. Then you’d probably have a bunch of follow up questions. In a nutshell: The recorder is the tool for my creativity, and I enjoy playing all sorts of repertoire from very early music before 1500 to the music of which the ink is still drying.

But playing my instrument and creating programmes for myself and my ensembles is not all that defines me: I’m a passionate teacher, too, and enjoy both working with my students at the Royal Academy of Music in London (the next generation professionals) as well as teaching amateurs on summer courses and meet aspiring young professionals in masterclasses.

What would you do differently from what you do now?
It may sound strange – but: nothing at all. This doesn’t come from a place of self-righteousness or immense comfort but at times I’m still flabbergasted that I’m fortunate enough to be doing what I love for a living. I always followed what I enjoyed doing and set myself ambitious goals. May it be the kind of repertoire I practice and perform, the people I work with, the kind of teaching job I take on. If you would have told the 20-year-old Anna what she is doing right now (spending a month in Australia packed with solo recitals, workshops, and masterclasses) she wouldn’t have believed you.

In hindsight I can explain to myself how I got to do what I do now: I (blindly!) followed my passion for the recorder and my enthusiasm for teaching. At the same time my career could still take off to a different direction in the future and there are other ways of how I potentially can fill my calendar and pay my bills (who knows, I might need to?). But at this stage I feel I’m at the right place, with tasks that challenge me and help me grow as a musician and teacher.

Who inspires you and why?
My fellow musicians, who are very often also my friends. I work a lot with string players, keyboardists, composers, and they all bring their own insights and approaches to a project. I find those extremely inspiring and fruitful collaborations.

Quite recently I noticed that I work with many different “personalities” that follow completely different aesthetics and artistic ideas. That – potentially – can be confusing and cause tension. But I love hearing about everyone’s experiences and approaches to style, programming, and music-making; and I enjoy a good discussion. It prevents me from getting stuck or one-dimensional in my own approach to music.

In terms of music education, I immensely enjoy working at summer schools where other tutors and professors are around. Those are safe places to share expertise, learn from more experienced colleagues, reflect on my own ideas, and see how others solve “problems”.

What would you do to make a difference in the world?
It’s a question I asked myself a lot the past two years. During the pandemic I spent a lot of time with my parents, and I admire how they – next to their full-time jobs – contribute to the community they live in. May it be volunteering to help refugees or other community work; I realised that I do not contribute to society in the same way as they did all their lives. A service which – frankly – keeps big parts of our societies working!

However, although it is my job, I started noticing what an important role music education can take. Teaching an instrument is not only about “breeding” the next generation of “Wunderkinder”. It is also about those moments of sharing music (a universal language), and everything that comes with it: you must listen to each other, be patient with others, be supportive, but also deal with pressure, expectations, share moments of success – and sometimes failure.

Observing group dynamics throughout a week of summer course teaching, may it be teenagers or grown-ups, and being a big part of bringing them musically and socially together is both very rewarding and important work for me.  People who enjoy musicking together and share a way of non-verbal communication – are very unlikely going to be terrible humans, in my opinion.

Favourite holiday destination and why?
Whenever possible adding a day to whichever nice place I’m going for work. Next on: Mornington Peninsula for the Peninsula Summer Music Festival. I am so looking forward to a few days exploring the area ahead of my concert In:Ventum at Port Phillip Estate.

When friends come to town, what attraction would you take them to, and why?
My kitchen! I love to cook and cater.

What are you currently reading?
The latest book by Japanese writer Murakami. Not the first and certainly not the last I’ll be reading. I’m a great lover of fiction and particularly enjoy escaping into the worlds Murakami creates.

What are you currently listening to?
The latest edit of the upcoming CD of The Royal Wind Music – a double sextet of renaissance recorders from Amsterdam I perform with (do look them up on YouTube!).

Happiness is?
Feeling appreciated and appreciation of others. TimTams are good, too.

What does the future hold for you?
I’ve been lucky to be quite busy after the forced stop during the pandemic and it looks like I will continue to be busy with teaching and touring the next year. Meanwhile I hope to be able to keep developing as a musician and teacher.

Some of my colleagues have changed their professional path at some point in their careers (not only a symptom of the pandemic); this can have to do with the feeling that “you have done it all” or because of hard economic considerations.

I feel lucky that I haven’t had doubts yet whether I’m in the right profession, neither did I need to take on jobs outside of music just for the money (I must add though that I’m not living in a palace!). I feel there is still a lot to discover and learn for me as a musician.

Having that said: I’m also still at the beginning. Whether my career will continue in a linear way or whether it’s going to be a journey with detours? I don’t know yet. If in the future I can look back at my working life without too many regrets, I know that in the whole I’ve made the right choices.

Anna presents In:Ventum – an exploration of wind instruments and invention-concepts musically unite and challenge each other in this recital embracing music from the Middle Ages to the twenty-first century on Thursday 19 January at the Port Phillip Estate as part of the 2023 Peninsula Summer Music Festival.

Anna also presents Fantasy & Design – a captivating and entertaining time travel through 800 years of recorder repertoire on Monday 23 January 2023 at the Primrose Potter Salon – Melbourne Recital Centre.

Image: Anna Stegmann (supplied)