On the Couch with Chris Howlett

Arts Review On the Couch Chris HowlettWho is Chris Howlett?
I am a cellist, director and producer. It is a busy life but a rewarding one, splitting my time between family who I love and a number of different projects and companies.   Cello is my first professional love and sitting down with esteemed colleagues to play chamber music is one of my most treasured moments in life. I increasingly am spending more time as an Artistic Director programming festivals such as Music in the Round, Sanguine Estate Music Festival (SEMF) and also the 3MBS Marathon – I have loved building these 3 events – SEMF and the 3MBS Marathon from scratch or restarting the iconic festival of Music in the Round. My other main commitment is the Australian International Opera Company which I started 2 1/2 years ago and have built this to become one of Australia’s principal cultural exports to China with more than 120 performances a year of opera, musical theatre, music education and exchange programs.

What would you do differently to what you do now?
I would change very little, though being in a position to be able to have more employees and further expand my project would be fantastic.

Who inspires you and why?
Musically – Howard Penny. He has reached the very top of what can be achieved in all areas of the cello – solo, chamber music, symphony orchestra, chamber orchestra, baroque, contemporary, teaching and directing. He is also incredibly generous with his time, knowledge and support. As an entrepreneur I believe Elon Musk, is an extraordinary individual. His ability to follow his ideas through from conception to full production is amazing and he is constantly thinking one step ahead of everyone else. Over his career he has continually found the correct balance between calculated risk, clever business practice and a little bit of extraordinary confidence!

What would you do to make a difference in the world?
I would like to achieve two things specifically – build, nurture and support the Australia’s chamber music scene and artists so that they can achieve their full potential and, secondly, create a cultural bridge between Australia and China so that artists, administrators and technical teams can exchange cultures, ideas and knowledge.

Favourite holiday destination and why?
Our family beach house in Sorrento, it is the place where I can unwind and spend quality time away from the laptop, cello and phone with my amazing wife, Elle. Long runs on the beach with the puppies, clears the head better than anything I know and there is also amazing times spent surfing with my brother Ben. The Mornington Peninsula also has some great wineries!

When friends come to town, what attraction would you take then to, and why?
Abbotsford Convent, it has great food, coffee and an extraordinary history.

What are you currently reading?
Two books at the moment: The Immanuel Kant Collection – Classic Works and also Aristotle’s Politics.

What are you currently listening to?
Jamie Cullum’s Momentum Album on my iPod and 3MBS Fine Music in my car.

Happiness is?
Happiness is the down time after a successful project spent with family, friends and colleagues.

What does the future hold for you?
I hope it holds a good balance between a happy family life and an exciting and busy schedule of concerts, festivals and directing both in Australia and overseas.

Chris Howlett is a cellist, festival director and producer.  He studied cello in Vienna with Howard Penny, London with Richard Lester and at the Australian National Academy of Music where he completed his studies in 2009. Chris performs on a Thomas Kennedy English Cello made in 1820.

As a chamber musician, Chris holds one of the busiest schedules in Melbourne performing regularly in Festivals, throughout Asia and with Melbourne Piano Trio with over 50 recitals a year, and has been a finalist and prize winner at a number of chamber music competitions including the prestigious Trio di Trieste International Competition. He has also performed concerti with both symphonic and chamber orchestras in Milan, Rome, Paris, Estonia and Melbourne.

Chris is the Festival Director of the Sanguine Estate Music Festival which has now established as one of Australia’s leading chamber music festivals, is held over two weekends in Bendigo and Heathcote. World class musicians, electrifying performances and world class wine, in two unique ambiences.

His International Touring Company presents over 120 concerts in China per year including Opera, Orchestral, Recital and Music Theatre.  He is Artistic Director of 3MBS Marathon and Abbotsford Foundation’s Music in the Round and is Vice Chairman of 3MBS Radio Station and Chairman of PATMA Educational Concerts.

Music in the Round takes place at the Abbotsford Convent on Sunday 6 September 2015. For more information, visit: www.abbotsfordconvent.com.au for details.

Image: Chris Howlett