Say ‘hello’ to Zakelli Xie: DSO Violinist and graduate of Darwin Symphony Orchestra’s Young Artist program.

Zak has been with DSO’s Young Artist Program since its inception. He describes the experience as ‘like a little musical family’ who grow together throughout the year. 

Image: Tim Nicol Photography

 ‘YAP – which we lovingly call it – is such a diverse group. Different ages, different schools, different instruments, different experiences – yet the talent and determination are shared between everyone, that is what makes YAP stand out from anything else in Darwin’.

Zak commenced learning the violin at the age of 9 after becoming involved in a string program through his school. ‘I chose the violin because I liked the higher range of the instrument! But I really fell in love with the instrument in Year 8, when I started getting opportunities to play in little ensembles in school and around Darwin. I realised how rewarding these performances were, and how expressive you could be with the instrument after nailing the technique.’

Image: Tim Nicol Photography

Zak, like so many talented musicians and performers, is driven by the highs and lows, technicalities, and challenges of his craft. ‘The first time I stood up on a concert stage after a proper performance and heard the audience clapping’ Zak says, ‘it was a huge catharsis.’ 

‘I love how versatile and challenging the instrument is; its range of expression and little technicalities are super stimulating for a perfectionist like me. And now that I’m listening to more and more of the repertoire for the violin, I get so excited and inspired to play’. 

Performing is a major driving force in Zak’s developing yet accomplished musical career. When asked about the most significant piece of advice he has received as a musician he speaks passionately about chasing opportunities to play and perform. ‘[Everything] changed when a teacher pushed me to join the school ensemble. There I got to share experiences with others and build friendships. And importantly, I got to perform in a setting that was supportive and understanding, where I could gradually get used to having an audience. All these experiences have made me a better and much more confident musician – teaching me skills I could not learn in just my private lessons’. 

Zak credits his incredible musical confidence, in part, to mentor and DSO Education and Outreach Officer, Tara Murphy. ‘She has been so inspiring for all the Young Artists, and I am so grateful for the effort she puts in to make YAP as exciting as it is.’ 

Reflecting on his biggest achievement to date as a member of DSO, Zak recalls the intensity and pressure of playing in the solo section in the third movement of Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 5. ‘It was super exposing and really scary, but paid off. The rest of the symphony was just a crazy but satisfying rush’.

 This year, Zak faces another equally scary prospect:, completing his final year of high school and preparing for the future. ‘Even in March I can feel the final year stress creeping in, but YAP and DSO have played a huge role in keeping me calm and mentally healthy’. Zak plans to attend university in 2023 to study medicine and/or science. 

In December this year Zak is looking forward to performing one of his favorite pieces of orchestral music: Gustav Holst’s The Planets. ‘I absolutely love music like this’, Zak exclaims. ‘Where an emotion, feeling or theme is so clearly outlined by the composer, and the music itself absolutely delivers’. Zak says he fell in love with Mars and Jupiter 3 years ago and ‘from there, the gates of the planets just opened, and I’ve definitely heard every single one of them an unhealthy amount of times.’ Before departing the interview, Zak leaves this powerful piece of advice for young and aspiring musicians: ‘Though it may be hard to get started, put [your] foot in the door and step up to the challenge. If you are willing to work a little harder and learn how to enjoy performance anxiety instead of being scared of it, music will become so much more enjoyable, and you will learn so much more.’

Come and be inspired by Zak performing with Darwin Symphony Orchestra in The Planets on December 3rd at Darwin Entertainment Centre.

Tickets are on sale now via the button below