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Grammar Woman, Francesca Hiew: from Girls Grammar to the Australian String Quartet

The following article was originally published in the Autumn 2018 edition of the Grammar Gazette.

‘I think music is so important, always—no matter how far we come as a society with technology and other changes, music will always be there’.

When Francesca Hiew (2004) plays the violin, her talent is evident. But it is her passion—be it in an intimate setting, or on stage as Second Violin with the Australian String Quartet—that captivates her audience.

First picking up the violin at age four, Francesca’s musical journey began as a rite of passage; she was the sixth child in her family to learn an instrument, and studied at the Stoliarsky School of Music in Brisbane.

Five years later, at age nine, she travelled as a soloist and orchestral member to the USA, performing at the prestigious Juilliard School in New York.

During her time at Girls Grammar, Francesca participated in numerous ensembles, won the Gillies Vocal Ensemble Prize (twice) and was awarded several Pockets and Prizes for her commitment to music.

Francesca returned to Girls Grammar earlier this year, sharing her journey from her graduation in 2004 to her current role as Second Violin and Co-Artistic Director in the Australian String Quartet.

‘After leaving Girls Grammar, I completed a Bachelor of Music at Queensland Conservatorium, then studied with William Hennessy at the Australian National Academy of Music (ANAM). In 2012, I completed a Fellowship at ANAM that focussed on chamber music for various string ensembles.

‘I then co-founded the Auric Quartet, and from 2014 became a full-time member of the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra, before joining the Australian String Quartet in 2016,’ she said. Francesca’s achievements are as diverse as they are impressive; she won every chamber music competition available at her university— twice—during her tertiary studies, was selected as a finalist for the Asia-Pacific Chamber Music Competition and Trondheim International Chamber Music Competition, and has performed at numerous national and international festivals.

Francesca thoroughly enjoys the diversity offered by her career in music; she has performed as a soloist, in quartets and in orchestras, relishing the challenge of navigating the shifting dynamic of ‘leading and following’ offered by each ensemble.

Close to her heart remains the pursuit of education— a passion she explores as a teacher, and student.

‘The importance of education across all aspects of my role is central. It is essential to my personal performance on stage, and it is essential to ensure music maintains its integral role in society. I do my part by mentoring and teaching the next generation of Australian musicians.’

When asked what advice she would offer a Grammar girl interested in pursuing a career in music, Francesca details three key learnings: keep your options open and enjoy the variety of opportunities music will provide you; speak to anyone and everyone, and learn from others in the industry; and teach.

Francesca acknowledges the influence of her time at Girls Grammar on establishing her musical career. In her role as Music Captain, she says that she gained valuable leadership skills and experience.

‘As a Captain I had the chance to exercise autonomy and develop my own ideas while also having constant support and guidance from staff who were dedicated to helping me and the other musicians succeed,’ Francesca said.

She fondly remembers the Music Staff working with her as though she was already a ‘professional musician’ and developing in her the belief that she could ‘do anything’.

For now, her ‘anything’ includes a hectic tour schedule, and enjoying the responsibility, as a member of the Australian String Quartet, of performing for her country and developing and nurturing chamber music culture in Australia.