Do you ever wonder what makes people do the work they do? Well, with this question in mind, I recently approached Mrs Alexandra Boemo, the NBCA Elementary and Junior Chorister Director with a list of questions in hand hoping to gain a little insight.
How did you get started in music/what was your introduction to music?
My Nana was a singer and my Mum is a singer (she has sung in opera with Mr Casey, Mrs Casey, Mr Tutty and Ben Namdarian, and in the Melbourne Chorale with Mr Finnigan) and they both played the piano – so music is in my blood. Mum took me to her singing teacher when I was 5 to start piano lessons. After a couple of years with her I moved to another teacher, closer to home, who I studied with until I went to University. I studied piano and voice at Melbourne State College along with Mr Casey and Mrs Tenace as we learned to be music teachers.
What do you enjoy the most about working with NBCA?
I really like working with young people-perhaps because they are like sponges and don’t “know everything” yet. I also love to work with Mrs Tenace, as we became good friends at college and were very happy to end up at the NBCA together!
What do you enjoy the least (…find the most challenging?) about working with NBCA?
Do you want me to be serious! …. anyway – I do miss working with lots of girls. I went to a girls school and taught in an all-girls school for 7 years and I like the way they chatter/giggle and the merry banter of girls. The other thing I find challenging is not having the boys for more than 2 years – so we don’t have a lot of time to develop together as a group with only 1 hour a week.
What is your favourite piece/work that you have done while at NBCA?
I like the stage and I like songs to have colour/ effect and drama which can be created by lighting and other staging effects – so I think my favourite junior performance was when we used candles in a song called Firefly and the lights were suddenly blacked at the end of the piece. It was fun and very effective.
My favourite Performing Choir moment was in China at the conservatorium – at the end of one of the concerts after the boys sang the Rutter Lord Bless You they were swamped by the audience who were all overcome at how wonderful the boys were.
What have been some of the challenges that you have overcome in your life?
I believe that our lives are enriched by the challenges we meet and overcome. Be they little or big, sometimes we don’t even perceive the challenge until others point it out! When I was in year 12 one of my brothers suddenly died – just before exams – that was a big loss and I still miss him every day, but it has helped me to understand how loss can affect other people and how we should make the most of every minute we have. Musically I was always petrified to perform in front of an audience – my leg would shake so hard it would hit the side of the piano stool – until I went to college and had to do it twice every term. Eventually my fear subsided and once I realised that as an accompanist, and now as a conductor, no-one looks at you, performance became much easier!
Recently you probably all know that I have been diagnosed with a bone cancer called Multiple Myeloma. The average person to develop this disease is a 65 year old male – so I thought that was pretty typical – me not trying to do things the normal way! I had a stem cell transplant last year and am on a drug which has been very successful at pushing back the cancer and now keeping it at a very low rate. Hopefully it will continue to do that for a long time!
I still think performing in front of other people is harder!
How do you get into trouble when you’re not at NBCA?
I teach piano at home to 10 students and at Ringwood Secondary College to about 14. The rest of the time I manage the Boemo Family – that is Stephanie, Nicola, Michaela, Christopher, Roxy the dog and Pekoe, the cat, as well as numerous birds and fish.
My main other activity is to be the assistant production director for Melbourne Gang Show – which is a branch of the Scout/Guide Associations that trains young people in theatrical arts. We write, produce and perform a 2 story production each year with 140 cast and about 100 other volunteers in staging, lighting, costumes and administration.
Finish this sentence: I’d absolutely love to….
Do another Qantas campaign – and get to see some more wonderful places with the choir! I went to Burra and The Bungle Bungles on two Qantas ad shoots: both places I have never been to and am unlikely to go again, but really loved.