James Monro, Cello

Meet the orchestra

Portrait of James Monro holding a cello.
James Monro, CSO Cello

For James Monro, the cello is a family tradition: his mother played the cello, and her mother before her. Originally from Adelaide, James has lived in Canberra for several years and is studying music performance, composition, mathematics, and physics at the ANU.

Outside of music, James enjoys visual art of many varieties and pursues interests across a range of academic disciplines.  

Briefly introduce yourself – tell us your name, your instrument, where you’re living and how you’re involved in the CSO community.

James Monro: My name is James and I play the cello. I moved to Canberra two years ago from Adelaide. Over the past year, I have enjoyed being a member of the CSO cello section.

How did you come to be a musician?

JM: I started playing piano at age five, cello at age six, and oboe at age 11. The sound of the cello appealed to me, and cello playing has become a family tradition—my mother and her mother both played cello.

What are you doing when you’re not on stage with the CSO?

JM: Aside from the CSO, I enjoy playing solo and chamber music. I recently performed the Dvorak Cello Concerto with the National Capital Orchestra. Additionally, I am part of a newly-formed ensemble of ANU music students called the Ellery String Quartet.

I am a first-year student at ANU, studying music performance, composition, mathematics, and physics.

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The most rewarding part of playing music is exploring the relationship between the composer, the audience, and other musicians. I take great joy in being a bridge between the artistic genius of the composer and the ears of the listener.

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What are your top concert picks from the current CSO season, and why?

JM: I am particularly looking forward to playing in Llewellyn Four: Infinite Possibilities (23 / 24 Nov 2022): the Sibelius Violin Concerto is one of my favourite concerti, and I have had a fascination with Petrushka since I first encountered it on a composition camp a few years ago.

What’s the most rewarding aspect of playing music? What’s the hardest part?

JM: The most rewarding part of playing music is exploring the relationship between the composer, the audience, and other musicians. I take great joy in being a bridge between the artistic genius of the composer and the ears of the listener.

One of the most challenging aspects of ensemble playing is reconciling differences in artistic opinion. While, in some cases, such division can be a hindrance, it can also prompt valuable discussion and deepen the general understanding of the music.

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One of the most challenging aspects of ensemble playing is reconciling differences in artistic opinion….division can be a hindrance [but] it can also prompt valuable discussion and deepen the general understanding of the music.

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What are you learning at the moment, in music or in life?

JM: In an almost paradoxical way, I am learning that to unlock broader artistic creativity, one needs to place restrictions on oneself—to disrupt the most confining restriction that is habit. For instance, by constraining my compositional parameters, I have managed to expand my stylistic palate immensely.

What’s something you love that has nothing to do
with music?

JM: I am passionate about a diverse array of academic disciplines, including mathematics, physics, philosophy, and linguistics.

Do you have any other creative pursuits, professional or otherwise?

JM: Visual art of many varieties has been a pastime of mine since I was a small child. Initially I never strayed from graphite drawings, but I began to explore digital art, especially through an open-source 3D modelling and rendering program called Blender.

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In an almost paradoxical way, I am learning that to unlock broader artistic creativity, one needs to place restrictions on oneself—to disrupt the most confining restriction that is habit.

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What’s one of your favourite places in Canberra?

JM: Aspen Island, the home of the National Carillon, is a serene, idyllic spot, and an ideal location for a picnic. It is also inherently connected with music, existing purely to bear one of Australia’s two Carillons.

Any book, podcast or movie recommendations?

JM: The trilogy Remembrance of Earth’s Past by Galaxy-Award-winning Chinese author Cixin Liu is one of the prime examples of a successful modern science fiction saga, and holds a special place in my heart.

Another very different but equally wonderful work is Anthony Doerr’s All the Light We Cannot See, a historical fiction novel about a blind French girl and a German boy in the Second World War.

Cats or dogs?

JM: Cats! I have two Russian Blues called Glinka and Borodin.

If you could choose a superpower, what would it be?

JM: To be able to wake up refreshed no matter how much (or little) sleep I get.

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