SO EXCITING: Viola player Helen Poggioli still gets a thrill when she gets on stage.
SO EXCITING: Viola player Helen Poggioli still gets a thrill when she gets on stage.

30 years playing the fiddle for Qld Symphony Orchestra

IMAGINE sitting on stage surrounded by 84 others, with an audience of hundreds of expectant guests in front of you waiting for the orchestra to strike up.

This is the thrill viola player Helen Poggioli has experienced for the past 30 years as one of the Queensland Symphony Orchestra's (QSO) longest serving musicians.

She says she never tires of the exhilaration those moments bring before the conductor enters the stage and picks up his/her baton.

"There is a sense of anticipation and excitement when you wait back-stage to go on," she said.

"That's a lovely feeling, but you have to gather your concentration. Then there is a great surge of energy and focus when the conductor comes out. We all rise. We might have been on stage for a short while, tuning, exchanging a word or two about the arrangement, and then there is this renewed energy when we begin playing."

Helen began her music career in Queensland's Atherton Tablelands when she was a teenager, starting on the piano before going on to the viola (a string instrument, similar to, but larger than, a violin and with a deeper sound.)

"There weren't string programs in schools those days," she said. "It was mostly private tuition. I was lucky to live in an area of the Atherton Tablelands where there were a couple of good piano and string teachers."

Lucky indeed in regional Queensland in the 1970s to have access to tuition that would see Helen learn and thrive and eventually take her to the great concert halls of Italy, especially Verona, where she worked for four years.

"I loved Italy," she said. "At the time I needed to get overseas and do more study and find work and to end up in Italy in Verona was beautiful. I got to play all those seasons with the orchestra full-time, outside for the summer concerts. Italy is a hard place to drag yourself away from but I eventually wanted to be established in Australia in Queensland."

On her return to Australia, Helen joined the QSO and has been a member ever since.

Such a long and successful career with the QSO means Helen has been part of the orchestra backing some of the world's most renowned entertainers. although she missed out playing with Lang Lang when he was in Brisbane recently.

"I was away on long service leave," she said. "But the orchestra said it was a wonderful celebration."

She is part of the strings section of the orchestra which is divided into three different parts: strings, woodwinds, brass and percussion.

"The strings are divided - violas, cellos and double bases - a bit like a choir with its sopranos, altos and bases," she said.

"When we are on stage with the permanent members (of the orchestra) we are usually 85 players or more depending on the repertoire."

Rehearsals for each performance are conducted over three days leading to a dress rehearsal before the concert.


  • The Queensland Symphony Orchestra is renowned for performances of classical and modern compositions. It employs 88 full-time musicians and plays a vital role in Queensland's cultural community, giving over 157 live performances across 47 weeks each year to more than 1.6 million people.
  • The annual season attracts high-profile international and national artists featuring repertoire from Beethoven to the Proms, and special events such as the Doctor Who Symphonic Spectacular and Journey through the Cosmos with Professor Brian Cox.
  • Located principally in Brisbane, each year the Orchestra also undertakes a regional tour delivering a free community engagement program and conducts an extensive state-wide education program that connects with 30,000 students, from pre-school to university level.
  • The Orchestra also presents innovative corporate workshops engaging the business sector to think outside of the box about leadership and team work.
  • In addition to its own program, Queensland Symphony Orchestra performs for major arts festivals, direct broadcasts and recordings, and supports state and national opera and ballet company.

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