Congratulations to Leah Columbine, 2022 recipient of the MSO Snare Drum Award

Percussionist Leah Colombine. Photo supplied.
Percussionist Leah Colombine. Photo supplied.

Leah Columbine is a third year Bachelor of Music (Performance) student and the 2022 recipient of the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra (MSO) Snare Drum Award.

The competition was fierce, and involved competing against percussionists from across the country to a live audience and panel of esteemed adjudicators. Leah competed alongside another percussion student from the Conservatorium, Justin Zheng, who also made the shortlist.

Leah says it’s an honour to be the recipient of the award, and a step in the direction of playing with an orchestra, which is one of her ultimate goals.

There were two rounds to the competition, which required percussion competitors to present excerpts on multiple instruments including the glockenspiel, symbols, xylophone and tambourine, in addition to the snare drum.

For the final round, competitors performed two pieces of repertoire: a test piece and a piece of their own choosing. The test piece was the premiere of a new work by Australian composer Robert Oetomo, Snares On, Snares Off. For Leah’s own choice she played Pas de deux by Robert Cossom.

Leah started playing percussion at age ten, and performing in the school percussion ensemble in high school.

“I love the snare’s versatility in different contexts,” she says of her instrument.

In an orchestra the snare is used for keeping time and adding texture and as a soloist “you can really show off the instrument's colours.”

She is also interested in the historical trajectory of the instrument, explaining its changing shape throughout time. The snare used to be much bigger and deeper, to allow for better amplification in marching bands and other military contexts. Now, she says, snare drums tend to be much smaller in size for their use in different musical contexts, including orchestras.

As the winner of the award, Leah will have the opportunity to be mentored by the MSO percussion section and attend rehearsals throughout the year.

“It is a really amazing percussion section - I am really excited,” she said of the opportunity.

Established by Melbourne Symphony Orchestra percussionist Robert Cossom in 2004, the MSO Snare Drum Award is designed to encourage the pursuit of excellence in snare drum performance in Australia and New Zealand.

"This competition encourages musicians to develop their technique, and that enhances their ability to perform any kind of music they choose," said Cossom.

Find out more about studying Music Performance at the Melbourne Conservatorium of Music