Max Castor: Rising Star with the Australian Youth Orchestra

Max Castor: Rising Star with the Australian Youth Orchestra

Djab Wurrung and Jardwadjali man Max Castor, a talented tuba player currently pursuing a Master of Music degree at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, is among the many young musicians benefiting from the opportunities provided by the Australian Youth Orchestra (AYO). Max Castor: Rising Star with the Australian Youth Orchestra

Having previously obtained a Bachelor of Music degree with honors from the Melbourne Conservatorium of Music, Castor’s journey underscores the impact of AYO’s programs on aspiring artists.

Opportunities with AYO

The AYO, renowned globally for its innovative training and performance initiatives, is currently inviting instrumentalists from across Australia to apply for its 2025 programs.

“It’s a great opportunity to get the best young musicians around the country and bring them all together in one place,” Mr. Castor said. “Those connections you build will go on for your whole career; you often run into these people down the track in the professional world as well.”

Catering to people aged 12 to 30, these programs offer tailored training experiences designed to nurture the musical development of participants at various stages of their careers. To facilitate accessibility, the organization waives the application fee for Indigenous applicants, aiming to create a diverse and vibrant musical community.

Max Castor’s Musical Journey

Mr. Castor focuses on playing the tuba, though he has experience teaching and learning a variety of brass instruments.

“It’s a pretty underrated instrument,” he said. “I was the shortest kid in the class, and of course, I wanted to play the biggest instrument. I really love the sound and the opportunities it’s given me, so I’m really grateful I made that decision.”

The AYO’s collaboration with industry professionals translates into excellent employment prospects for participants, spanning orchestral and non-orchestral careers such as sound production, orchestral management, and composition. With flexibility at its core, the AYO’s programs cater to the unique needs of each participant, allowing individuals to select options that complement their study schedules.

Standout Moments

Castor noted one of his standout moments was performing new music at the Sydney Opera House with the AYO, honoring William Cooper, an Aboriginal political activist and community leader, who was the first to lead a national movement recognized by the Australian government.

“It was really special to be a part of that,” he said. “It was about telling his story…we took it to Canberra and Sydney, and I really enjoyed it.”

Financial assistance is available for successful applicants, further promoting accessibility and inclusivity within the organization. “It’s exciting to see the increase in education and bringing Indigenous people in,” Mr. Castor said.

AYO’s Impact and Future

The AYO boasts an illustrious alumni roster, including acclaimed figures like ARIA award winner Nigel Westlake, Brett Yang and Eddy Chen of TwoSet Violin fame, and Justin Julian, who recently secured the Principal Viola position with the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra.

Castor has enjoyed the development AYO has provided through these various avenues. “We have guest coaches who are professional musicians who are at the top of their artform, and they come in and coach us. We all have very specific goals…I couldn’t imagine doing anything else in the world.”

As part of Arts8, a consortium critical to the implementation of the national cultural policy, Revive, the AYO plays a pivotal role in nurturing Australia’s cultural landscape. Applications for the AYO’s 2025 programs opened on May 30 and will close on July 31, offering aspiring musicians a gateway to unparalleled training and performance opportunities.

Commitment to Inclusivity

CEO Kimbali Harding highlights the AYO’s commitment to inclusivity, particularly encouraging applications from rural and remote areas as well as from First Nations people. “Our close work with industry also leads to excellent employment outcomes, with many students going into orchestral and non-orchestral careers like sound production, orchestral management, or composition,” Harding said. “We are committed to ensuring that all eligible musicians are able to participate in our programs, regardless of financial and geographic barriers.”

The AYO is performing in Naarm in July, providing another opportunity for the community to witness the incredible talent fostered by this prestigious organization.

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