Playing an instrument was a natural fit for Leah Columbine, 16, with her mother being a string teacher and her father a keen percussionist.
“Dad always said, ‘if there’s one thing I don’t want you to do, it’s percussion!’,” laughs Leah, who is in Year 11 at Methodist Ladies’ College in Melbourne. “It was the logistics of travelling and transporting those instruments, which isn’t easy. But I just thought percussion was the coolest!”
Whilst she dabbled in playing the trumpet in her primary years, it too was percussion that really grabbed her interest. Not set on one particular instrument, she plays both ‘tune’ and ‘non-tune’ percussion; that is, melodic percussion such as xylophone and the marimba, and those that play unpitched such as a snare drum.
Leah was last year awarded the Angela Sharman Memorial Music Scholarship at MLC. The scholarship was established in 1990, commemorating Angela Sharman, a past student and talented musician. Angela’s father, who set up the Trust, is staunch believer in community support for young people’s access to a high standard of education.
A representative from the Sharman family was present for Leah’s audition. “He was really interested in talking and asking about my music and percussion,” she says.
Alongside a music audition of two pieces, applicants are also required to take an academic test.
Leah took the application process in her stride, having performed in several competitions previously, such as the Australian Percussion Eisteddfod – and even winning first prize for timpani in her first year.
Leah has been an active member of the MLC music school, playing in groups such as the Percussion Ensemble and the school’s esteemed Drumline, who perform at events such as the ANZAC Day march. Furthermore, she has been a member of the Melbourne Youth Orchestra since 2016, and has been their Principal Timpanist since 2017.
“In the music school, we all grow into a close community together as a lot of us have been playing together for a while,” she says. “The older girls are also role models for the younger students; when you’re younger, it’s really encouraging to see the older girls and learn from them.”
Whilst in Year 11, she is also undertaking the Year 12 units for VCE Music Performance, a combination of theoretical and practical coursework, and is toying with the idea of potentially continuing to pursue music after finishing school.
“I’ve been so lucky to be able to accomplish this much in music,” Leah says. “It’s such a privilege to be able to study and perform.
“I am very grateful to the Sharman family and the administrators of the scholarship to allow me these experiences.”