Emma Ayres, presenter of ABC’s Classic FM Breakfast, Was invited to speak with us in Armidale to help raise funds towards building a Regional Performing Arts Centre
Where were you born?
I was born in Dover, near the White Cliffs of Dover, which form part of the British coastline facing the Strait of Dover and France.
What instrument did you first play, and where did you study music?
I started playing the violin at eight years of age, which I really hated. I wanted to play the cello, so I eventually moved to the viola and went to The Royal Northern College of Music in Manchester. Just before the wall came down in 1988, I got a scholarship to study in Berlin and then returned to study in London. At this stage of my life, I decided that I had been studying long enough; in fact, I had been studying as long as a doctor would study. It was time for me to go to work. I got a job in a small coffee shop in London, which funded a move to Hong Kong – where I played with the Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra for eight years. I stayed in Hong Kong for ten years, and a turning point in my life came when I was cycling from Shropshire in England to Hong Kong for charity. The nine-month solo trip allowed for a lot of thinking-time, which led me to decide two things: learn the cello, and try my hand at radio.
When did you immigrate to Australia, and how did you become a radio presenter?
I moved to Australia in 2003 with my then partner. I love Australia now, and I have met some incredibly warm people. I began my radio career in Hong Kong but when I first arrived in Australia, I had to work as a kitchen hand. I got in contact with ABC, and initially they said that I sounded too English.
Finally, I was lucky enough to get some fill in work with ABC Classic FM. It went quite well, and the station realised that the listeners did not mind my accent. In fact, quite a lot of people liked it. So it just kind of slowly built up, and it did take me some time to get a regular gig. Now I have been hosting Classic Breakfast since 2008.
Describe a typical day on the job?
The alarm goes off at 5am every day. I cycle to work and begin broadcasting at 6am. By the time the music starts, things are pretty chipper. How could they not be, being in a small room with Mozart, the Australian Chamber Orchestra, Jordi Savall and the best musicians in the world?
What do you hope that your audience take away from your show?
I would like to think that my radio show has cheered my listeners, but I would also like to think that it helps them to get in touch with their emotions. That sounds quite corny, doesn’t it? I like to supply a daily balanced feast, a healthy portion of happiness, a rude amount of romance and some inspiration on the side, with daily specials. I call this my ‘recipe’.
Why are you coming to Armidale?
I am coming to speak at a fundraiser. The Friends Of The ABC wrote that Armidale needs a performance space that would attract touring professional performances. Your Council has committed the land where the memorial library currently stands for a two theatre complex, which will even boast an orchestra pit and sprung stage. Such a project requires lots of funds.
What can we expect from your visit?
Well, I think you are going to have a lot of fun. I will be telling my audience about my life and my general adventures. I guess I am also hoping to learn something from your locals as well.
What instrument do you play now?
I am happy playing the cello now. I didn’t start playing it until I was in my early thirties. I am 44 now, and I am quite good at it. I seem to be enjoying it even more now that I am not playing professionally.
Who has made a difference in your career?
Well, definitely my music teachers. And I have gained a lot of insight from all types of musicians that I have played with over the years.