Lunchbox/Soapbox: Emma Ayres on The Viola: A big violin, a small cello, or just a joke?

Lunchbox/Soapbox: Emma Ayres on The Viola: A big violin, a small cello, or just a joke?

As the old joke goes, the definition of a gentleman is someone who can play the viola, but chooses not to. So, what is a viola? Why did all the most famous composers play it, including Jimi Hendrix? And why is this beautiful instrument the laughing stock of the orchestra?

Emma Ayres is a classically trained musician and the darling of ABC Classic FM Breakfast. In this talk, she lets loose on the viola haters in a pointed, funny classical music rant. And to dispel any final doubts, she also plays.

Who?

Portrait of Eddie Ayres

Eddie Ayres

Eddie Ayres learnt the viola as a child in England, studying in Berlin and London before playing the viola for eight years with the Hong Kong Philharmonic. As Emma Ayres, she moved from Hong Kong to Australia to present a long-running and extremely popular breakfast radio programme on ABC Classic FM, while teaching music privately and professionally.

When Emma hung up her headphones at the end of 2014, there was a public outpouring of emotion. This tattooed, intelligent, warm and witty woman had made her way into the hearts of many Australians. What the devoted audience didn't see, however, was Emma's daily struggle to live within her woman's body. For 16 years, she knew that she was transgender but to take any action seemed impossible. Emma believed there was too much to lose – family, friends and her career.

In 2016, Emma accepted a position teaching cello, viola and double bass to Afghanistan's children at the world-renowned Afghanistan National Institute of Music. Amid the chaos and unpredictability of life in war-savaged Kabul, Emma realised she had to accept her future and returned to Australia to begin transitioning from female to male. In 2016, Emma became Eddie.

Danger Music is Eddie's second book following Cadence: Travels with Music, published in 2014.

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