For Victoria Ely, who conducts her own London choral ensemble and delivers leadership training to some of the world’s biggest corporations, Monash University set her on a dual career path that has brought her professional fulfillment.
Ely had previously studied music elsewhere for two years, then discovered she could study both music and commerce at Monash. Since leaving in 2007, she’s harnessed her mix of skills to achieve success in the UK and build a growing reputation in Europe.
“I was a bit downhearted before coming to Monash, because I thought I’d have to give up music to pursue my commercial studies,” says Ely, who specialised in classical piano performance for her Bachelor of Music, and management for her Bachelor of Commerce.
“Monash enabled me to pursue both, and that’s been a huge thing in my life, because I’ve used both in my career.”
As well as directing Evoke, her sought-after choral group, Ely runs conducting masterclasses for Voces Academy in the UK and Denmark, and delivers arts-based executive leadership training programs across Europe.
Working with the likes of Rolls-Royce, Google, IBM and Standard Chartered Bank, often through the University of Oxford’s Saïd Business School, these programs use the conductor’s role to illuminate executive leadership dilemmas.
After graduating from Monash, Ely held arts management positions with Orchestra Victoria, the Melbourne Chamber Orchestra and Musica Viva Australia. “But I couldn’t ignore this gnawing in my tummy saying I really wanted to be a musician.” In 2012, she moved to the UK, and completed a master’s degree in choral conducting at the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama (RWCMD).
Not long after she graduated, acclaimed Danish conductor Peter Hanke recruited her as conductor and producer for Voces Academy. Ely, who has led Voces’s UK expansion, believes Hanke spotted “the unique combination of me as a talented young conductor with a business degree and arts management experience”.
In Europe, Ely built on her extensive conducting experience with, among others, the RWCMD Chorus, Mid Wales Opera and Cumbria Rural Choirs, and sang with ensembles including the North German Radio Symphony Orchestra.
In 2016, she founded Evoke, keen to bring a fresh approach to British choral culture by diversifying it and by presenting a visually interesting spectacle. Last year, her ensemble performed in tandem with a wine tasting. Also in 2017, Evoke collected an award at the International Choral Competition in Arezzo, Italy.
Ely has also won awards from the European Choral Association (ECA), in 2014, and the UK’s Arts Foundation, which supports future arts leaders (2015). She’s invited to lead choral workshops at European festivals, including the ECA’s major festival, Europa Cantat.
The leadership training offers her the opportunity to influence “the people that are shaping our world”, and, through working with the African Leadership Institute and the World Economic Forum’s Young Global Leaders program, to “contribute to the good of the global community”.
Ely hopes to bring Voces programs to Australia, and to stage an event in collaboration with Monash. “For me, that would just be the pinnacle,” she says.