Redefining success in music with lifelong learning

Fine Arts

- John Threlfall

Philip Manning.

When it comes to career paths, most music students aspire to professional positions after graduation—playing with an orchestra, say, or becoming a chamber musician or band teacher. Not so with Philip Manning, who took a different approach to his own musical career: about to graduate with a Bachelor of Music, he’s already been performing as a full-time violinist with the Victoria Symphony since 2016.  

It doesn't matter where you are in your career, there's always more to learn. Coming back to school when you're a bit older, you take different things away from your classes and your instruction. You just need a clear focus on whatever it is you want to do.

—Philip Manning 

For the 32-year-old Manning, the Victoria Symphony’s COVID-era performance closures offered the ideal chance to enroll in UVic’s School of Music in 2020.

“When COVID started, it provided an opportunity to fill in some gaps in my training,” he explains. “Work got thrown up in the air for a time and we weren't nearly as busy as usual—even when we started playing virtual concerts again—so I thought, ‘Okay, how can I be productive with this extra time I have? What are my long-term goals?' I just wanted to give myself more options.

Born and raised in Victoria, Manning has music on both sides of his family (his pianist mother was also a music teacher, and his centenarian grandfather was a post-war semi-professional jazz musician) but he’s the first to work full time as a professional musician.

As a young violinist, he took lessons at the Victoria Conservatory and was involved with the Greater Victoria Performing Arts Festival, but after graduating from Langford’s Lighthouse Christian Academy he enrolled in Pittsburgh’s Duquesne University in 2014, where he earned an artist diploma in violin performance.

I’m kind of doing life a bit backwards. After high school, I was still trying to figure out if I wanted to carry on with music and make it a career, so I did an artist diploma, which is actually more like a graduate-level program.

—Philip Manning

After two years of intense training, he then auditioned successfully for both the Calgary Philharmonic and the Victoria Symphony before choosing to return to the Island.  

No question, the School of Music has long ties to the Victoria Symphony (VS), thanks to a number of instructors and alumni who regularly perform with them, as well as the likes of the Lafayette String Quartet and VS associate conductor Giuseppe Pietraroia, who has been teaching in Music and leading the UVic Symphony Orchestra since 2022. Then there’s Music’s voice program, whose students sing in the chorus of Pacific Opera Victoria, for whom the VS also play.   

“I've known Ann Elliott-Goldschmid and the other LSQ members very well for a long time, so it just made sense to study here at UVic because we've always had a good relationship,” says Manning.

As part of his degree work, Manning undertook a directed study with Elliott-Goldschmid, focused specifically on the audition process. But, with seven Victoria Symphony seasons already under his bow, how important is a course like that? “It’s actually very important,” he stresses. “Any audition for a professional orchestra involves multiple rounds, and preparing for that means a lot more than just practicing.” 

Case in point? Manning just successfully auditioned for the position of assistant concertmaster with the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra, which has now resulted in the offer of a short trial period with the orchestra—a next-step success story that might not have happened without that directed study.

“My goal was to audition for a title position with another orchestra, which would essentially mean more responsibility—and ideally more pay—and would offer me a new experience. Ann was instrumental in helping me prepare for that audition.”

And while his professional schedule over the past few years meant he didn’t have the time to play with UVic’s own Symphony Orchestra, he does lead sectional rehearsals for them and does a bit of tutoring with the other students.

It's not so long ago that I was in the same shoes as they are right now, so I understand how it is for them,” he says. “But I’ve got a different perspective from when I was in my late teens and early twenties, when I didn’t fully understand what was being given to me and was trying to figure out how to implement it. Now, I have a much better focus and have gotten so much more out of my education. This has been a really good experience for me.”

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In this story

Keywords: convocation, student life, art

People: Philip Manning

Publication: The Ring

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