Interview - Ensembly Founder & Cellist Louise McKay

Who is Louise McKay?

Louise McKay is a cellist, first, but also a road cyclist, mother to a gorgeous labrador x cocker spaniel called Elliott, and the founding director of ENSEMBLY.

"I have been the Associate Principal Cello in the West Australian Symphony Orchestra since 2011, but prior to that, I studied cello at the Australian National Academy of Music in Melbourne, the Adelaide Conservatorium, and spent three years living and completing my post-grad at the Colburn School  in Los Angeles. (That's 8 years at uni!!)"

WASO performs something different every week. When we're not playing big symphonic repertoire at the concert hall, we might be in the pit at His Majesty's for the Opera or Ballet productions, or playing education programs, movie scores, or with popular artists like Eskimo Joe and Megan Washington - so we get to play a huge variety of music."

Semra Lee-Smith, Jon Tooby, Sally Boud and Louise McKay

Semra Lee-Smith, Jon Tooby, Sally Boud and Louise McKay

What is Ensembly?

Ensembly has had a successful launch. I plan for it to grow into a web application that connects hosts, artists and audiences and allows people to book and host performances in many spaces, such as their living room, using technology in the way that AirBnB and Uber do.

This months sponsorship by Studio Startup enables Ensembly to present four Sunday afternoon concerts in their basement. The space is perfect for creating a fun but intimate vibe, where musicians can talk about the music they're going to play, giving audiences an insight into their personality as well as context around the pieces.

This format makes classical music very accessible for anyone who hasn't been to a classical concert before, but Ensembly doesn't "dumb it down" either - we will only be presenting artists who have an excellent track record, performing works that they are personally passionate about.


ENSEMBLY event - String Quartet in the Studio StartUp Basement

ENSEMBLY event - String Quartet in the Studio StartUp Basement

How/what inspired you to start Ensembly?

I have always had a passion for chamber music, which means playing in a small ensemble, typically 2-6 people. Historically, chamber music was composed for the chamber - ie. a small room, not a concert hall. Performing it in that way creates a really special atmosphere, as it's much easier for the audience and artists to connect when they are close.

The problem was, setting up performance opportunities for such an ensemble can be very time-consuming and it's not very efficient to go through that process for one concert at a time. Basic economics says that you need a large space with a big audience capacity to make a concert viable, but I sense that there's a market for many small performances, rather than a few big ones.

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Given the ideal setting of a living room, combined with the  absence of venue hire fees, bringing these inspiring performances into people homes seems like a good idea to me!

I know that there's a huge pool of talent in Perth, in fact throughout Australia, and the world, that are likely encountering the same issues as I have have. I hope that developing this format and a web app will build the capacity for independent artists (not just musicians, also spoken word, dance, poetry, acting, you name it) to perform far more frequently, and with a greater sense of connection to the audience, both at the actual event, and also building the arts community as a whole.

Where do you want to see Ensembly in the future?

In 5 years, I would like to see Ensembly as a household name for performing arts events. I'm thinking Fringe Festival, but all year round, and high profile performers guaranteed. In the near future though, I'm going to continue organising small events, testing the format and various systems, and hopefully get started on building that app sometime soon!

Arts Initiative Australia Launch

Arts Initiative Australia Launch

Are you seeking support?

Ensembly is supported through Arts Initiative Australia, so donations can be made to Ensembly through AIA.

In order to build Ensembly into the App that I dream of, yes, it will require funding. Whether that will come through Arts Initiative or by applying for other grants, I don't know yet. At present, I am following the self funding startup process, bootstrapping, which is keeping me creative while testing and exploring and making genuine contacts. I do appreciate any marketing shares, blogs and tags from other startups and marketing companies too.

I'm also on the look-out for future hosts, so if you're interested in the idea, please don't hesitate to get in touch.

MAKE CONTACT with Louise McKay or go to the website www.ensembly.com.au

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Studio StartUp, is enjoying working with Louise, as she is passionate and focused and the music is beautiful.

You can find out more or book to come along to one of the next three ENSEMBLY performances in our basement HERE


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Exquisite Chamber Music set to fill the Basement

Come and be a part of this unique musical experience where ENSEMBLY is launching with their first chamber music series in the edgy, historic Studio Startup Basement

ENSEMBLY Founder  Louise McKay  playing Cello in Studio StartUp Basement

ENSEMBLY Founder Louise McKay playing Cello in Studio StartUp Basement


There are four performances over four Sundays. The setting is intimate. You will be right up close and enveloped by the music. And the historic basement venue is very cool.

Each Ensembly performance runs for approximately one hour, where the musicians will give you an insight into their interpretations of the works they are presenting.

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The talented ENSEMBLY artists only perform pieces they are truly passionate about, sharing with you an experience, energy and connection generated by their exquisite chamber music and the intimate setting is just the way the music was originally intended.

This special event will run for four SUNDAYS @ 1:30pm starting on September 10 with a String Trio


Semra Lee-Smith (violin)  Sally Boud (viola)  Jon Tooby (cello) perform a lively folk music-inspired string trio, contrasted with another masterpiece for the same instrumentation from some 110 years earlier.

The location is The Studio StartUp Basement at 143 Barrack Street, Perth. (Enter through Toastface Grillah cafe from 1:15PM)

To get your limited edition tickets go to ENSEMBLY EVENTBRITE

Proudly sponsored by The City of Perth