What does winning the award mean to you?
I feel very honoured, not to mention thrilled and surprised to receive this award. I hope that it is a recognition of the artistic capacity of young choirs. For this reason I would like to pay tribute to all and my colleagues around the country who work with children’s choirs at a high level.
What are you currently working on?
I am currently preparing for two international tours. The first is a unique collaboration between the Cairns Gondwana Indigenous Children’s Choir and the Vienna Boys’ Choir. The Cairns choir will soon travel to Vienna and later in the year the Vienna Boys’ Choir will perform with us in Sydney and Cairns. What happens when you juxtapose the oldest continuous culture on earth with a choir more than 600 years old?
In July, I will tour to the Baltic countries and Iceland with Gondwana Voices, our national treble choir.
Meanwhile we have recently completed our national Choral School with 325 young singers, composers and conductors from around the country; Sydney Children’s Choir is in full swing; our three Indigenous Choir hubs are up and running for the year and we are providing the children’s chorus to Opera Australia for two productions in the season.
What is the best piece of career advice you would give your younger self?
To rejoice in every new creative idea and all the challenges which accompany each new project. Having said that, I’m not sure I would do anything too differently.
What inspires you or has been the greatest influence of your work?
I am not sure that there is one particular source of inspiration. Creatively I feel like all the threads of my life come together in the creation of new ideas. I am inspired by the young singer/artists I work with, the boundless capacity of young brains, by the great musicians, composers and creative minds I have collaborated with, by the Indigenous artists, traditional owners, and cultural custodians I have had the privilege to learn from, by the dedicated administrative staff of Gondwana Choirs, and all the remarkable volunteers always willing to make things happen.
Can you describe the practical process you use to develop ideas/concepts for your work?
A new project will germinate in my mind, sometimes in minutes, sometimes over some days or even months, then as I walk into the office, my “new idea eyes” will be a dead giveaway. Ideas will be discussed and many approaches, implications, budgets and benefits will be considered. I welcome suggestions from all involved and when working with young people I consider it essential to involve them in the creative process as far as practicable.
Why is it important to engage children and young people in the arts? What are some recurring challenges that are characteristic of that process and how do you suggest people overcome them?
Participation in the arts is clearly essential for all young people. Children are driven by imagination and creativity, this is how they find their identity and their place in the world. Through the arts they can express this in the most powerful way.
Children’s choirs certainly contribute to the development of the child, but I would say they are also a unique gift to the world. Young voices are as remarkable and beautiful as they are transient.
They are not simply children practicing to be good adult choirs, but artists able to perform at a professional level within an ensemble that is as valid as, say, a string quartet.
The greatest challenge (and joy) is that, no sooner have you created a great ensemble that it vanishes and the process starts anew.