2013, you were a biggie!

I’m a little overdue with this post and update (who can believe it’s already APRIL!). At the start of the year I promised myself that I would sit back and reflect on the year that was 2013. Although I’m now coming to this well into 2014, it has been quite nice to take some time to jot these memories down, for it was indeed a biggie, and there are so many things I do not want to forget once my Alzheimer years kick in!

When I think back over last year I do feel a little exhausted! It was a large one in terms of personal and professional growth, and I’m sincerely grateful to have come out a more rounded and resilient person/composer on the other side. I’ll skip over the personal stuff (except to say that we all know that heartbreak is THE worst), but thankfully the future is very bright! So now, 2013…hmmm…

*cue scene change and fuzzy filter as we fade to a memory*

2013 BEGAN….with my head in the books and my fingers tapping away at the laptop. I finished churning away at my final research paper (of three) for my Master of Music; exploring the experiences of early-career female composers’ in Australia. I submitted this on the morning of my 26th birthday and then proceeded to eat my own body weight in food in Perth’s delectable food and wine country. Best reward ever! One day soon I hope to get around to editing these papers and making them public. They contain some absolutely incredible personal insights and data from over sixty early-career female composers throughout Australia. It was through the writing and research of this Masters’ component that I really began to feel comfortable in my own skin (that is: the skin of a young female composer) as I gradually began to gain a deeper understanding of the context in which I work in. More on this another time.

FIRST QUARTER…was about creating music with my adorable studio of piano students. Most of whom entered their original works in to the MTAQ Gold Coast Composers’ Competition – always one of the highlights of my year! The next competition is May 25, 2014 and totally worth encouraging young composers to enter. Then, two exciting pieces of news. 1. I had been accepted into the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra’s 21st Century Cybec Composers’ Program! This was/is terribly exciting! and 2. I was given the choice to jet off to Italy to take part in the 2 week SOUNDSCAPE Festival OR to North Carolina, USA for the 6 week Composition Program at the Brevard Music Centre. Although I’m still dreaming of Italy, Brevard (BMC) won!

MIDWAY THROUGH….was graduation! An accumulation and celebration of lots of hard work and growth over the past three years in a Master of Music in Composition Program. The ceremony took place later in the year at the Brisbane Convention Centre in December. After spending over 8 years (in total) at Griffith University whilst as an Undergrad, Masters student and employee, The Queensland Conservatorium of Music has really felt like home. I was so lucky to have the opportunity to work with some of the most exciting and inspiring staff in the world and the Queensland Conservatorium of Music really went out of their way to help me succeed and work to the best of my abilities. It certainly makes it a hard environment to leave! A special thank you must go out to my Master’s supervisors Dr. Gerardo Dirie and Dr. Brydie Bartleet. Also to Dr. Scott Harrison now the Director of the Conservatorium (pictured below), to my undergraduate mentor Gerard Brophy, to Dr. Stephen Cronin the Head of Composition and all of the wonderful academic and general staff who always offered smiles and stopped to have a chat in the hall way. Griffith has been a home and a family for almost a decade and I will always recommend it as the most wonderful place to study music for anyone seriously looking into their higher education options.

(At my Master of Music Graduation Ceremony with the Director of the QLD Conservatorium of Music)

MID-YEAR CONTINUED….For six glorious weeks I lived in the Blue Ridge Mountains at the Brevard Music Centre, North Carolina for the 2013 Composition Program. It looked a little something like this…

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I can’t begin to describe how important this experience was for me personally and professionally. I wrote over 20 minutes of music from Chamber Ensemble to Large Orchestra AND had it performed and recorded often within days. It was the perfect environment to make life long friends with other composers and musicians, rehearse at odd hours and most nights I stayed up much too late writing music or going on outings to ‘bowleoke’ (yes, that’s bowling and karaoke) or to the bar. I smile to think back to of the moments laying on the grass at dusk, listening to the orchestral concerts whilst watching the fireflies dance around me or even just mulling over musical ideas alone or with friends with my feet dangling in the lake. For six beautiful and intense weeks it was a life free of the usual responsibilities (ie. a day job) and it was one in which I lived, breathed and ate music (and questionable camp food) 24/7 (and also played lots of Candy Crush). The talent was inspiring and with each concert, each workshop, each note written/discussed and every ‘cards against humanity’ game I began to come alive again, which was all I needed after a tough few personal months. Sometimes you just fluke the timing. In a nutshell, it was Disney Land for composers! I’m so grateful for every second I got to spend there with the BEST people and mentors (I won’t name names as I value every single new amigo made). My sincere thanks to the Brevard Music Centre and the wonderful community of local sponsors (in particular Ladine Newton) who helped to get me there!

If it interests you, feel free to check out a little of the music I composed whilst there, below!

TOWARDS THE END… after a lovely extra couple of weeks travelling the states and crashing the Tanglewood New Music Festival with my good friend and composer Samantha Wolf (go check out her music!) it was home time! Soon after, I was treated to hearing a few of my works being brought to life once more. In September, Brisbane based ‘Ady Ensemble’ were wonderful champions of my music and performed ‘Reflection’ for string orchestra for the second time. I’ve just uploaded the video of this performance, so feel free to check it out and send them some love!

It was also a distinct pleasure to have Nadia Piave and Sally Whitwell perform ‘Lullaby’ for Mezzo-Soprano and Piano in Canberra. Although I wasn’t able to be there for the performance I was honoured for the work to be included as part of Sally’s ‘In Her Shoes’ series which features music by women composers. Sally is multi-talented artist; not only a superb pianist, but also a highly accomplished composer. You should check out her work here.

In November, Diana Blom and Dawn Bennett gave the premiere of ‘Fragile’ of Viola and Piano at the 5th IMC World Forum on Music in Queensland. This piece was written for Diana and Dawn’s ‘Australia East and West: new music for viola and piano’ project. I know these talented ladies have plans to record an album of these works in 2015, so I can’t wait to hear the end result!

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I’m also lucky enough to facilitate the Brisbane Composers’ Forum, which exists as an online facebook space and currently holds quarterly in-person forums. When we get together we like to discuss topics relevant to our practise and also enjoy sharing our current works and projects. Here’s a snap from our Christmas gathering. I feel tempted to applaud how social we’re all being by getting together like this (we are composers after all) but that would just be embarrassing! 😉

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And hey, since we’re talking about facebook groups…if you’re a woman working in composition or you’re ‘anyone’ who likes the fact that women do work in composition, please feel free to visit and join our discussions in the group ‘Women in Composition‘!

Throughout these wonderful performances I was chipping away at putting my very first work together for the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra, as part of the Cybec 21st Century Composers’ Program. With the assistance of the ever kind and generous Dr. Philip Bracanin, ‘The Pool and the Star’ (a nine minute work inspired by a poem of the same name, by the late Brisbane poet Judith Wright) was brought to life. After popping down to Melbourne for a compulsory session with their Orchestral Librarian and the chance to meet some of the musicians and the three other selected composers (more on them another time), it was back home to really get cracking on the work. I would be lying if I said that I didn’t find it an incredibly daunting task to write for such an amazing ensemble. However, with Philip’s guidance I was able to push through this and get to crux of what I really wanted to create.

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I submitted the last of the score and parts in December, for the scheduled January 2014 premiere. After joyously frolicking around the house revelling in my new-found freedom (imagine 3 months sitting at your desk staring at tiny black dots on your computer for 12 hours a day), I finally shut down for hibernation over the Christmas period. And what do you know, that leads us right into 2014…my goodness, how time really does fly! More on the MSO premiere to come…

Well that about sums up my musical 2013. Thanks for taking an interest (if you got this far) 🙂 It was lots of fun to put all this down and remember how much beauty and fun existed last year. Lots of more updates and some exciting 2014 related news to come!

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