The Courier-Mail - QWeekend
Iinherited my grandma’s piano and started learning to play it when I was in Grade 4 and it soon became my greatest passion and joy. As it turns out, that piano led me down the musical path I’d follow for the rest of my life. I can’t imagine a life without music in it. I initially studied music teaching but have done so many varied jobs in the industry. I was the program director for the Woodford Folk Festival for many years, produced Queensland’s annual vocal cabaret Women in Voice for the past 28 years, directed children’s circus company, Flipside Circus and most recently, joined Wesley Mission in Queensland in 2017 and established their Stellar Arts program for people living with a disability.
I started performing in bands in the alternative music scene in Brisbane. As well as making my own music with Die Neuen, Batswing Saloon and Alice Won’t Cook, I did backing vocals for bands, the most notable being Powderfinger. In the late 80s, the music scene was so small, everyone used to hang out and drink together and that’s how I got to know them. I remember watching Bernard Fanning (Powderfinger lead singer) do solo gigs way back when. He was always amazing. The whole band were so hard working and driven, I’m glad I got to ride a little of their wave with them.
I did backing vocals on their first two albums before they were signed. I’ve stayed in touch with them over the years and was grateful when they called me up to record with them and in 2005, they asked me to do their backing vocals on the Big Day Out tour. I’ll never forget that. I’ve done some incredible things in my time but the underlying theme seems to be helping people find their voice.
Throughout the 90s, it became really obvious there wasn’t enough female representation on Brisbane stages. In
1993, I started Women in Voice, an event that provides a platform for female singers. In the early days, I was producing it, selling tickets, singing on stage and cleaning the toilets afterwards. It’s been going for 28 years and has been a stepping stone for many of this state’s artists like Kate Miller-Heidke, Katie Noonan and legends like Chrissy Amphlett (from the Divinyls), Jenny Morris and Indigenous singer Deborah Cheetham. While working on that project, I was tapped on the shoulder to join the team at
Woodford Folk Festival. I became the festival’s program director for 10 years. It was a wonderful experience and I loved growing the folk scene and giving acts who didn’t fit the mould a voice . I loved it so much there, I married my husband, Michael, at Woodford in 1996.
I took some time off after that to have our children. We have twin boys, Henry and Oscar, 17, and a daughter Stella, 19. I became really interested in music teaching. I created a program to help support the development of young people called Rhapsodaisy Music. Unfortunately it was all put on hold for a while when I was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2016. It was devastating and a wake-up call. But I made sure to maintain my positive attitude. I was lifted by friends, family and the wonderful music community. The amazing Tibetan musician Tenzin Choegyal used to sing to me and musicians from the old days would check in on me like Darren (Middleton) from Powderfinger. My health is now tracking well and I don’t take anything for granted.
As I was recovering, the Wesley Mission Queensland opportunity came to me. While I’ve been there, I’ve launched the Stellar Arts program with a team of artists who lead sessions like singing, drumming, visual arts, yoga and film and television with people who live with a disability. We work with all sorts of different people, it has a significant positive impact on their lives. When other forms of communication have let them down, this is another avenue to connect and that’s powerful. I’ve now got a team of 12 artists and we’ve grown the program to nine different centres across Brisbane.
Arts are an important part of health, we don’t want people to just survive in life, we want them to thrive. I love to find different ways to help people be heard rather than put them in boxes. I like changing the box shape. My chosen passion in the arts hasn’t been rich in money but it’s made me rich in everything else.
Gold Coast. Culture. Those words never used to belong together. Until now. Something is going on in Tinsel Town turning the eyes of the nation towards a place described by an acronym that has been implanted in the public’s consciousness. HOTA is now part of the lexicon like GOMA or MONA. It stands for Home of The Arts, a new cultural precinct in Surfers Paradise with a stunning outdoor stage (where everything from rock shows to ballets and operas are held) and a soon-to-be-opened swish new art gallery next door.
On a sunny morning recently I travelled to the Gold Coast to have a preview of the new $60.5 million HOTA Gallery which opens on May 8 with a busy weekend of events. I hadn’t been to the site during its construction and when I arrived I was taken aback. Gobsmacked is probably the word I would use.
This will be the largest art gallery outside a capital city in Australia. Designed by the award-winning Melbourne-based architects ARM (the same firm that designed the adjacent