An aural shake-up of fabulous proportions: six-four X SPIRAL

six-four ensemble (Facebook here, Instagram here)

Alex Clayton- piano

Thomas D’Ath- clarinet

Ollie Iacono- percussion

Chloe Sanger- violin

Anna Telfer- flute

Oscar Woinarski- cello

SPIRAL ensemble (Facebook here, Instagram here)

Illustration credit: Katherine Smith Illustration

Johannes MacDonald- flute and saxophone

Josephine Macken- flute

Oscar Smith- keyboards

Sarah Elise Thompson– keyboards

Josh Winestock- electric guitar

Rory Knott- electric bass

Will Hansen- double bass

By Stella Joseph-Jarecki

Why should we take a chance on new music? More to the point, why is new music something that we feel we need to take a chance on, as if it’s a daunting and potentially spiky experience which might cause our ears to fall off?

I do understand where this reluctance might come from. Anything unfamiliar can be intimating, and for many people, sinking their teeth (ears?) into the classical music canon is daunting enough, let along anything composed recently.  

But I think it would be an incredibly sad thing for newly composed contemporary classical/ new art music/ new chamber music to be dismissed. It would be such a shame to put new music in the listening ‘too hard’ basket, to think of it as somehow less open, less approachable, less fun, or less interesting than new rock, pop, funk, jazz, etc. Genre labels serve a broad purpose, but seeing as composers of broadly classical new works are emerging from hundreds of years of composing traditions, and are influenced by anything they want to be, AND can disregard the rules that have come before them, why would we ever think of this kind of music as a narrow thing?

On the evening of Thursday 28th November, Melbourne new music ensemble six-four presented a program with special guests, Sydney new music ensemble SPIRAL. As the members of six-four are all alumni of Melbourne Conservatorium of Music, the concert was presented at the Prudence Myer Studio at the new Ian Potter Southbank Centre and was supported by the New Music Studio at the MCM.

As a young musician and person who is incredibly hopeful for the future of classical music of all shapes and sizes in Melbourne, I have to say that this exactly the kind of concert I hope to see more of. A whopping six out of eight pieces were composed in 2018 (!!!) alongside a piece composed in 2017 and a Phillip Glass piece composed in 1995.

The first set was performed by SPIRAL. All seven members of SPIRAL are composers as well as performers, and the group also stages works by collaborators from outside the ensemble. The instrumentation consisted of Johannes MacDonald on flute and saxophone, Josephine Macken on flute, Oscar Smith and Sarah Elise Thompson on keyboards, Josh Winestock on electric guitar, Rory Knott on electric bass and Will Hansen on double bass.   

SPIRAL ensemble, from left to right: Johannes MacDonald, Will Hansen, Josh Winestock, Oscar Smith, Sarah Elise Thompson, Rory Knott, Josephine Macken.

The first piece was entitled Hey Let’s Go To Woolies (2018) by Joe Lisk, and was in fact inspired by the length of time and direction of the composer’s walk to his local supermarket. Lisk ‘split the piece into three rhythmic cells’ which are then explored through a rubric in a semi-improvisatory form. The beginning of the piece was meditative and Phillip Glass-esque, and the ensemble displayed a fabulous amount of head-bopping energy as they communicated while moving from one section to the next.

The next three pieces in the set were composed by members of SPIRAL. Oscar Smith’s Iron Filings (2018) featured bold juxtapositions in tone and timbre, and was composed in ‘accordion’ form; namely each section became progressively shorter, before this structure was reversed towards the ending. I enjoyed the thumping energy of the percussive sections featuring flute, keys and electric guitars, and the fact the performers were unafraid to push the timbres of their instruments to breaking point and create a bold ‘ugly’ sound. That being said, the piece ended with a tender interaction between double bass and flute, with Will Hansen and Josephine Macken playing with a beautiful straight-toned sound.

SPIRAL ensemble in 2018. From left to right: Will Hansen, Johannes MacDonald, Oscar Smith, Rory Knott, Josh Winestock, Sarah Elise Thompson, Josephine Macken.

Sarah Elise Thompson’s piece Bixler 225 (2018) created a weaving soundscape built on repeated piano motifs. The entire piece had a dreamlike, hypnotic quality, calling to mind images of the gentle motion of waves, or sunlight shifting through water.  The piano motifs were intertwined with atmospheric straight-tone notes sung softly by members of the ensemble and played on flute and double bass. I found this piece to be especially moving. Listening to it made me feel like I had tumbled down a sound world rabbit hole, one which led me to the place described in Sarah’s program notes. She wrote that over a summer at a US college, she spent a lot of time in a particular practice room, ‘[playing] the same three chords over and over’ on a keyboard, absorbed in the overtones this created while looking out over ‘New England pines trees and greenery’. You can watch SPIRAL perform this piece in 2018 here.

SPIRAL’s finished their set with Scesis Onomation (2018) by Rory Knott, a piece inspired by the concept of repeating different words with very similar meanings. This six minute composition was packed with rollicking rhythmical fragments and was highly energetic and entertaining.

Six-four began their set with No Distant Place (2018) by Lisa Cheney, a composer and compositional lecturer who was in attendance. The piece was inspired by the poem of the same name, first discovered by Lisa on an engraving in a cemetery garden. The two movements of the piece were composed some time apart and possessed starkly different moods. Lisa alluded to this in her address to the audience, saying that when she returned to the poem to write the second movement, she responded to it in a dramatically different way. It was fantastic to see the concentrated communication between Chloe Sanger (violin), Tom D’Ath (clarinet) and Alex Clayton (piano), and they moved through moments of the piece which were alternatively peaceful and introspective, and chaotic. You can listen to the piece and read Lisa’s full program notes here.

six-four in 2018. From left to right: Chloe Sanger, Alex Clayton, Oscar Woinarski, Ollie Iacono, Anna Telfer. (Thomas D’Ath seated behind Anna Telfer)

Ingrid Stölzel’s The Voice of the Rain (2018) was performed by the remaining three members of six-four, Anna Telfer on flute, Ollie Iacono on percussion and Oscar Woinarski on cello. Stölzel’s piece was inspired by the Walt Whitman poem of the same name, particularly the idea of ‘the world as an everlasting cyclical process of giving birth to itself and giving back life to its own origin’. Anna Telfer played with an elegance and lightness of phrasing, and the trio interacted skillfully in creating an absorbing and at times eerie sound world. You can watch a performance of the work here

The final two pieces saw six-four play as a full ensemble. The oldest piece in the program was an arrangement of Symphony No. 3 Part III by Phillip Glass, written in 1996. (Such a lovely novelty to realise the oldest piece in the program is a year younger than yourself). Six-four played with a great amount of dynamic tension, bringing out the ebb and flow in the phrases of Glass’ work.

six-four in 2018. From left to right: Alex Clayton, Chloe Sanger, Oscar Woinarski, Ollie Iacono, Thomas D’Ath, Anna Telfer.

The final piece of the night was Bear Trap (2017) composed by Ollie Iacono. Ollie introduced the piece as a ‘fever dream’ which contained a bit of everything, including a bit of ‘bossa nova- so perhaps it’s a fever dream in an elevator’. This was a piece which bubbled along happily at times and unleashed screeching crescendos at other times. As far as fever dreams go, it was an interesting and enjoyable ride.

This review has been a long-winded one. It was important to me to go into detail because these two ensembles represent everything that gets me excited for the future of new music in Australia. These young composers and musicians are brave and dedicated enough to take risks on new rep, rep which is not guaranteed to put bums on seats, rep which challenges assumptions on what chamber music ‘should’ sound like. I am so excited to see what six-four and SPIRAL get up to in the future, and I highly recommend seeing them perform if you are looking for a fascinating, challenging and inspiring night of music.

six-four ensemble (Facebook here, Instagram here)

Alex Clayton- piano

Thomas D’Ath- clarinet

Ollie Iacono- percussion

Chloe Sanger- violin

Anna Telfer- flute

Oscar Woinarski- cello

SPIRAL ensemble (Facebook here, Instagram here)

Illustration credit: Katherine Smith Illustration

Johannes MacDonald- flute and saxophone

Josephine Macken- flute

Oscar Smith- keyboards

Sarah Elise Thompson– keyboards

Josh Winestock- electric guitar

Rory Knott- electric bass

Will Hansen- double bass

Turangalîla-Symphonie

Performed by Sydney Symphony Orchestra. November 21st 2019, Sydney Opera House

Conductor: David Robertson

Soloists: Tengku Irfan on piano, Jacob Abela on ondes martenot

By Sean Quinn

Fever Pitch Magazine guest contributor Sean Quinn recently attended the Sydney Symphony Orchestra performance of Olivier Messiaen’s Turangalîla-Symphonie. The SSO describes the unique work on their website: “Calling for a massive orchestra of almost 100 musicians, solo piano and one of the earliest of electronic instruments, the ondes martenot, Messiaen creates a spellbinding, transcendent world filled with drama and mysticism.

Its first performances in the 1940s were considered nothing short of a revelation from a composer whose musical bombshells seemed to belie his gentle spirituality and humanism. Turangalîla, a word from the ancient Sanskrit reflects the work’s fascinating dualities: east and west; tonality and lyricism, joy, time, life and death.”

Keep reading below to hear Sean’s thoughts!

My first visit to the Sydney Opera House was one that had me shivering with excitement. After witnessing the sheer glory of Olivier Messiaen’s immense Turangalîla-Symphonie at Melbourne’s Hamer Hall with the Australian World Orchestra (2017) under the baton of Simone Young, who brought powerful contrast to the colourful menagerie of music that lay before her, I was ecstatic to attend my second viewing of the colossal work. This time, the Sydney Symphony Orchestra, led by David Robertson, whose distinct style provided a nice point of difference for me as an audience member. Having not even reached the age of 20 and now seen Turangalîla twice in two of Australia’s finest venues, I had much to contemplate.

I would love to first acknowledge the two soloists; Tengku Irfan on piano and Jacob Abela on the ‘ondes martenot’ – the latter of which I’ve now had the pleasure of seeing perform in this role twice, both times with astonishing conviction and poise around the complexity of the ‘ondes’.

Irfan showed great virtuosity in tackling the fiendish solo piano part, delivering the passion and intensity Messiaen desired in the music as well as the delicate contrasts. At times there was a lack of contrast in certain cadenzas. This is not to say that they were performed with any less technical brilliance, but occasionally seemed a little too hurried, not allowing space for contemplation of the vast palette of colours at hand.

Abela’s performance was incredibly stylish. Adorned in a fitting costume that suited the unique quirk of his instrument and the symphony’s general state, the ‘ondes’ was certainly in the hands of a well formed ‘ondist’. Capturing the mystic, yet somewhat voice-like character of the instrument is no mean feat, and Jacob performed with flying colours, engaging the audience and ensemble with the beauty of the ‘ondes’ varied sound capabilities.

The orchestra under Robertson’s baton, whilst powering through the extremes of Messiaen’s convoluted and occasionally trivial writing with composure and exceptional tenacity, seemed to lack dimensions of dynamic and textural balance, as well as some choices of tempo that lacked variety. Robertson quite fittingly captured in his opening remarks the ‘excessive’ nature of Turangalîla, but I found I was generally underwhelmed with the extent of this ‘excess’ that was explored and exploited throughout the entire performance – I longed to feel the polarising contrast of each section.

The acoustics of the Opera House can be unforgiving, which was exposed with an elaborate entourage of amplification – and this sadly detracted from the orchestra’s presence. I found that certain sections of the orchestra were unsynchronised with both Robertson, the soloists and/or the ensemble itself; on a micro scale. I also come back to the point of hurriedness, where certain points – in particular the ‘Theme of Love’ that is first shown in the fourth movement – was not held in suspense long enough, and felt glossed over.

Particular highlights of the night include the fiery Introduction, which started the evening with a bang. The Piccolo and Bassoon duet at the beginning of the fourth movement; a particular favourite section of mine, showcased a quaint and playful element amid the moodiness of the first half of the work. Though the density of musical colour displayed throughout the first half did occasionally lack depth, from the sixth movement onwards, a sudden warmth and life was breathed back into the orchestra, which allowed for the second half to soar. Robertson’s clear affinity with the Eighth movement rose the mentality of the orchestra – and no matter my conflicting opinion on the movement, it was performed with astonishing character by the entire ensemble. And of course, the fifth and tenth movements shone with the bright lights of American influence as well as representing the divinity and latent eroticism of the symphony.

Overall, this performance was an iridescent display of the meeting-point between the traditional and avant-garde by one of the greats of the 20th Century, performed with great calibre by all. It was worth the trip up from Melbourne, and the experience of seeing the titanic Turangalîla live again. I await its return to Australian concert halls, hopefully in the near future.

Nicole Ng

Photo credit: Jessie Fong

Pianist, accompanist, music teacher

Speech difficulties in her early life meant that Nicole Ng faced challenges in expressing her emotions and feelings through words. Learning the piano at the age of seven helped to develop her confidence and communication skills and she inspires others through her expressive playing and passion for music.

Guiding her aspirations of a creative career as a chamber repetiteur, piano teacher and collaborative pianist, Nicole is currently undertaking a performance teaching degree, studying with Caroline Almonte at the Melbourne Conservatorium of Music (MCM).

Nicole is a busy and in-demand performer, educator, writer and mentor. She has performed with many chamber ensembles, freelanced as a collaborative pianist for music examinations and concerts, performed with orchestras (Melbourne Youth Orchestra, and Victorian Youth Symphony Orchestra), inspired future pianists through her piano teaching, featured as a writer in Rehearsal Magazine and in major blog platforms for the University of Melbourne (UniMelb Adventures, First_Year@UniMelb, and Back for Seconds).

Keep up to date with Nicole’s musical adventures through her Facebook page here, her Instagram page here, and her blog Adventure Time with the Muso here

Seven Tips on… Being a Freelance Collaborative Artist

Photo credit: Jessie Fong

By Nicole Ng

Being a freelance collaborative artist brings new adventures and excitement with every week. Sometimes, it can be hectic juggling my part-time jobs (piano and swim teaching) with university studies, time with family and friends, and most importantly, self-care. However, if you let yourself enjoy the ride, it is heaps of fun and definitely worthwhile.

So, here are seven pieces of advice on being a freelance collaborative artist!

1. Check your availability and schedule in your calendar before accepting collaborative work

Whenever an opportunity is presented to me, I always want to say, “Yes, yes, and yes!” While that is a great attitude to have, you should always check your schedule and availability in your calendar first. That’s the most important thing. You never know, you might double book yourself or have the possibility to over fill your workload. That’s the last thing you want to do. Trust me, I’ve been there! It gets messy and stressful, which brings me to my next point…

2. It’s okay to say no.

This ties in perfectly with my first tip. I consider self-care extremely important, and before accepting work, I always check with myself if this opportunity will be okay for me to handle during a busy period of my studies. Make sure you ask yourself if it’s going to over fill your plate (emotionally, physically and mentally), and remember to question the difficulty of the work itself.

Photo Credit: Nayt Housman

3. Find your niche by saying yes when an opportunity has been presented to you, or to a discovery you have found.

Yes, I know. This is totally the opposite from my second point, but that was how I found my specialisation and passion. If I discover some work that interests me, or an opportunity falls in my lap and I’m available, I go for it. Rarely, collaborative work clashes with my part-time job or studies. If so, I always consider and have a good think about it when I believe it would be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. There are collaborative positions out there that are in high demand! For instance, working as an associate artist in an orchestra for a dance company, being a dance accompanist, orchestral pianist work, to name a few! You may be surprised on what’s out there when you ask around or search for opportunities.

4. Give it your all and do your best! But most of all, enjoy the ride!

Showing your deep love and passion for collaborating with others will spread like a happy, contagious disease. This can be as simple as having fun while making music with others. As my mum would say to me, “Be humble, and enjoy what you do. It’s a special moment to share with.” By you giving a 100% with fantastic customer service, being a reliable, organised worker, practicing your part well, and obtaining great performance results, there will be a possibility that you’ll get asked to work with them again.

5. Paid job? Try not to under sell yourself, especially when it’s a last-minute job. Trust your worth.

The best example that I would think of is when I’m accompanying a student for their music examination or audition – collaborative work within my own service/self-company. In retrospect, setting up my own associate artist fees wasn’t easy at first. I’m sure others can relate as well. To be honest, I started with $50 an hour for rehearsals and for accompanying on the day of their examination. Then, when I was feeling confident in my collaborative skills, experience and worth, I began to increase my fees. * At the moment, I’m sitting at around $75 an hour for rehearsals and for accompanying day on their examination. I also charge last-minute fees, which is $10 more than what I charge normally. ** However, if there’s a set fee they (a company or parish players) pay artists, then I’d have to roll with it.

*This also includes obtaining my Bachelor of Music degree (university qualifications, or other qualifications).
**I know some collaborative artists may or may not charge last-minute fees. But it’s personally up to you. I have last-minute fees mainly because I juggle with teaching, university studies and personal wellbeing and health.

6. Practice makes perfect, so try and keep practicing your artistry skills and knowledge!

I believe it’s always great to keep building and developing your collaborative experience and skills. What I usually do is, practice sight-reading, improvise and jam every now and then, help a colleague or friend out if they are doing a concerto or play a fun duet together. Be curious and explore different forms of chamber repertoire and solo repertoire. If there’s some music sheet lying around in a practice room, take it as an opportunity to discover something new. Become practiced at transposing from concert pitch to other keys for orchestral instruments. This is useful when working with younger students for their music examination. For instance, when expressing how they can develop their musical ideas, or correcting their intonation and pitch at a particular bar.

Photo Credit: Melbourne Youth Orchestras

7. Advertise your work by using social media platforms, your own website, or simply talk about it with others (friends, colleagues, networking events, etc).

We’re now living at a point where we can easily share with others through social media platforms. It’s accessible and simple to use!  There are various of ways you can connect with your intended prospective audience such as Instagram, Facebook Page, LinkedIn, and more.

Here’s how I show my work with others through social media and other platforms through with its intentions:

Instagram – Casual insight into my career, studies and life. It’s my all-time favourite social media platform to use!

Facebook Page – Formal and professional insight into my career and performances

LinkedIn – Formal insight of my career and forming connections with colleagues in a professional way.

Blog – Written outlook into my career, studies and life

Website – I’m currently working on it and planning to use it as a professional outlook into my career, studies, performances and life, connecting with my social media platforms in one.

There are other social media platforms such as TikTok, if you’d like to engage with younger audience with dank musician memes. TwoSet Violin are sure hitting the streaks now.

Another way you can engage with people about your work is by talking about it. It doesn’t have to be all fancy, but rather a casual, interesting outlook into what you do. Take it as short snapshot of your profession. For instance, I was having a small conversation with a lady at a gym I go to, and she was interested in my work and wanted to keep in touch.

Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/nicole.ng.pianist/

Instagram Page: https://www.instagram.com/nicolehng/

WordPress Page: https://adventuretimewiththemuso.wordpress.com

Six questions with… Emilia Bertolini, soprano

By Stella Joseph-Jarecki

I had the chance to fire a few questions at Emilia Bertolini, a passionate soprano who is busily participating in numerous young artist programs, such as Opera Scholars Australia and Young Songmakers Australia.

On Tuesday 4th of February 2020, Emilia will perform a program of 17th and 18th Century music as part of her chamber group Ensemble Ancien. This concert will be presented as part of the Local Heroes series at the Melbourne Recital Centre. Find out more here

Tell us about your experience taking part in the opera camp program at Lyric Opera Studio Weimar, preparing the role of Susanna for a performance of Mozart’s Le Nozze di Figaro.

Where to start… I probably spent about five months working on the role among other projects. Susanna is one of the longest roles in the repertoire so it was quite an ambitious undertaking but I approached it pretty methodically. I divided my score up with colourful tags marking the recits, arias, duets and larger ensembles. I did lots of non-singing practise, speaking through the recits and going through the Castel translations to make sure that I understood every bit of text, not just for my own character but for everyone else in the scene too. When I arrived in Weimar I was a bit apprehensive that I hadn’t sung through any of the ensembles with other singers, but then it was so satisfying when I finally got to sing those ensembles!

I had a wonderful time in Weimar. The singers were so friendly, talented and just a joy to work with! The schedule was very busy, we worked seven days a week usually from 10am until 10pm. And since Susanna is on stage for most of the opera, I was usually required in the rehearsal room. The program really confirmed that this is what I want to do with my life. I was constantly inspired and engaged, I truly enjoyed every second of it.

What do you love so much about Mozart’s operas?

Ohh man… so many things! I think it’s hard to go past the ensembles. I think Mozart’s ensemble writing is just magical, and when you get to sing with people who really pay attention to those subtle details and colours in the ensembles, there’s really nothing better.

What do you think are the essential qualities needed to be a successful and resilient singer?

Ahh, I’m not sure if I’m the right person to be answering that! I certainly don’t have the definitive answer but personally, I just try to be the best colleague that I can be. I think that if singers turn up to every rehearsal prepared, and are kind and helpful to everyone involved then that’s the most important thing.  I also think it’s important to be really clear on your personal values surrounding why you sing. I sing because making music brings me endless joy and fulfilment. It’s really easy to get caught up in the negative aspects of this path so I always just bring myself back to my values and why I love singing.

How do you approach time management, as a singer who has to maintain vocal practise and stamina, but also work on foreign languages, acting, researching repertoire, etc?

This is a very individual thing, and I’m really aware of the fact that many singers don’t have the luxury of being able to dedicate a lot of time to some of those aspects due to work commitments or their financial situation.  In my case, I really just enjoy practising, learning, being in rehearsal and learning languages. As soon as things become chores I don’t want to do them, so I just try to remain constantly inspired and excited to be learning new things! In terms of time management, I’m pretty addicted to my phone, I’m always making lists, spreadsheets, sending emails and making appointments in my calendar to make sure that I have very clear deadlines. I often feel like I’m juggling a lot of things so the more I write things down, and set my deadlines the better I feel.

How do you cope with the prospect of entering an oversaturated job field, in the sense that there are hundreds of sopranos out there auditioning for every role… how do you distinguish yourself and work out what makes your voice unique and what you can bring to roles. How do you approach this challenging side of being a young opera singer?

This is the aspect of the career that I find most daunting, and I often wish that I was literally any other voice type! However, I do just try to come back to my personal values and the fact that I don’t care if it’s at the Metropolitan Opera or in my shower, I’m always going to sing and I will find opportunities to sing because there really isn’t anything else that I’d rather do!

Who are some of your favourite vocal composers and what would be a dream role for you in the future?

At the moment my favourite operatic composers would be Mozart, Handel and maybe Donizetti… but it really depends on the singer or the recording. I would never sing Wagner or big Puccini arias but I love listening to recordings of early twentieth century singers performing that repertoire. My current dream role would be Mélisande from Debussy’s Pélleas et Mélisande which is completely different!

I am obsessed with art song so it is hard to go past Schubert, Schumann, Debussy and Britten, to name a few. I’m also a bit of an early music nerd so Purcell, Rameau and Strozzi are also up there with my favourites. There is so much interesting repertoire out there and I just want to explore as much of it as I can.

You can keep up to date with Emilia’s singing adventures on her Facebook page here, her Instagram here, and her official website here

Emilia Bertolini

Soprano

Emilia Bertolini is a versatile musician with a love of an eclectic range of music. 2019 has held a range of exciting opportunities for Emilia including being selected to take part in the Young Songmaker Development Program with Songmakers Australia, performing at the Melbourne Recital Centre Salon with Ensemble Ancien, and going to Germany to perform the role of Susanna in Le Nozze di Figaro with the Lyric Opera Studio Weimar.

In 2018, Emilia played the journalist in Lyric Opera Melbourne’s production of Poulenc’s Les Mamelles de Tirésias and understudied the role of Yniold in Victorian Opera’s Pelleas and Melisande.  During her time at University, Emilia played Despina in scenes from Così fan tutte, and explored a variety of chamber music from Baroque composers Couperin and Lully, to Romantics Schubert and Schumann, and even dappled in Schoenberg’s haunting Pierrot Lunaire. Emilia’s solo concert repertoire includes Fauré’s Requiem, Vivaldi’s Gloria and Beatus vir and Pergolesi’s Stabat Mater.  Emilia has received several awards and scholarships including the AEH Nickson Travelling Scholarship, the Hedy Holt and Roger Prochazka Memorial Award at the 38th National Liederfest, the Murray Ormond Vagg Scholarship and the Voshege Scholarship through Opera Scholars Australia.

Emilia holds a Bachelor of Music with first-class Honours from the Melbourne Conservatorium of Music, and being an avid linguist, holds Diplomas in both French and Italian. In 2020, Emilia is most looking forward to competing as a finalist in the Opera Scholars Australia Aria competition which will be held as a part of Opera in the Market in February.

You can keep up to date with Emilia’s singing adventures on her Facebook page here, her Instagram here, and her official website here

Seven questions with… Shevaun Pope, music theatre performer and speech pathologist-in-training

By Stella Joseph-Jarecki

You have performed in many music theatre productions, not just the traditional musicals from the 1950s and 1960s, but also in many newly-composed musicals. How do the two styles compare, do you have a preference for a certain style of music theatre?

It’s so hard to compare those two styles as I think that musical theatre has become an umbrella term for a range of different styles and genres. I think musical scores started to become very clever after the golden age of theatre, with composers like Stephan Sondheim ruling the scene. To this day I think musical theatre continues to develop its styles and there are some amazing composers out there who are writing challenging and clever music. One of my all -time favourite composers is Adam Guettel who wrote the score to The Light in the Piazza.

I don’t have a preference of musical styles, but I recently played Mabel in Pirates of Penzance and I absolutely loved performing those beautiful soprano songs!

When did you realise that you wanted to study and pursue speech therapy?

I realised I wanted to study speech therapy when I discovered my love for voice and vocal technique during my singing lessons towards the end of my high school studies. I got to a point in my training when I was just craving information on how the voice worked and how I could change my voice to create certain sounds. I was lucky to have such inspiring vocal teachers throughout high school who constantly challenged me to develop my voice and learn more about my own voice and how I use it.

Aside from the singing aspect of speech pathology, I really wanted a career where I was going to be able to help people and make a difference.

Shevaun performing in WTC’s ‘One Night Only’

Why are you passionate about speech therapy?

Speech pathology is all about promoting communication. Being able to communicate is a Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It’s really easy to take our ability to use our voices to communicate and express ourselves, for granted. For me, it was not until I started studying speech pathology did I realise how many people do not have a voice or a way to express themselves. This is something that is really at the heart of why I chose to study speech pathology, to help people communicate with dignity and to flourish within their society.

I’m passionate about the research behind the evidence-based intervention in speech pathology that enables frequent voice users to use their voice effectively and with care. Vocal health is so important for frequent voice users, it’s so easy to use and abuse our voice without even thinking about it. In regards to singing, I believe it is so important that singers learn how their voices work. It’s something I’m very passionate about. Having an understanding on how the larynx and the muscles surrounding are working not only allows a singer to know and become familiar with their voices/body, it allows them to adjust their technique with the help of vocal teachers or speech pathologists to ensure they are optimising their vocal health and efficiency.

I’m sure there are quite a few overlapping ideas with speech therapy and studying singing. Has coming at speech therapy from a singing background assisted with your studies?

Definitely! I think my knowledge of my own vocal technique definitely benefited my studies when completing anatomy subjects. It has also surprisingly come in handy when analysing the perceptual vocal, resonance and prosody features of patients with neurological damage from brain injury or stroke.

Shevaun as ‘Gingy’ in Williamstown Music Theatre Company’s production of Shrek.

A lot of evidence-based methods that I have used in the past with singing teachers, such as the Estill Voice Training method and Accent Method, are promoted in speech pathology intervention too which has definitely benefited my knowledge of different therapy techniques.

How do you envision incorporating music performance into your future? Will you continue to perform for fun/ professionally as you also get work doing speech therapy?

Right now I’m really enjoying performing in my local theatre shows! I would love to one day perform professionally, but right now I’m really motivated to develop my speech pathology career.

In future I would love to study music therapy and incorporate music into my speech pathology practise! I would love to create a social group for kids with special needs that focuses promoting wellbeing and friendships through the use of music and creativity.

What is your favourite thing about performing in shows?

My favourite thing about performing in shows is being able to express myself through music and dance. There’s no better feeling than standing on stage and getting to sing amazing music with talent and inspiring people.

Shevaun performing in WTC’s ‘One Night Only’

How do you find time to nurture the musical side of your life, while studying speech therapy and working? How do you approach vocal practise and repertoire learning?

It’s definitely a challenge. Studying full time is a hard gig, adding work into the mix is even harder. But when you love something you always find time for it. For me, my singing lessons and rehearsals are my break away from my busy life and my time to be present and to be around people who are likeminded.

Keeping a consistent vocal practise routine is definitely difficult with a busy uni schedule, but I dedicate one night a week to my personal vocal practise and repertoire learning. This is usually in the form of a singing lesson, a few hours of practising my repertoire songs or even just vocal rest if I have had a busy week of using my voice. I’m very lucky to have a Speech Pathologist as a singing teacher who’s always giving me new tips on how I can optimise my vocal health. Recently I’ve implemented morning vocal warm up with the use of a ten minute straw phonation exercise, I do this every morning before I start my day!

Keep up to date with Shevaun’s musical adventures through her Instagram, here