From Bluesfest to Noosa Jazz, music festival organiser is on key

Published in the October 2013 issue

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Michael Buble headlining the Noosa Jazz Festival in five years’ time is the goal of new owner, and Southern Cross University graduate, Vickii Cotter.

Given Vickii’s track record – she secured country music legend Kenny Rogers for the 2012 Gympie Music Muster – don’t discount her determination.

The 34-year-old musician and lawyer worked on some of the biggest events and festivals in Australia, including the Byron Bay Bluesfest, Sydney’s Vivid Festival and the Gympie Music Muster, before taking the helm at the Noosa Jazz Festival earlier this year ahead of its 2013 season in late August.

Vickii Cotter

Vickii Cotter

“It’s a ‘scary-good’ feeling purchasing the Noosa Jazz Festival. I’ve always wanted to own my own festival so I bit the bullet and this is where my journey has led me,” said Vickii, who now resides on the Sunshine Coast where she also operates her own events company, Visabel.

“The Noosa Jazz Festival is a great event to grow and develop not only musically but in a workshop and master class capacity. The festival has the opportunity to focus on increasing the master classes and workshops so students, musicians and patrons alike are not only just able enjoying watching the talented performers but also have the opportunity to hear from the artists and learn from them about their craft.”

Vickii, a jazz pianist, studied a Bachelor of Contemporary Music (graduated 2001) followed by a Bachelor Laws (Honours) (2005) at Southern Cross University’s Lismore campus.

She said she was eternally grateful to “the major mentor figure in my own life”, former SCU lecturer Sally McPherson who taught the ‘music business’ course.

Noosa Jazz Festival

Noosa Jazz Festival. (Credit: Glenn Hunt Photography)

“Sally was the inspiration for me to focus on the entertainment industry and music law, rather than performing professionally. She helped me get my big break when she asked me to work at Bluesfest and do the artist contracts.”

During her five years at Bluesfest, Vickii went from artist contracts to commercial and business affairs manager where she was responsible for project managing the Bluesfest’s relocation from Belongil Fields to its permanent home at Tyagarah.

“I felt that all of my training came in well. I was doing the artist contracts and then my role grew into project management, stakeholder negotiations, marketing, risk management, and event management and planning, all of those great things that come with producing a festival.

“It’s a proud achievement to look at Bluesfest now and to have been part of its growth and development. To me it’s one of the best festivals in the world and the Bluefest team and army of volunteers are amazing. Bluesfest director Peter Noble is an amazing programmer. Look at the program he does year after year after year. “

These days Vickii’s focus is developing new strategies to ensure the continued growth and sustainability of the long-running Noosa Jazz Festival.

Vickii with Bluesfest director Peter Noble

Vickii with Bluesfest director Peter Noble

“The first year is about finding your feet, finding out what works and what we need to fix, trying out new programming.

“I would love to build the Festival up so much so that in five years’ time I will be in a position where Nooza Jazz delivers acts like Michael Buble. I don’t have the funds yet to pay for him but that’s my goal. It’s a massive goal but I think it’s important to have a vision and something to strive for.”

Vickii said despite the long hours involved in putting on a music festival, the audience keeps her coming back for more.

“One of the most ‘addictive’ moments for me working in the festival space is the audience reaction. I remember when I was first starting out I was side of stage at Bluesfest and after all of the hard work and the hours you put in that no one sees and all of the lack of sleep you get to look out at the crowd and see the joy and happiness on people’s faces. It makes you feel part of something special.

“You don’t get that in law. You don’t look around and see a courtroom of happy people. It’s such an amazing feeling. To be able to be a part of creating a moment in time where so many people are having a wonderful time, I think that’s why I keep doing it.”

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