A who’s who of Australian music at Songwriters’ Workshops

Published in the August 2016 issue

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Music student and trumpeter Teagan Brownrigg with jazz legend Vince Jones.

Music student and trumpeter Teagan Brownrigg (right) with jazz legend Vince Jones.

It reads like the line-up for the festival of the decade – Hiatus Kaiyote, Iva Davies, Jim Moginie and Rob Hirst (Midnight Oil), Katie Noonan, Blue King Brown, Husky, Lior, Rai Thistlethwayte, Tex Perkins, Vince Jones. All these artists and more have graced the stage at Southern Cross University since 2006, sharing their skills and insights with music students.

The Songwriters’ Workshop series, a unique offering of Southern Cross University’s music program, is celebrating 10 years. Presented by APRA AMCOS and the School of Arts and Social Sciences, the workshops are held in Studio One29 in the dedicated  music studio at the Lismore campus.

It was legendary Australian jazz singer, songwriter and trumpeter Vince Jones’ turn earlier this month.

He encouraged students to investigate other ways of writing songs rather than the conventional pop model.

“Follow the path of not just making a successful song but a creative artistic song, a song that may last the test of time,” Vince said.

“There are moments in jazz songs where it’s been touched by the gods. I look for those moments in every song, from Miles Davis to the Doobie Brothers, right back to Jimmy Webb, Cole Porter, Rogers and Hammerstein. As I’ve become older I’ve been keener to hear those moments.”

Vince said he was inspired by the current generation of music students.

“Students today are much closer to love than they were in my generation. Love pours out of them. They’re looking for a neo-socialist love, materialist-free world of camaraderie.”

He said he was hopeful about their ability to maintain their artistic integrity while making a living.

Vince Jones (middle) surrounded by music students and staff on the stage in Studio One29.

Vince Jones (middle) surrounded by music students and staff at Studio One29.

“Don’t fight the system, create a new model which makes the old system obsolete. That’s what you need to do with music. Stuff the record companies.”

Fresh from the Splendour In the Grass festival, Charmian Kingston (aka BUOY) is the next guest of the Songwriters’ Workshop on August 30, starting at 9am. Charmian is a graduate of the University’s music program and majored in keyboard.

Leigh Carriage, lecturer in the music program at SCU, has been the host of the Songwriters’ Workshop series for nine years.

“I have enjoyed immensely the role of interviewing the artists,” said Leigh. “Some workshops have been hilariously funny; others highly interactive. Each artist offers something unique; all have been insightful, generous and uplifting.

“There’s a great deal of research to do before the artist arrives – listening to their music and lyrics, mapping their career and so on. Subsequently I have come to admire great interviewers and the art of a great flowing interview.”

Leigh said the Songwriters’ Workshops provided students with unique insights into the music industry.

“The workshops give students real-life opportunities to connect and engage with professionals in their field. Sometimes students have been able to perform with artists, like Jim Moginie and Lisa Parrott, or share their work and songs with Iva Davies and Mia Dyson and gain direct feedback.”

The workshop format enables students to ask questions at the end of the session.

“Students speak directly with each visiting artist about their specific problem-solving techniques,” Leigh said.

“A lot of the information artists share about their professional lives, touring, and anecdotes is just as valuable as the factual, practical information because it tends to demystify things that can feel abstract. Students therefore gain realistic and inspirational insights into the music industry.”

The artists themselves are full of praise for the Songwriters’ Workshops.

“I had a great time coming to SCU and connecting with the fantastic and friendly students there. I was really impressed with their original music and could feel their respect for Leigh and the (music) faculty. It is a wonderful facility and I look forward to being a guest there again” – Katie Noonan, singer songwriter.

“The students were good readers and enthusiastic when trying out some of my pieces for the electric guitar orchestra, even to the point of rehearsing the music well before I arrived. SCU students are blessed with curiosity, energy, great teachers and support people.”  – Jim Moginie, guitarist songwriter, Midnight Oil.

“The aim of my songwriting workshop at SCU was to give music students an insight into mapping out a song and inspire them to succinctly express a strong creative idea with clarity and follow through. I found the students work very well in collaborative small groups. They were highly motivated, focused and completely embraced the concepts. I felt a genuine sense of engagement and a willingness on their part to integrate what they had learned into their own development as artists and performers.”  – Lior, singer songwriter.

“Being able to reengage with my university community and share some of my experience whilst also selfishly reconnecting with my regional identity for me was precious. Strengthening the cultural fabric between the long stretches of road in this country is so important. We need to hear the stories and experiences of our regional centres loud and through these workshops APRA and Leigh are enabling that conversation and connection.” – Jack Britten, music producer (Ngaiire), graduate of the SCU music program.

“It was a pleasure to discuss songwriting with the students at SCU. Their keen interest and enquiring attitude gives credence to the discipline of songwriting as a legitimate contemporary art form, worthy of academic study.” – Neil Murray, singer songwriter.

Dr Matt Hill, course coordinator of the SCU music program, said the APRA AMCOS Songwriters’ Workshops were an invaluable part of the degree.

“These inspiring workshops really enhance the way our students develop their songwriting, composition, arranging and production skills. The artists we have had are always very generous with their time and willing to engage and interact with the students.

“The fact that we have been able to run the workshops consistently for the past 10 years has led to a very strong relationship between SCU and APRA AMCOS. We are very pleased to be able to have this enduring connection with this key music industry organisation that handles royalty distribution for over 87,000 Australian songwriters, composers and publishers.”

A selection of the who’s who appearing at the APRA AMCOS Songwriters’ Workshop at SCU series over the past decade:

Vince Jones, Lior, Iva Davies, Katie Noonan, Mia Dyson, Blue King Brown, Nerida Tyson-Chew, Hiatus Kaiyote, Rob Hirst, Tex Perkins, Kerrianne Cox, Joseph Tawadros, Vince Jones, Marialy Pacheco, Neil Murray, Husky, Sandy Evans, Jim Moginie, Elana Stone, Jaaleekaay, Inga Liljestrom, Scott Aplin, Caitlin Yeo, Rai Thistlethwayte, Lisa Gerrard, Charles Jenkins, Felicity Urquhart, The Stiff Gins, Lisa Parrott, Murray Burns, Sara Tindley, Brendan Clarke, Kirstin Beradi, Jack Britten, Lucie Thorne, Gian Slater and Invenio Choir.

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