IWBC Interview

I was interviewed for by Janet Anderson for the International Women's Brass Conference website.

1. Tell us about your mentors and role models. Who has inspired you?

Inspiration comes from many seemingly unlikely or unrelated sources. Much learning happens in places other than formal learning environments. I’ve often been inspired by a phrase or idea I’ve heard, with no idea who played, sang or said it. Many performers who inspire me are not musicians.

My first teacher was a brass band cornet player, Shane O’Callaghan. No progress ever again seems as dramatic and exciting as when you first take off from a standing start! His encouragement helped a troubled teen find purpose and passion in music. Before long I spent every moment I could with him, helping to teach the younger students.

Sandy Evans (renowned saxophonist) heard me playing on the street and invited me to join a quartet with her. Sandy is warm, open and generous, and a fabulous player, composer and innovator. She is an inspiration to many women in jazz (and not only women!).

Mic Conway (long-time band mate) inspires with his constant creative striving, great lyrics, openness to (my) musical direction, and his utter doggedness and determination in all aspects of performance.

Peter Sykes (tubist) provided me with my formative professional orchestral experiences. He believed I might become Principal Tuba of Opera Australia, and I did.

2. Do you have a favourite performance from your own career that stands out for you?

Gosh, that’s a hard one! There are a few that I probably should have therapy to block out!

For me it’s all about the moment.

Jazz is like a stimulating discussion between friends, interacting with each other’s ideas. It might be sparkling, witty, pointed, funny, moving, giving, supportive. I love working with able, flexible, interactive musicians where this sense might be tapped. Stan Getz said: “As far as playing jazz, no other art form, other than conversation, can give the satisfaction of spontaneous interaction.” Indeed! And like a good dinner party, fine wines should accompany.

I’m committed to (and constantly) searching for a ‘zone’ where I can come close to really expressing myself, where my instrument feels like an extension of me, where my ideas are fresh, fun, fuelled and inspired by others’ real-time (musical) comments and stories. It’s highly elusive!

But I’m not (or rarely am I) a performer who is searching for zones to the almost-exclusion or oblivion of the audience (the modern jazz clich├ęd perception). I’m more inclined to still perform to the audience, and want to connect with them. I don’t really play gigs that are so formal or snooty that such behaviour would be inappropriate. And, of course, I can and do modify what I’m doing to suit the situation!

Performance moments that I dig come from all places. I treasure them and use them to combat my all-too-frequent immense frustrations about others’ (and my own!) limitations.

Festival audiences are fantastic! I was sound-checking the jug by playing a spontaneous bassline soliloquy (also to try to demonstrate to the sound crew what the jug is about) and an audience member shouted, ‘We love you Cazzbo!’ - who is not to love that? I love it when I see folk (including fellow musicians) digging what I’m playing. I love supporting other musicians when it’s their time to shine. I often encourage dancers, for the fun of it, and I encourage anyone who is encouraging me!

I love contributing to moments in the theatre that might range from pin-drop silences to the most uproarious laughter. Different audience responses and the subtle variations in every performance are a constant fascination.

Last night I was part of a live broadcast multi-media interactive sound performance, conceived and directed by innovative violinist Jon Rose. To direct the ensemble (spoken word performers, improvising musicians, live radio, ‘scratch’ elements and pre-recorded triggered sounds) Jon devised various hand gestures and cue cards, so that he could then virtually ‘play’ the whole ensemble. There were some magical moments during this event. I used some extended techniques in ways I literally never have before (mostly vocalizing through the instrument, with and without a ‘normally’ played tone) because I was responding to the other musicians, the textures, and the topic: “Talking Back To Media”.

So that feels like a favourite right now, because it was so exciting and stimulating. The focus was intense!

I strive to find positive moments every time I do almost anything!

3. What role, if any, does technology play in your career? (online lessons, Facebook, website)

Technology doesn’t play a particularly large role, but I did make a very humble website, with photos, sounds and ramblings. This website lead directly to my invitation to come to Toronto for the IWBC 2010!

4. How do you re-charge after a tiring tour?

Usually by embarking on another tiring tour! Other than that, I find that averting my eyes from any pressing maintenance issues around the house helps me to relax. Sometimes (just sometimes!) a hotel room can be more relaxing, because someone else has cleaned it and made a little welcoming point on the end of the toilet paper roll.

5. Do you have a favourite performance anecdote?

Here’s a recent one. I performed at the Bellingen Jazz Festival with a band called the Jugalug String Band. Whilst never wavering from my commitment to making the best music I can, I somehow managed to strut out off the stage to play a jug solo directly to a distinguished elderly gent in the audience. I responded to him because he had an utterly pleasured look on his face, and his hands cupped behind both ears to hear it all. Later (on a similar jug-soloing excursion forward off the stage as far as my microphone lead would permit) he danced, I danced, we interacted. He told me, “I’m a geriatric.” I shared those words with the whole audience at the top of my voice, and invited them to congratulate him for being a geriatric! All with a good vibe! Afterwards I learned from locals that he had been very, very ill (and still was) and had last been seen in a wheelchair!! Could music have curative properties?

6. What’s on your iPod?

Exclusively documentary and interview podcasts, no music! Intelligent gab-fest material, mostly from ABC Radio National.

7. Bicycle, Mazda Miata or Lincoln Town car?

Bicycle, with added milk crate for extra functionality!