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AMPlify Indigenous Composer Initiative

Australian Music Centre, together with Moogahlin Performing Arts, APRA AMCOS, the Australian National University School of Music and Ensemble Offspring, have launched a new initiative aimed at supporting emerging Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander composers in new music and jazz. A part of the  AMPlify framework of artist development programs, the Indigenous Composer Initiative takes place in NSW and ACT over 2016 and 2017.

AMPlify ICI - background and further details

AMPlify Indigenous Composer Initiative aims at helping artists in establishing contacts, networks and relationships with role models, and engaging in knowledge exchange and learning. The focus of the initiative is to identify Indigenous composers not yet properly represented or heard across new art music and jazz, and support them in creating works of new Indigenous music in score format. This in turn will help to create new opportunities, in new contexts, for Indigenous people: e.g. performance in new music events, schools repertoire, examination syllabi etc.

Program participants and facilitators in Sydney on 3 August,
together with artists from Ensemble Offspring. Larger view.
© Eora College

Five invited participants - Rhyan Clapham, Brenda Gifford, Tim Gray, Troy Russell and Elizabeth Sheppard - take part in the initiative in 2016-2017, each producing up to four works for voice and/or small ensemble, of up to 15 minutes. Facilitators and performers for the pilot project include composer Christopher Sainsbury - also the driving force behind this initiative - and jazz pianist and educator Kevin Hunt, as well as performers from the Moogahlin Performing Arts and Ensemble Offspring.

Participating artists receive individual guidance from the facilitators in developing their composition, notation and orchestration skills, as well as taking part in masterclasses and working closely with performers. There is support available for typesetting and score production, and the final performance event will also involve a studio recording of the new works. Exploring further performance possibilities and publishing arrangements is also a part of the scope of the pilot project.

The project is seen as an important pilot, and has the capacity to develop into a national project, while at the same time maintaining important local connections and making use of funding opportunities provided by States and local communities. We are very grateful to APRA AMCOS for its funding support for this initiative.

Project partners for the Indigenous Composer Initiative are Moogahlin Performing Arts, Australian National University School of Music, APRA AMCOS, and the Australian Music Centre.

> The Indigenous Composer Initiative final concert took place at the Eora College in Sydney on 3 August 2017. You can listen to the performances and composer interviews as part of ABC Classic FM's New Waves podcast and view the program and read program notes by participating artists (pdf).

> Read an article by participating artist Elizabeth Sheppard: 'AMPlify ICI workshop: 'Our music arises from our countries' (Resonate 3 April 2017)

> Read an article by Chris Sainsbury, 'Indigenous Composer Initiative - towards a gentle correction' (Resonate 27 September 2017) and a related podcast interview with Sainsbury (ABC Classic FM's New Waves). See also two earlier Resonate articles: 31 March 2017 and 13 December 2016.

AMPlify ICI participants

Rhyan Clapham's family is from Murrawarri and Ngemba country in Brewarrina NSW. Rhyan has completed Bachelor of Music at the University of NSW, and an Indigenous Studies Honours (focusing on Aboriginal hip hop music) in 2015. A rapper and drummer, he has performed for various events such as Kevin Hunt's 'Our Music' concert at the Sydney Conservatorium, at Yabun NCIE, UNSW corporate and academic events, Koori Radio events and at NAIDOC. You can listen to Rhyan's work on his SoundCloud page - see also profile on the UNSW website.

February 2017 (from the left in front): Kevin Hunt, Elizabeth
Sheppard, Tim Gray, Rhyan Clapham, Fred Copperwaite,
Brenda Gifford, Clint Bracknell, Chris Sainsbury.
Back row: Troy Russell (left) and John Davis. Larger view.

Brenda Gifford is an Aboriginal musician, originally from Wreck Bay, South Coast NSW, Yuin nation, with twenty years of experience. She was saxophonist in the band Mixed Relations and has a close relationship with fellow musician and friend Bart Willoughby. She has toured nationally to Aboriginal communities around Australia and internationally to Native American communities and the Pacific Islands. More recently she has worked as a curator with the National Film and Sound Archive.

Tim Gray, Gumbaynggirr and Wiradjuri, has a reggae/ska band called Green Hand Band, in which he plays the keyboard. He came out of the emerging artists program at Gadigal/Koori Radio and was also volunteer broadcaster at Koori Radio. He sings in a group called Voices Carry, lead by Sydney choral director Tania Bowra. Read his profile on the Koori radio website.

Troy Russell, Gamiliroi and Biripi of NSW, plays bass, drums and guitar. He has played long-term with Walangari Kantawarra's group the Black Turtles and appeared at most major Aboriginal music festivals. He also plays with the Green Hand Band. His other credits include film-making, and composing music for his films. At present he teaches art and music at Eora College in Redfern.

Elizabeth Sheppard was born in Melbourne and raised in Adelaide, and studied Western and Aboriginal Music and singing under Clemens Leske Snr, Professor David Galliver and Barbara Howard at Adelaide's Elder Conservatorium, Professor Catherine Ellis at Armidale's University of New England, and Opera Chorus Master James Christianson. In 2002-2008 she reconnected to her heritage and culture through Indigenous music, culture and law diploma courses at Sydney's Eora Aboriginal College and Tranby National Indigenous Adult Education Centre. She now lives on Dharug Burramattagul country in New South Wales, and goes back to country regularly. Several of her compositions have been performed at St Patrick's Cathedral Parramatta, and her Kooranginy Suite will be recorded at ANU Music Studio in June 2017.


If you have further questions about this program, please with message subject AMPlify ICI.