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Keyna Wilkins : Associate Artist

"I aspire to truth ​in music, of the cosmic spirit, wrapped in love, fired with energy ​and conviction. My compositional process is based on improvisation and connected to my personal spirituality. Universe and Universality."

Random Audio Sample: Pearl (duos including didjeridu) by Keyna Wilkins, from the CD Chasing Stars to the Mother Tree


Photo of Keyna Wilkins

Photo: Tawfik Elgazzar

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Keyna Wilkins is a pioneering Australian/British composer-musician. She was one of three finalists for the Australian Art Music Awards for Individual Excellence in 2021 and 2018 (APRA/AMCOS). Her compositions are performed internationally and published by Wirripang. (See www.keynawilkins.com for links to buy sheet music) Her music is described by The Sydney Morning Herald as "arresting, genre-blurring…disquieting music with massive breadth and high drama". Stylistically broad, her works embark on a journey of impressionistic dream-like sequences alongside landscape depictions and existential spiritual quests, characterised by a fascination with astronomy, First Nations culture, jazz, dance forms and intuitive improvisation. Celestial Emu didgeridoo concerto is her largest work to date which she wrote in collaboration with leading Indigenous Gamilaroi yidaki (didgeridoo) player Gumaroy Newman for The Metropolitan Orchestra in 2020. Sydney Arts Guide writes "To hear the unmistakable reference to First Nations song so well pitted against TMO's Western Art Music instruments creating such evocative cells of expression with humility and sincerity in new music devoid of borrowings from tribal repertoire was a touching, inspiring and admirable step forward. It received an extended and hearty standing ovation and will add tremendously to our orchestral music canon." As well being represented by AMC, Wilkins also has five tunes in the Australian Jazz Realbook and writes music for films/theatre including short film "Remote Access" which won Best Short Film at the Imagine This International Film Festival in New York 2019 and her self-released 8 albums of original music have been featured on ABC, Triple J and many more around Australia and UK.

Wilkins has written over 60 art music compositions published by Wirripang that are performed around the world including USA (concert series at Universities of South Carolina, Vandebilt and Georgia and recitals at Cleveland Institute of Music, Wesleyan University and Taos Falls Arts Festival in New Mexico), Asia (Singapore Saxophone Symposium), Spain (Centre Civic Spring Concerts in Barna, Barcelona) Croatia (World Saxophone Congress, Zagreb), Ireland (Cork School of Music), Germany (Hildesheim Audimax Theatre), UK (Bristol Victoria Rooms, Bridgwater Arts Centre), as well as Australia (Sydney Opera House, MONA, Sydney's City Recital Hall, Art Gallery of NSW, Royal Easter Show Main Arena, Melbourne Recital Centre, Melbourne's Preston Town Hall, Melbourne Conservatorium Melba Hall, Adelaide's University Henze Room and Beamont House, Brisbane Conservatorium). Her works have been commissioned by artists/ensembles such as The Metropolitan Orchestra, Syzygy Ensemble, Elysian Fields, Kammerklang, Quart-Ed, Blackford and Collins brass ensemble, Preston Symphony Orchestra, Lilith Night, Sydney Conservatorium Spanish Ensemble, Marquez Laundry Theatre Company, Australasian Saxophone Quartet, Collide Trio, Ensemble Muse, Sydney Conservatorium Sax Orchestra, flamenco ensembles Pena Flamenca and Arrebato and by soloists such as bass flutist Donna M Wilson (USA),double bassist Frano Kakarigi (Spain),violinist Airena Nakamura (AUS/Japan), pianist Stefan Cassomenos (AUS/Greece), soprano Amelia Jones (AUS/Wales), saxophonist Joseph Lallo (AUS), pianist Elodie Sablier (France), flutist Alison Mitchell (UK/AUS), Kosmas Lapatas (Greece), violinist Airena Nakamura (Japan/AUS), double bassist Elsen Price, violist Carl St Jacques (US/AUS), violist Ryan Greiser (US), Taos Pianos (US), flutist Jessica Scott, oboist Briana Leaman (USA/AUS) and trumpeter Will Gilbert.

Having completed her Master of Music Composition at Sydney Conservatorium in 2016 under the supervision of Professor Anne Boyd and Doctor Rosalind Page, she also studied composition with Sadie Harrison (Bath Spa University, UK), Jessica Wells, Martin Wesley-Smith (Sydney Conservatorium) and intuitive conceptual improvisation with Tibetan Buddhist musician Tenzin Cheogyal. She studied classical piano with Jeanell Carrigan and Julie Adam, jazz piano with Oliver Gross (Hildesheim University, Germany) and classical flute with Nicholas Vallis-Davis, Laura Chislett and Alison Mitchell including completing her MA Flute Performance at Bristol University (UK) in 2008 and BA Mus in 2003. She has since freelanced in many classical, jazz, flamenco, tango, improvisation and theatre projects.

As an innovative soloist she has been heralded by UK's Jazz Journal as a "powerhouse player", and "particularly fine playing, nuanced and thoughtful" by Limelight Magazine. She performs her compositions/improvisations/re-interpretations often with projections and loop pedal at venues all over Australia including Phoenix Central Park and MONA, Sydney International Jazz Festival 2020 and Melbourne Digital Recital Hall. She has released 4 solo albums on all streaming platforms; So What Bach, Keys Across The Sky, Air In Motion and Jazz Revere. In 2019 she founded the indigenous-jazz fusion duo Yulugi in collaboration with leading First Nations didgeridu player Gumaroy Newman. Yulugi means to play, dance or have fun in Gamilaroi, the Northern NSW First Nations language. Sydney Morning Herald describes the duo as "instantly engaging ....with Gumaroy Newman's arresting voice and yidaki leading us deep into his ancestral culture, in dialogue with Keyna Wilkins' piano and luminous flutes" Fine Music FM describes their debut album "Chasing Stars To The Mother Tree" (2020) as "This is virtuoso playing, worthy of any Australian collection". Performance highlights include Woodford Folk Festival and SIMA Summer Festival. Also in 2015 she founded the breakout space music sensation Ephemera Ensemble, which has been described by Jazz and Beyond as "Full of sonic textures and infinite possibility". Ephemera was featured at the Sydney International Women's Jazz Festival 2017 and at Extended Play Festival at City Recital Hall 2018. Ephemera have released two albums; Orbits and Riffs (2017) and Blackholes and Modulations (2021).


Keyna Wilkins — current to October 2021

Studied with

Tenzin Cheogal (1999)

Jessica Wells (1999)

Martin Wesley-Smith (1999)

Sadie Harrison (2001 - 2002)

Anne Boyd (2012 - 2015)

Rosalind Page

 

Collaborated with

Elsen Price (2013 - current)

Sarah-Grace Williams (2019 - current)

Jalal Mahamede (2020 - current)

Jenna Cave

Will Gilbert

Joseph Lallo

Byron Mark

Gumaroy Newman

Carl St Jacques

 

Awards & Prizes

Year Award Placing Awarded for
2021 Art Music Awards: Award for Excellence in Experimental Music Finalist recording and developing new projects in 2020
2018 Art Music Awards: Award for Excellence by an Individual Finalist activities in original art music throughout 2017 as a composer-musician including releasing three original albums.

Selected Commissions

  Work Commission Details
Virago (quintets: flute, clarinet, piano, violin, cello) Commissioned by Syzygy Ensemble
Celestial Emu : Didgeridu Concerto (2020) Commissioned by The Metropolitan Orchestra.
Scorched Earth : for solo oboe (2020) Commissioned by Briana Leaman
Guluu : for violin and magpie (2020) Commissioned by Dianne Finnegan
#evolution : brass duo (2020) Commissioned by the NSW Government through the generosity of the CreateNSW Small Arts Grant.
Thirri Thirri : for solo flute (2019) Commissioned by Dianne Finnegan