BY UMA MUTHIA
Glancing at her busy schedule, Georgia Ioakimidis-MacDougall maintains a cool head in front of the day’s challenges.
Organising venues, meeting deadlines, managing performances, collaborating with musicians and composers, arranging creative and artistic concepts whilst sticking to a budget is all in a day’s work for this Australian National Academy of Music fellow.
As she prepares for her final exciting fellowship concert on 14 March, there is certainly never a dull moment in Georgia’s busy life as she generously gives us a taste of her experience as an ANAM fellow.
Tell us about how your musical career began.
After three years at ANAM, I spent a year as a freelance horn player based in Melbourne. I travelled to contemporary music courses such as the Bang on a Can Summer Music Festival in Massachusetts, and worked on projects of my own, some of which I presented as part of my fellowship or in collaborations with other artists and venues. After having finished my Masters of Music Research, I became interested in psychology and started to study part time at the University of Melbourne. I am fortunate to have found a balance between playing, curating, and studying, which I find interesting and sustaining.
What’s your fellowship all about, anyway?
My fellowship is about presenting engaging performances of contemporary works by connecting ANAM students and their audience with composers, interesting musicians and venues in the local area that are not necessarily performance-oriented.
The freedoms and restrictions you have as an artist are determined by the context in which you work. The ANAM fellowship has helped me to develop my curatorial skills in a setting where I have been able to pursue personal artistic and creative concepts with an enormous degree of freedom. Fellows realise their own projects from conception to performance on a shoestring budget, managing every aspect. While this has its challenges, I have been inspired by the all of the artists, venues and collaborators that have come on board out of goodwill.
My fellowship has been a process of learning how to problem solve in order to realise some ambitious ideas. For example, in my second project I co-curated Messiaen’s ‘Des Canyons aux Etoiles’, with Jacob Abela which involved organising an orchestra, four soloists and a conductor. Each of these artists were donating their time to present a work which demands a high level of technical ability and maturity, and putting together these forces required intense collaborative problem solving and negotiation, ultimately yielding a performance which both challenged and exceeded my expectations.
So what’s the workload like? Run us through a typical day at ANAM.
Each day is different, depending on what stage of the project you’re involved with at that moment. Six months before a concert, the focus is on discussing how an idea will fit within the ANAM program given time frames, finances, personnel and technical requirements. Three months before a performance, I like to have my venue, program and musicians confirmed, but from then until the concert date, there is a constant process of problem solving as different issues arise. In the last two weeks, organizing a fellowship project becomes a full time job, being across venue set-up, musicians, advertising, ticketing, functions and front of house. Matt Hoy is the go-to for taking the reigns during the performance, which frees me up to focus on performing.
How do you compare your experience to the expectations you had when going into the fellowship?
I am humbled by the generosity and support of the artists I have worked with in each of my projects. The artistic outcome of each fellowship idea should justify the time and energy which high level musicians and composers are donating, and I was initially surprised by how much this is occupied my mind more and more as each project progressed.
The pressures of organising projects where I am responsible for maintaining momentum and being across a vast amount of detail sometimes feels overwhelming, but has helped me gain a deeper understanding of, and increased my commitment to the artistic process.
What’s something you didn’t expect to get out of your fellowship?
The richness of the relationships I was able to develop. I found that having an idea which resonates with people, and demonstrating your willingness to achieve something collaboratively, opens up interesting dialogues with all of the artists involved in the performances. I did not expect the likes of Brett Dean and Ben Jacks to freely donate so much of their time, and for Fabian Russell to induct me in to the intricacies of realising a large-scale work with such generosity.
The fellowship has clarified my priorities and taught me how to negotiate in order to achieve the best outcome. This has been closely guided by my mentors in the program, Genevieve Lacey and Matt Hoy.
Your ANAM fellowship concert is coming up pretty soon. What are we in for?
Last year, I had the privilege of commissioning a work from Liza Lim for my partner Callum G’Froerer. He will be performing it a set of Liza’s solo works including a gorgeous piece for violin, which is retuned to sound like a kind of fiddle called a Norwegian Hardinger.
When I was in Massachusetts, I heard two pieces which never left me; a piece for speaking cellist by Eötvös and a piece for singing violist by Ben Hjertmann. The second set draws on this idea of vocalizing instrumentalists, with a conversation between violist Katie Yapp and cellist Matt Hoy.
I am so happy to be co-presenting this concert with ACCA, as the space and the ethos of the gallery is perfect as a home for this music.
What are your plans for after the gig?
I look forward to moving to Berlin in March, and to all the challenges and opportunities that await me there.
Georgia’s fellowship concert will be held 14 March, 6pm at the Australian Centre for Contemporary Art (ACCA), 111 Sturt St, Southbank. For more information check out www.georgiaioakimidismacdougall.com.