ANU composer wins APRA grant for Indigenous Composers Intiative

Thursday 15 September 2016

Composer Dr Christopher Sainsbury from The Australian National University (ANU) School of Music has won an inaugural national grant to help promote the work of Indigenous composers in Australia.

Dr Sainsbury has been awarded an Australasian Performing Rights Association (APRA) grant to launch the inaugural Indigenous Composers Initiative.

The initiative gives emerging Indigenous composers the chance to be mentored by established composers, to craft original pieces, and to have the music showcased.

  Dr Sainsbury said the idea was sparked by a need he identified from his years working at Eora College in Redfern, Sydney.

"In that setting, I realised there were a lot of Aboriginal musicians who could potentially be composers in a broader sense," he said.

"Many were sort of skirting around the edge, or actually engaged in new music through the music they were doing for film and theatre."

Dr Sainsbury and his partners in the project recognised that many Indigenous musicians needed some kind of support to help them emerge as composers. He cited cultural and family obligations and other unique situations they may face.

"You meet many Aboriginal people, and there's often somebody in the family who has experienced some pretty horrific stuff pretty much for being Aboriginal," he said.

"The people driving this initiative recognise that."

The grant, valued at $26,000, will be supported by partners including the ANU School of Music, Australian Music Centre, Eora College Redfern, Mooghalin Performing Arts Redfern, Indigenous ethnomusicologist Clint Bracknell and jazz lecturer Kevin Hunt at the Sydney University Conservatorium, and performance group Ensemble Offspring.

Interim head of the ANU School of Music, Professor Will Christie, said the grant had significance that extended across the ANU and beyond.

"It represents, in the first instance, recognition of the work of a great scholar and teacher in Dr Sainsbury and of the ANU School of Music," Professor Christie said.

"It also represents a recognition of Indigenous music and the contribution of Indigenous artists to the nation."

The project is set to culminate in performances of pieces by emerging Indigenous composers in May or June 2017.

But Dr Sainsbury sees potential for the initiative to develop into the future.

"Ultimately, we'd like to see not just new works from the first year, but over a number of years from the hand of new Indigenous composers," he said.

"We certainly envisage that this project will have a longer lifespan than the life of the grant, and that a growing body of work from Indigenous composers will start to land on airwaves, on music curricula, and beyond."

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