Con the springboard for artistic careers

Recent graduates from the Northern Rivers Conservatorium (l-r) Melania Jack, Sarah Scott and Judd Brennand.

Sarah Scott signed up at the Northern Rivers Conservatorium wanting to be a singer. Two years later she emerged with a love of sound engineering and PA skills that have her fully booked for months ahead. Thats on top of her singing commitments, which include performing at Lismores 2007 Australia Day concert.

In my dreams I always wanted to be a professional singer and musician but I never thought it would become a reality, said Sarah.

For most shower singers and air guitarists the idea of being a singer or a musician is often just a fantasy, but according to Sarah and other recent graduates, the Con gives students the skills and confidence to actually make it happen.

I dont remember the person I was before I started here, said Sarah. It is such a unique, supportive environment that just boosts your confidence, and the lecturers are passionate about what they, and we, do.

Sarah has just completed her Certificate IV and Diploma in Contemporary Music, and along with fellow students Judd Brennand and Melania Jack cannot sing the praises of the Con loudly enough.

I remember the person Sarah was when she started. She was a great singer and she still is, said Judd, but what the Con teaches is a broad range of skills that are so transferrable into any area of work.

Judd had worked as a singer, songwriter and musician for 20 years before he enrolled at the Con, and admits that he felt he was too old to learn.

I couldnt read or write music and I was worried about my ability to learn, said Judd. The Con is so inclusive and yet gives you the space to really shine.

Judd recently won a Dolphin Award for a song he wrote and recorded at the Con in the recording studio he helped to build, and will accompany Sarah on guitar at the Australia Day celebrations. Hes also gigging up and down the coast with his band Schmaltz.

Work is also flowing in for Melania Jack, a political and social activist who always had a passion for music. The Con has given Melania the skills to combine both, using her music as a tool for social revolution and education.

Melania now works for Music Outback, a program that sends music teachers to remote schools, giving the students a taste of music education and appreciation. She has also established the womens performance collective, Sing it up Sistas, which provides an outlet for talented Northern Rivers women.

The biggest thing I have got out of attending the Con is a sense of community, said Melania, who spent many years working in East Timor before discovering the Northern Rivers. Music has always been therapy for me and now I have the skills to use my music to explore social or political issues. I was never very good at getting my opinion across succinctly but now with my songs, Ive got four minutes to do it!

For information on courses offered by the Conservatorium in 2007 visit or phone the Con on 6621 2266.

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