Music listening privilege for diversity


Composer Peggy Granville-Hicks’ legacy is one of advocacy, challenging the status quo and raising important questions such as equality, diversity and creative innovation through music.

Peggy Granville-Hicks’ 2021 speech certainly lived up to this manifesto, as jazz pianist Zela Margossian, multi-talented composer Bree van Reyk and singer, songwriter and improviser Sia Ahmad reflected on how whose last year allowed them to approach music with renewed determination.

Moderated by ABC Classics host Vanessa Hughes and aired earlier this week (November 4), the musicians led the discussion on the path to diversity and inclusion by capitalizing on their privileged positions and giving back to the community during a difficult time.


Often working with sporadic gigs and sources of income, the musicians are in a special position to talk about the silver lining against whatever has been disrupted by the global pandemic.

Ahmad shared: “Even before the COVID lockdowns set in, I had stepped back from the notion of ‘career’ to retrace my steps and come back to those formative discoveries and innocent dreams, to guide me once again to my practice as a maker, facilitator and mentor.

“My creative life is 100% tied to the DIY punk philosophy I grew up with,” Ahmad added.

Percussionist Bree van Reyk also felt this strong reconnection to punk rock, especially the rebellious and instinctive energy that often stereotyped them as “art school dropouts”.

‘Roots [of punk rock] come from the kind of musical expression that doesn’t come from a trained system… it’s very raw, the energy is really powerful, ”added van Reyk.

“So punk rock, for me, is about energy and spirit, and it’s not about precision – it’s about liberation. “

Punk rock is about instinct, and this is the approach taken by Ahmad, bringing her back to the starting point of her creative practice and why she makes music.

Without punk rock, I wouldn’t be reminded, day in and day out, to find ways to break the system and better rebuild the structures.

Sia Ahmad

“I have spent years creating the music that is most close to my heart… Without punk rock, I wouldn’t keep thinking about ways to make creativity accessible and break down barriers so that identity and status social are not a concern. “

Read: Make live music accessible

Born and raised in Beirut, jazz musician Zela Margossian was overwhelmed by the sadness of the Beirut explosion in 2020 in addition to COVID-19, but it quickly translated into gratitude and strength.

“It gave me a new perspective to deal with the issues I was facing… [gratitude] gave me the strength to continue and to create. I realized that it was not just a matter of endurance, but a time to reconnect with our passions behind our impulses to create, to appreciate what we took for granted and to strengthen the relationships with the musicians favored during the periods. difficult, ”explained Margossian.

There is a collective will to keep music alive.

Zela Margossian

Confinement has become a time of slowness and contemplation for these artists. Bring your opera premiere The invisible bird Online after the first wave of cancellations of 2020, Van Reyk shared his enthusiasm for the large audience that would not have been possible for a physical performance.

Finally able to progress on his next album, van Reyk said: “When I think about what I want to do with music, what I want to do with myself and in my life, it’s like I have to to be able to feed me and others.

“I’m trying to find more and more ways to do it through music, rather than just moving forward with the music. [as a career] and try to feed me in other ways.

Recently, that food has come in the form of playing on a wooden board according to her instincts, and she hopes to perform live for a small audience soon at Peggy Glanville-Hicks House.


Funding remains a major issue, even with the various government grants for music that were either too late or too few in number.

There are many acts of faith in a musician’s career, and Ahmed is grateful for this community where people trust each other.

‘The chances [that] people took me is so heartwarming, and that’s where the friendship started. And then, when you leave this life, you want to give back to your peers who are still finding their feet… You want to be able to share that knowledge and that wealth of experience with others. ‘

Ahmed continued, “I would like to think that there are philanthropists, people with money who are just as keen to break the system and recognize that the arts and culture are so important to society.”

Likewise, Margossian said that you have a lot of roles to juggle when you’re a musician, but her experience has also shown that “the music scene in Australia has shown so much potential… The musicians [would] play for nothing because they love music ‘

There are still many hurdles artists face in meeting their financial needs, but van Reyk also pointed out that mentally, “I don’t have the time to allow myself to do things that I don’t really want to do anymore.

“It’s just that I know I had to trust that if I work on things that I really believe in it will have positive effects on the track… I think it’s more about questioning: how can we afford to hold our minds and hearts [as artists]? ‘


Often self-sufficient, these musicians, among many others in the industry, have used their position, network and resources to call for greater diversity.

“Through all the blockages and restrictions, I have had the chance to continue my work in the art sector and to be supported to continue creating music,” said Ahmad. “But more importantly, I was able to use my privileged position to continue to work with those who make up my community, to support them as best I can through performance opportunities.

“Professional development conversations are simple messages – assurance that things will get better soon, and better for the future in general. Margossian recalled that diversity is what makes the creative community flourish, because “contribution creates connection and connection creates a network of support, which is essential in times of uncertainty.”

A true collaborator at heart The Margossian Quintet testifies that cultural diversity can lead to a harmonious result.

Drawing inspiration from “irresistible” things, van Reyk found inspiration in Adrienne Maree Brown’s blog posts, titled “Not Busy, Focused; not busy, full. van Reyk reflected: “I realized that I won’t resist being aware of my privilege, I won’t resist acknowledging it. And I will not resist finding ways to use my heart, my mind, my ears, my hands, my time and my creativity, to part with and disperse my privilege – it is irresistible to me.

“For a lot of people, life is hard all the time; it is isolated all the time; and it’s uncertain all the time. In this country in particular, we know that is the case for aboriginals, ”she added.

I will not resist continuing the act of opening my eyes and responding to the inequality and discrimination that I see. Call and take positive action for the destruction of sexist, misogynistic, racist, trans, hateful homosexual and irresistible to me systems and behaviors.

Bree van reyk

Citing her involvement in the Composing Women program at the Sydney Conservatory of Music and PAW Media’s Young Women Music Program in NT, she said: “One thing I want to do all the time is provide tutoring for young people. women in remote areas. communities with musicians like me and my friends, and hopefully sponsored by crowdfunding. ‘

Read: Balancing the scales of representation of women in fine music

Ahmad concluded that the values ​​of equality and diversity will always be true in his music, and it will be about “how to release them in the public domain”.

“And that’s part of evolution and change. If I hear this 10 years from now, the conversations might still have the same thread, but I’m sure there will be a lot more life lessons to add to the mix as well.

The Peggy Granville-Hicks 2021 address was broadcast live for free on November 4, and ArtsHub participated as a virtual participant.


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