Jess Spina’s journey with the Conservatorium started when she was 9 years old with the Young Conservatorium program. Jess is now currently enrolled in a Masters of Music Studies majoring in vocal pedagogy. Jess shared her experience, advice to students and her audition tips below!
Tell us about your experience with Young Conservatorium.
I started at the Young Con when I was 9 and luckily had an amazing teacher who was willing to teach me some jazz rep! My young con experience set me on this pathway from a young age and I definitely think it helped me feel more prepared when I was auditioning for the Bachelor of Music back in 2016.
Walk us through what a day is like studying at the Con.
Seeing as this my fourth year at Con now I’ve definitely developed a little routine for my uni days. I’ll usually get in an hour or so early, grab a coffee from Coffee Head Co. on Manning St, then find a practice room in the jazz area to warm up before lectures and lessons. It’s quite special to study in the middle of South Bank. There are so many great food and coffee places, and if you ever want a break it’s just a 2-minute walk to the river and plenty of other nice and quiet spots to sit.
What do you love most about Queensland Conservatorium and why did you come here to study?
Compared to other universities and even Griffith campuses, the Con is a really small and close-knit community. Initially, I chose to study here because I knew some of the teachers and I’d heard amazing things from them about the jazz program. I love the focus on collaboration between year levels, departments and even between teachers and students. The Con has helped me build an incredibly supportive network of musicians and mentors that I would have struggled to find without it. You spend so much time with your cohort jamming, going to gigs and studying together so, it sounds cliché, but I really have met some of my best friends through this course too.
Tell us more about some of the classes you’ve taken.
Looking back on my undergrad, vocal workshop was one of the most transformative subjects for myself as a performer. Every week you have the opportunity to sing with a live band and receive constructive criticism from your teachers and vocal peers. I remember how daunting it was at first, but it ended up being one of the subjects I looked forward to the most. I really can’t say enough about the entire jazz faculty. Their collective experience in performing, academics, composing and arranging gives you every opportunity to find where your passion lies.
Have you had many opportunities to perform at the Con? Which one was your favorite and why?
I took advantage of every ensemble and performance opportunity I could throughout my time at Con. I’ve sung with Brazilian ensemble, Con Big Band, Con Artists Big Band, In-Voices vocal ensemble, as well as lots of student-led projects. I’ve had the chance to sing many times at the Con Theatre and Ian Hanger Recital Hall at the ensemble nights, department showcases, and lounge series concerts. There are also heaps of external performance opportunities like QPAC’s Green Jam, the Queen St Mall stages, Studio 188, Brisbane Jazz Club and even some local jazz festivals. I think my favourite experience was going on a regional tour in second year with In-Voices. It was such a fun time travelling together, playing with a professional band and getting a taste of what it’s like to be a touring musician.
Would you recommend future students to study Vocal Pedagogy?
I would definitely recommend the Vocal Pedagogy course to both performers and teachers. It’s a very diverse degree that can lead to many different career pathways in music and academia. Weekly lessons allow you to continue your own personal development, but you also observe your teachers and their pedagogical techniques. You gain a really in-depth understanding of vocal anatomy and physiology, and then learn how to apply this knowledge in a practical teaching context. After only one semester I feel so much better equipped to diagnose and treat my own vocal issues and I’ve also accumulated a toolbox of great exercises to use with my students.
What is your proudest achievement so far?
In my third year I was accepted into the Siena International Jazz Workshop which was advertised to me through Con. The 3-week intensive was held in Italy and led by world-renowned jazz faculty. Meeting these jazz legends, as well as young musicians from all over the world was really special and the whole experience was hugely formative for me.
What advice do you have for future students?
The best advice I can give is to jam with as many people as you can and go to as many gigs as possible! The Con is such a great place to find your feet as a musician and make your way into the professional industry alongside your peers. Going to gigs is not only a learning experience, but it’s where you make a lot of friendships AND meet amazing musicians outside of the Con too.
What are your tips and tricks for auditioning at the Conservatorium?
As for any audition, I would say you’ve just got to practice and believe in yourself. Remember that the panel wants you to succeed! Also, don’t be afraid to ask your teachers or any current students you know for advice.