Acclaimed musician Kate Miller-Heidke has been awarded an Honorary Doctorate from Griffith University.
The Queensland Conservatorium alumnus was bestowed the title Doctor of the University (DUniv) for her distinguished service to the arts as a singer and songwriter.
The performer and composer said it was “a real honour” to be recognised by the University.
“The Conservatorium looms very large for me in terms of my past and my development as an artist,” she said.
“It’s a surprise and a thrill to be recognised in this way.”
The singer-songwriter received her honorary doctorate at a graduation ceremony for the Class of 2020 at the Brisbane Convention and Exhibition Centre.
She also treated the audience to a powerhouse performance of her 2016 feminist anthem, You Underestimated Me Dude, accompanied by her partner and fellow Griffith graduate Keir Nuttall.
Kate graduated with a Bachelor of Music (Classical Voice) in 2002 and began her career performing with Opera Queensland and Opera Australia.
“As a child, I was obsessed with music, drama and singing – for as long as I can remember, music has been a refuge, the thing that gives life meaning,” she said.
“I auditioned at the Con because singing was the only thing I wanted to do.
“I’d heard people speak of the Conservatorium in hushed tones, like it was this hallowed place filled with extraordinary people. I was shocked and delighted to get in with a scholarship.
“Being at the Con taught me discipline and gave me the tools to nurture and protect my voice.”
“My singing lessons with Margaret Schindler were the best parts of my week. She opened my eyes to so much great music and taught me how to bring it to life as a singer.”
“I also met lifelong friends and collaborators – the musicians I met there have profoundly shaped my life and career.”
Determined to break down musical boundaries, she made the leap to indie pop music, introducing audiences to her unique and ethereal sound on her debut album Little Eve in 2007. The album received gold certification and four ARIA award nominations.
Kate went on to release another four studio albums in Australia, achieving multi-platinum status, appearing in the top 10 album and singles charts numerous times and receiving 13 ARIA Award nominations.
Kate’s classical training continued to underpin her work and she has appeared at the Sydney Opera House, the English National Opera and the Metropolitan Opera New York. In 2015, she made her debut as a composer with the critically acclaimed opera The Rabbits, which won 4 Helpmann Awards including Best Score and Best New Australian Work.
Together with her long-term collaborator and partner Keir Nuttall, Kate wrote the music and lyrics to Muriel’s Wedding: The Musical, which premiered in 2017 to rave reviews and went on to win five Helpmann Awards, including Best Original Score.
Kate performed to more than 200 million TV viewers in 2019, representing Australia at the Eurovision Song Contest in Tel Aviv, Israel with her transcendent song Zero Gravity.
“I’ve tried to make the most of any opportunities that come my way.”
“Early on, my only strategy was to say yes to everything that interested me.
“I never imagined that such a varied career was truly viable, and I’m still delighted and a tad stunned that has been the case so far.”
Her advice for current students at the Conservatorium is simple: collaboration is key.
“Meet as many people as you can,” she said.
“If you see another musician you admire, don’t be afraid to approach them and figure out a way to play music with them.
“You can learn so much from other musicians, and some of these connections will pay dividends. Music is connection.”
Queensland Conservatorium Head of Voice Associate Professor Margaret Schindler mentored the star during her time at university and says her former student is “an inspirational figure and role model and a truly exceptional ambassador for Griffith University”.
“Kate’s audition was held on the stage of the Conservatorium Theatre… she immediately impressed with her vocal ability and dramatic flair for the character,” she said.
“People can often be overcome with nerves, but Kate was totally at ease and in her element on the stage.
“Kate was vocally gifted and had an extraordinary musical ear, but it was her innate understanding of the connection between language and music that made her such a compelling performer.”
Kate Miller-Heidke joined more than 2,700 Griffith graduates who attended ceremonies in Brisbane and on the Gold Coast last month.
These ceremonies were for the Graduating Class of 2020 who missed out on in-person events last year due to COVID.
Those unable to attend have the option to attend a future ceremony to celebrate their achievement and each ceremony was live streamed.