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You can't stop the music! Theatre students find way to overcome the COVID-19 restrictions

Published:02 April 2020

Mackay’s very own Karen Jacobsen (TOP), the voice of Siri, and '91 Storey Treehouse' actor Teale Howie (BOTTOM) are among professional artists who are connecting with students enrolled at CQUniversity's Central Queensland Conservatorium of Music.

When CQUniversity academics were informed of the move to online teaching due to COVID-19, the teaching staff at Central Queensland Conservatorium of Music came up with a way to connect their students with the arts industry while providing some support for suddenly unemployed artists.

Dr Linda Lorenza, Nicole Thomson and Professor Judith Brown from the Conservatorium have initiated 'Artist Online' in the weekly timetable when the Bachelor of Theatre students would have been rehearsing their own production.

Guest artists join the students online in a 90-minute Zoom forum.

“We are pleased to able to support these artists for their session with the students,” says Professor Brown.

Dr Lorenza added that "it's great to be able to do something to help keep the arts industry breathing, with artists sharing stories and the next generation being inspired”.

Each guest artist talks about their training, career development and particular production experiences and the students ask questions.

“So far, each guest artist has shared valuable insights into their careers; pearls of wisdom that students may take years to discover,” says Dr Lorenza.

“Musical theatre actor-singer-dancer Elise McCann joined us this week. Elise was so positive and energised, even at this incredibly difficult and unknown time.

"She told the students that ‘any education is good education’ as she talked about juggling acting training and a law degree simultaneously!

"She said 'always stay open to opportunities' as she told the story of how she was cast in the role of Miss Honey in Matilda.

"Our very first guest artist was actor-director Matt Young, who will return to direct our production of The Mystery of Edwin Drood later this year, and we had the benefit of meeting CQUni Bachelor of Theatre alumni, actor Teale Howie, who has been touring in the children’s play 91 Storey Treehouse from Andy Griffiths’ books.

"Upcoming guest artists include Blake Bowden from the Book of Mormon, Mackay’s very own Karen Jacobsen, the voice of Siri, and Andy Dexterity, movement and Auslan artist."

CQCM voice lecturer Nicole Thomson says this has been a "remarkable opportunity for our regional students in these unprecedented times”.

"What an incredible boost for our students and how wonderful for professional artists to meet some of the young people who admire their work and aspire to join them in the arts industry," she says.