A group of performers standing on stage after the final bow at the NAIDOC Concert

Celebrating Enduring Culture and Talent: The Con's NAIDOC Concert

11 July 2024
An inspiring night showcasing First Nations musical excellence.
The sold-out NAIDOC concert at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music highlighted First Nations talent through diverse performances and celebrated the multifaceted nature of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture.

The recent NAIDOC concert at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music on July 10 was a vibrant celebration of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture and music, spearheaded by Project and Event Support Officers Amelia Stanmore and Tara McFarlane. 

Organising this event forms part of their participation in the First Nations professional staff pilot program. "The hope was that we would develop the skills capable of creating an event or project within the Conservatorium which could both become business-as-usual and create significant cultural and social impact,” Amelia shares. 

The idea for the concert came from many thorough discussions with colleagues and students, plus Tara and Amelia’s extensive experience assisting with other concerts and events at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music, including Brass Day, the Jazz Festival, the Chancellor's Concert, and the Candlelight Concert, provided a solid foundation for the new event. 

With both Amelia and Tara being of Aboriginal descent, the timing and theme of NAIDOC Week seemed like a natural fit. They envisioned a concert that not only filled an event gap but also laid the groundwork for future celebrations.

When asked about their favourite aspect of working on the concert, both Amelia and Tara find it challenging to pinpoint just one element.  

Amelia shares her excitement about the artistic planning and the learning experience of collaborating with the Conservatorium’s event and stage production teams. Tara highlights the creative freedom she enjoyed in running their event.

The concert featured an impressive lineup of performers, including students Cianna Walker and Olivia Fox, First Nation artists-in-residence Tim Gray, the student band Lemonise, Dr Thomas Fienberg alongside Sophia Hunt, and Nardi Simpson's Barayagal Choir, a Sydney Conservatorium of Music-led community choir.  

This diverse array of talent illustrated the concert's goal – to present “an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander-led showcase where First Nations artists could demonstrate how they are redefining previous Western interpretations of what it means to be an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander musician.” 

Both Amelia and Tara enjoyed working closely with the musicians to experience how they are challenging traditional perceptions. "It has been quite enjoyable working with artists from different cultural backgrounds and talents,” Amelia says. 

Often when thinking of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultural music, people think of traditional song and dance which is often performed in welcome or acknowledgment of country. Whilst, this is still significant in our culture, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander music and art forms are evolving and reflecting the modern self-determination of our people blending traditional music with modern styles.
Amelia Stanmore

For the Con community, the NAIDOC concert held significant meaning. Amelia says that it “allows the First Nations students at the Con to express their cultural knowledge through the musical training” and “adds to a celebration of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander strategies put in place by both the Dean, Anna Reid, and the Associate Dean (Indigenous Strategy and Services), Dr Thomas Fienberg.”

Attendees of the concert were treated to a variety of musical performances by the First Nations artists, each emphasising the NAIDOC theme, "Keep the Fire Burning! Blak, Loud and Proud." 

The concert is a testament to the incredible talent within the First Nations community and an opportunity for the audience to witness the dynamic blend of traditional and contemporary Indigenous music. 

As Amelia says, "First Nations have a multitude of talent and the NAIDOC Concert is a chance to see just how deadly First Nations people are!"

The NAIDOC concert at the Con was not just an event, but a powerful statement of cultural celebration and artistic excellence. 

Through their dedication and vision, Amelia and Tara successfully created a uniting concert experience that will hopefully continue for years to come. 

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