Rosie Wickert, current chair and unofficial publicity officer of the Bellingen Fine Music Festival organising committee, has always had a love of ‘fine’ music. And Rosie is quick to point out that ‘fine’ can apply to all kinds of music, which is reflected in the diversity of musical genres which will comprise this year’s festival.
Rosie has been involved with the festival since 2011 and has seen it grow into a major annual event on the Mid North Coast art scene. Sales for this year’s festival have surpassed expectations, thanks to the tireless work of the very small organising committee coupled with the high calibre of the musicians who will be gracing our small town.
We have interviewed this very quiet ‘doer’ on the eve of the Festival.
What drew you to become involved with the Bellingen Fine Music Festival?
We lived near Lismore for a while and discovered small regional music festivals like Tyalgum and Bangalow, which we loved. The Bellingen festival had just got going and I thought it would be wonderful to be involved. Also, having recently moved here and just retired, it seemed like a great way to meet people with similar interests. I was introduced to Peter Nance, a founder of the Festival, at a Nexus opening and he invited Tony and I to meet the other committee members … and the rest is history, some of it very sad history.
How has the festival evolved since its inception in 2009? Was it originally focused solely on classical music?
We have broadened the repertoire a little since the Festival’s inception, although, looking back at the performers over the years, there has always been some looseness in the interpretation of ‘classical’. For example, there has almost always been some jazz and performers who would be described as world music. Really we have just clarified that we always want to include these elements as they reflect our community’s interests. Then after Bello Winter Music came along, we had to change our name because people got very confused. That’s when we decided to include the word ‘fine’ – always with the view that ‘fine’ can apply to all kinds of music.
Visiting musicians to the festival are very generous in their support of young evolving musicians, (e.g. the Music-by-Youth Project). Was this always an integral part of the festival?
The Youth Orchestra has always been involved but the Music-by-Youth Project came later. The Music-by-Youth Project was an idea of Andrew Batt-Rawden, a young composer who was commissioned to write a piece of work for the Festival in 2014 and who also helped reorient its profile. The Acacia Quartet has supported the project since its inception and has become a great favorite with local audiences and young musicians. Generous funding from Camp Creative and Regional Arts helped the Project get established for its first three years. Camp Creative still supports the Project and we raise other funds with the help of the local community. We see the Music-by-Youth Project as integral to the Festival and we will keep looking for ways to keep it going. It is so exciting for us that around 80% of the young people directly involved have gone on to study music.
The calibre of musicians you are able to secure for the Bellingen Fine Music Festival is impressive. How difficult is it to attract musicians to our little region?
It’s great that we have always been able to attract high calibre musicians. We have always sought advice from professional musicians such as Trish O’Brien when she was at the Con and Musica Viva has also been very helpful with our planning. Musicians love coming to Bellingen and seem to like performing at the Mem Hall. Performers often contact us asking if they can return to the Festival. We love this kind of feedback.
Have you always had an association with ‘fine’ music?
I suppose so, but I have never thought of it like that. I studied piano for many years, organised concerts when I was at uni and then married a classical music tragic. So yes, it’s always there.
What was your previous career?
I started my working life working with unemployed kids in London’s East End and finished it as a Professor at UTS. I’ve always been involved in many ways in post school education and training. I’ve loved my career.
For you- what will be the highlight of this year’s festival?
Too many to highlight. I’m looking forward to the whole weekend!
So where to from here? Do you see the festival continuing to grow each year?
Next year is the Bellingen Fine Music Festival’s 10th anniversary and we have big plans. However this will also be the last year for all the current members of the committee. So we will be looking hard for people to join us over the next 12 months so that we can hand over, allowing the Festival to continue. If that looks likely, we will work with them to lock in performers for 2020. It’s great fun putting this festival on and it’s a great committee to work with … and we have got all kinds of systems in place to make it an easy handover. There is a very large group of volunteers who assist in all kinds of helpful ways and we also get lots of support from local businesses and community groups. Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like to know more.
Are there still tickets available for next weekend?
The opening Youth and Exuberance concert on the Friday night is sold out. Tickets are available for all the other concerts. There are lots of workshops that people should check out on the website as some need registration. All the other fringe events are entry by gold coin donation. Info and tickets at www.bellingenmusicfestival.com.au
We would like to thank our major sponsors this year – Camp Creative, Musica Viva, Planet Lighting, Bellingen Shire Council, the Australian Government’s Regional Arts Fund and our media partners Courier Sun, Bellbottom and, of course, I Love Bello Shire.