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Qld Music Festival To Support Regional Female Artists With New Mentorship Program

7 March 2017 | 2:33 pm | Mitch Knox

The announcement was made at a special Queensland Women's Week event in Brisbane today

Katie Noonan and Shannon Fentiman. Pic by Mitch Knox

Katie Noonan and Shannon Fentiman. Pic by Mitch Knox

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The Queensland Music Festival will shine a light on regional female artists as part of its inaugural Songs That Made Me mentorship program, announced today at a press conference in Brisbane by festival artistic director and celebrated singer-songwriter Katie Noonan and Minister for Women Shannon Fentiman.

The unveiling of the program coincides with the launch of Queensland Women's Week and just ahead of tomorrow's International Women's Day, making it the perfect way to kick off the celebrations, Fentiman said.

"I can't think of a better program that embodies the spirit of Queensland Women's Week and International Women's Day," she beamed. "We have some of our top musicians really supporting emerging women singer-songwriters, and it's about mentoring them, helping them with their songwriting, but also getting a foot in the door in the industry for some of these young singer-songwriters.

"It's a fantastic program and of course it's part of the wonderful work that the Queensland Music Festival does, and I'm really proud that the Palaszczuk government is supporting the Queensland Music Festival and this wonderful program."

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Taking its name from Noonan's 2014 album of the same name, the first-ever Songs That Made Me initiative will see Noonan stand alongside fellow inspirational musicians Deborah Conway, Clare Bowditch and Hannah Macklin to work with emerging female singer-songwriters from the regional centres of Mount Isa, Mackay and Gladstone.

Local mentors Megan SarmardinHayley Marsten and Kristin Berardi will also be involved in helping to "encourage, empower and support" participants in their musical pursuits, and developing their craft and business skills to further their careers.

According to Noonan — an ARIA Award-winning solo artist and the vocalist of Qld outfit george — the program was devised "in response to the low percentage of female singer-songwriters identified in membership statistics published by APRA AMCOS, which highlighted a female membership of only 21 per cent".

Noonan stressed that the term 'emerging' does not preclude anyone of a certain age from applying.

"You might have had three kids and now you're emerging as a singer-songwriter and you want to find your voice and tell your story," she said. "So the idea is you perform alongside them in a professional setting, you learn about songwriting, stagecraft and the business components of the industry."

The program will culminate with a series of concerts in each region and a grand finale at The Tivoli in Brisbane, all designed "to shine a light on ... local talent and encourage Queensland female regional artists to pursue their career in a growing industry", Noonan explained.

"I'm committed to continuing QMF's mission to change lives through music with unique cause-related events, and I'm particularly passionate about empowering female musicians, and that shines through in programs like Songs That Made Me and the inaugural Carol Lloyd Award," she said.

"QMF has played a huge role in supporting my career, and I hope this program will help launch the career of talented singer-songwriters from regional Queensland."

Noonan said that Mt Isa, Mackay and Gladstone were chosen to align with the QMF's focus on being a true statewide event — not one that merely uplifts the south-east corner — and to celebrate the existing success stories that have already come out of those regional centres.

"We're really focused on being a festival for the whole state of Queensland," she said. "I'm a fiercely proud Queenslander but I'm from Brisbane, so it's important for us to get out to the regions and find the regional story.

"We are a big, beautiful, bold state with lots of different stories to tell. I've been lucky enough to tour regional Queensland a lot, and they are an incredible people; incredibly resilient and fascinating. So, as the state's music festival, it's important for us to go all over the state, and not just the state's capital."

"The reason for those towns — well, the reason for Mackay was because of people like Kristin Berardi, so focusing on success stories of women that have made it from these regional areas," she continued. "Megan Sarmardin is another wonderful young Indigenous singer-songwriter from Mount Isa, and Hayley Marsten from Gladstone.

"So we've kind of handpicked women that are doing it, and have chosen to stay to live in those towns or are from those towns originally, to celebrate their success. I'm excited about finding the talent on this tour."

Musicians from outside those areas shouldn't feel left out — Noonan is all too aware of the largely regional nature of the wider state, and has big plans for other more-isolated locales such as Townsville, Longreach, Cunnamulla and more in future iterations.

"I've got big dreams for Townsville for 2019," she said. "We're a biennial festival, so we can only do so much each year, so this year we're focusing on Gladstone, Mt Isa, Mackay and Brisbane, but we've got big dreams for the rest of the state for the rest of the year next year and also 201 ... Longreach, Cunnamulla, there's the coast, there's the west, and they're very different worlds. We're going to a lot of regions across the whole state."

For year one of the program, mentoring will begin in June with a workshop in each town with Noonan and music educator Leigh Carriage. The regional concert dates will be held on Tuesday 11 July in Mt Isa, Thursday 13 July in Mackay and Saturday 15 July in Gladstone.

The initiative's concluding concert at The Tiv will be held on Sunday 16 July, and feature Conway, Bowditch, Macklin, the local mentors and a band made up of guitarist Jess Green, bassist Helen Svoboda and drummer Myka Wallace, along with a guest appearance from Noonan herself. The wider Qld Music Festival will be held from 7-30 July across the state.

Eligible performers are encouraged to apply by uploading a video entry of themselves performing two songs, comprising an original and a song that was instrumental (no pun intended) in inspiring them to become a singer-songwriter.

Entries open tomorrow, 8 March, via the Qld Music Festival website, closing on Friday 19 May. Winners will be announced later that month.