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Step by step

Singer songwriter Robbie Miller describes the value of being mentored by someone who cares deeply about the audience……

I recently spent a week being mentored by Bernard Fanning in the Clancestry Pathways Program (Queensland Performing Arts Centre) with six other talented Indigenous musicians from across Queensland.  It was an experience that I will forever be grateful for.

My music career started many years ago when at age twelve my parents bought me my first guitar.  From the first day I strummed my guitar to this very day, I have always had mentors and role models.  These being  my parents and their belief in my talent, high school music teachers who encouraged me to push myself and university lecturers who taught me how to express myself musically in vast and diverse ways.

With every step I have taken on my musical journey there has been a mentor taking every step with me. This experience coupled with my own work as  Program Manager for the Australian Indigenous Mentoring Experience, which utilises university students as mentors for Indigenous high school students, has led me to wholeheartedly believe in the power of a mentor. It is this belief that drew me to the Clancestry Program.

The idea of having Bernard Fanning as a mentor, as a role model was an idea that assisted me and the other participants with the chance to grow, learn and experience the viewpoints of a true icon of Australian music.

Throughout the entire week of working with Bernard there were many learning opportunities but the one notion that stuck with me was the technique Bernard uses to write his own songs.  That idea is one of constructing and deconstructing your songs during the writing phase.  This is a tool to help shape and mould your song to sound how you intend it to sound. Although this might appear to be an obvious concept, it is one that I didn’t often enough use but one that I will definitely practice for the future.

During the week all the participants worked on their own songs one-on-one with Bernard, with the desired outcome being a song that we could practice and perform with Bernard’s band at the Clancestry Pathways Concert  on the Saturday night.  Now the whole experience of preparing for a show is something that I have been lucky enough to become familiar with over the preceding months before the Program, although what I had yet to experience was the perspective of someone like Bernard Fanning when it come to preparing for a show. Everything Bernard did during rehearsals was with one thing in mind: the audience.  Every decision made was to ensure that the audience enjoyed the show and left with a positive impression.  This type of perspective was one I was yet to experience among the several musicians I had performed with previously.

Spending the week with Bernard Fanning and the other participants in the Clancestry Pathways Program is something I will always remember, with lessons that will stay with me for the rest of my career.  Now it’s too early to say how this experience has helped my career but what I can say is, I have seen a different perspective on music and how to prepare for a performance but most important, myself and the other participants and we now have a mentor to help us step by step in our journey.

Robbie Miller is an Indigenous Brisbane musician and winner of the 2013 Triple J Unearthed NIMAs competition. Robbie is due to release his debut EP later in 2014. Away from music Robbie works as a Program Manager for the Australian Indigenous Mentoring Experience based at Bond University on the Gold Coast.





Feature image: Clancestry Pathways concert, photo by Mick Richards