Alumni Profile: Jodie Michael

How an In School Music Program began Jodie Michael’s jazz career

It was during the high school music program at Holy Spirit College with WollCon teacher Eric Dunan, that musician Jodie Michael realised playing jazz would be her lifelong career.

She played drums with a small jazz combo group at the school as well as the jazz orchestra, and for the last three years of her secondary education had the opportunity to tour the USA as part of the 2007 WollCon Jazz tour.

“We toured San Francisco, Oakland and Reno. I instantly fell in love with the passion and creative spirit of the music scene on the West Coast and made a firm mental note to return to the US as soon as possible.” Said Jodie.

That experience allowed Jodie to also play drums with well-known Australian musicians James Muller and Craig Scott. The exposure to a wide range of musicians and creative expressions, allowed her to develop her confidence and dedication to pursue a long-term career as a drummer.

Soon after completing a four year Bachelor of Music Performance degree at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music, Jodie was awarded the 2013 Jann Rutherford Memorial Award, which supports the professional development of an outstanding young female jazz musician.

The award was a turning point for Jodie and allowed her the opportunity to tour domestically and record an EP. It also led to many other professional opportunities, such as performing with musical icons like Katie Noonan.

“To this day, I do not take for granted the fortune that continually stems from the honour of winning that award. The collaboration and performance opportunities that followed were important for my artistic trajectory.”

Back in the USA

After a significant stretch of working in the music scene, and frequent bouts of work in New York with master drummer Michael Carvin, Jodie completed a Masters of Music degree at the Berklee Global Jazz Institute (BGJI) in Boston, MA.

“Studying in the USA allowed me to take advantage of the rich knowledge inherent in the country’s musical culture and community, whilst getting exposure to the world’s greatest musicians and absorbing their knowledge.”

It was during this time she was able to perform with many great artists, including Danilo Perez, the artistic director of the BGJI.

“I was fortunate to be able to participate in groups coordinated by Danilo at the 2019 Panama Jazz Festival and the inaugural Global Association for Inter connective Arts (GAIA) collaborative ensemble at the Bimhuis in Amsterdam and the Conservatorium of Amsterdam.”

After moving to New York, prior to the pandemic in 2019/2020, Jodie was touring New York City and New Jersey and expanding her experience by playing with many of her favourite musicians, including Ingrid Jenson – acclaimed jazz trumpeter and dedicated jazz educator.

“I felt most welcome and at home on the east coast. The spirit and drive towards excellence was palpable within the music scenes of New York and Boston, and I was encouraged to take many risks and capitalise on opportunities. New York is a different country, in itself!”

What’s next?

Prior to lockdown, Jodie had a period of teaching drums at the Wollongong Conservatorium, and continues to take on keen percussion students privately. In the long term, she hopes to share her knowledge through various performance and education opportunities domestically and abroad.

Right now she’s patiently anticipating the end of lockdown in Sydney and Wollongong, and planning some new recording projects.

“As always I am working on becoming a better composer, the eternal goal! I am also researching and preparing for the possible commencement of my PhD, early next year (2022) through the Sydney Conservatorium of Music. My dissertation will focus on potential for gender equality within the arts and music representation in the Middle East and communities.”