Alumni Profile: Novak Manojlovic

“I can’t express the impact that the Wollongong Conservatorium had on my life, both personally and musically, and from an educational, social and spiritual standpoint.”

Alumnus Novak Manojlovic

Winner of the Freedman Jazz Fellowship (2019)

Novak Manojlovic’s passion for music began well before actually becoming a student at WollCon, when he went to see concerts in the auditorium.

“The performances were profound and hugely important to my development as a musician. Were it not for these concerts I don’t think I would be pursuing music today. I remember seeing Phil Slater’s band, ROIL, 3ofMillions, Mike Nock’s trio and so many others – a row of us students sitting one metre from the musicians and howling through the climaxes of the music.”

“I remember the endless formative conversations my peers and I would have sitting in the botanic gardens between long periods of playing and improvising as we came to understand the breadth and power of what we were dealing with.” Said Novak.

After joining the jazz program at the Wollcon, Eric Dunan (Head of the Jazz Program) became an important force for the music Novak was interested in during his teenage years by creating environments for visiting jazz musicians to play and organising ways for his students to see these performances and be inspired.

“Wollongong is indebted to Eric for the way he has championed interesting and unique music in the region, and his reputation spreads far and wide for the significant influence he has had on the Australian music landscape in the last 20 years. Other mentors from my years at Wollcon were musicians who were my age or a little older; people like Drew Bourgeois, Chris Bourgeois, David Reglar, Finn Ryan, Jono Watts and Tom Wade.”

Novak Manojlovic

Winning the Freedman Jazz Fellowship is a significant achievement for any musician. For Novak it has meant validation as a musician and composer, and a sense of belief in his creativity.

“I didn’t expect to ever find myself in a position to win that award, having witnessed it as something quite distant and inconceivable since I was a teenager. I’m thankful to Jonathan Zwartz for helping me get there. It was valuable and validating to receive that recognition and know that musically I was on the right track in some way. Through that award I have been able to make 2 records which otherwise would not have happened, as well as feel a bit more confident in my own aesthetic.”

Novak is currently based in Sydney and working on releasing new music from a number of different projects including Grown Ocean’s Memory Gardens suite launching at Wollongong Town Hall on 10th December. One of the tracks from that album Cove//Covet is a piece inspired by “the delight in finding a hidden beach near Coalcliff”, and features Novak on piano, keyboards and glock.

Additionally, he’s been working on a string quintet + percussion record called Places People which has just been released on ABC Music, as well as a new record with his piano trio HEKKA to be released early/mid 2022.

“I’m also organising music for Ngaiire’s upcoming AUS/NZ tour in support of her new record ‘3’ through Jan/Feb 2022, working on some new music at home and maintaining a consistent study of solo piano works.”

You can stay up to date with information about upcoming shows and releases, as well as a myriad of musings and thoughts by Novak by signing up to his mailing list.