Maddilyn Goodwin - My Story
Well it turns out I'm not really good at blogging. I definitely have a lot of respect for bloggers out there who are consistently writing on a daily basis, whose computer screens are their work desk, their life. It's a very creative job! And, very time consuming. So, consequently, I have not found the time nor the inspiration for much blogging after my initial go-get-'em motivation. But it's about time I told you our stories; those of the artists we are working with, and the story of A Sunburnt Country. So why not kick it off with me - the creator.
Hi, I'm Maddilyn, but I prefer Maddi. I'm from Gladstone, QLD, Australia. I love cake and stroopwafels. I find hair really annoying. I'm a flutist but also an experienced barista. My interests include travelling, coffee, forest walks, keeping fit, yoga, and food.
No headshots here. Just candid snaps and real moments. You can find all that boring formal stuff on my website. Above is a photo of me (left) with my gorgeous younger sister Emily on our family holiday in December 2016, around Christmas time. I am all about family. Ours is a family of seven - I have four siblings. Two younger brothers, a younger sister and an older sister. I was definitely never lonely growing up! Life could be pretty full-on, but I would not have it any other way. We're all "grown up" now, and really close, and it's amazing. And we're all so different! I am the only classical musician in my family, although my younger brother is an exceptionally talented drummer, guitarist, pianist and quasi-composer/arranger in a few bands (I sound exceptionally ordinary next to him), and my YOUNGER younger brother plays guitar too. My younger sister played clarinet in school and my older sister also plays guitar, but their career paths are quite a contrast. The support and love of my family is something that is so essential to my life and to who I am. I am so proud of my siblings and my parents for going for what they believe in, what they love, and always aiming high; this has absolutely influenced my ambition and what I'm trying to achieve in my career.
The Early Days
We grew up in a small city, Gladstone, in Central Queensland. Its climate is humid and subtropical, the population is about 50,000, and it's home to Queensland's largest multi-commodity shipping port. My parents are not musicians. My dad is a chemical engineer working at an industrial plant, and my mum owns her own quilting shop where she also runs classes, Sew Patch n Quilt, although she has a long background in occupational therapy. My mum played piano and guitar as a child, and took up clarinet and saxophone in her 30s. I had a crack at the clarinet and saxophone, but never clicked with them. The 'squeaks' of the reed instruments made me cry. I took music lessons as every kid does in school, and soon started taking private piano lessons. That didn't quite work out either - after two years it turns out I couldn't relate the music to the correct keys and I had been 'playing by ear' the whole time, so I kind of gave up. I took up flute when I was 9, I think, only because it was the instrument all my friends were going to play. I stuck with it. And the rest is history?
I had an equal love for Irish music, which still lights a fire in my heart today. Unfortunately, I couldn't continue the harp when we returned to Australia, due to the cost of the instrument and the lack of available tuition in my "country" home. At least I could focus on the flute.
Next Step: Conservatories
I was no wunderkind, but I was persistent. I was 16 when I realised I had to get serious if I wanted to chase an orchestral career (I didn't really get serious until... 23. Two years ago, wow). My tertiary studies began in Brisbane at the Queensland Conservatorium, where I studied for four years (and where I met all of our Sunburnt Country composers). My teacher, German flutist Gerhard Mallon, was a mentor for the mind as much as the music, which I needed in these early days. It was the case of suddenly being a small fish in a big pond; I had never seen such talent and competition before in my life - that is hard for someone who easily succumbs to doubt and the feeling of worthlessness. I was fighting a depression since the age of 15, and this very much affected my musical progression. More recently I have realised that I could not fully commit myself to my creative development until I overcame the challenges of mental illness and learnt to recognise how it manifested in me.
My bachelor degree was the time for me to discover "real life", living out of home. Brisbane, as I mentioned, is about 600km south of my hometown, so I moved out of home (and considerably far away, although in Australia I wouldn't say it's much of a distance) at 17. I was very lucky to have security from my family, but I have always been a worker. From the moment I could have a part-time job (13 or 14 years old), I had one. I learnt a lot about time management and juggling a university workload, part-time work, and a social life.
Fun activities! I am very thankful that my life was not solely focused on my education, and think this says a lot about who I am and what makes me happy. I met my now-husband during my Bachelor degree, and we were engaged in my fourth year. Even now at my most motivated, I refuse to practise for eight hours a day because I value spending time with family, friends, getting outdoors, and relaxing. Down-time is totally essential. I know these things are what I need to stay healthy, and that if I'm not healthy, I'm not functioning artistically.
I wanted to seriously pursue this interest in piccolo playing, so I started a Postgraduate degree in Tasmania where I studied with Lloyd Hudson, principal piccolo of the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra. During this year, I took a month-long tour of Europe, visiting specific music institutions and teachers. Partly to experience the music culture overseas, and partly to figure out where I would fit in if I were to study there. I met my current teacher, Peter Verhoyen, in Bruges, and knew his style of teaching and his reputation as a piccolo player was what I needed. I was quite sick at this time, throughout the whole year, recovering from a recent hard-hitting bout of depression.
I began to plan an education in Europe, but also started a Master of Music at the Sydney Conservatorium (I studied with the lovely Emma Sholl of Sydney Symphony Orchestra), in case I was never successful in auditioning for an institution. In this moment, at 22, my future was incredibly clear to me - the piccolo would be as much a part of my future as flute. This was so clear, in fact, that I auditioned for only one Conservatorium in Europe, where I could receive formal full-time piccolo tuition, despite initially planning to audition for as many as possible.
The International Journey
I was accepted to the Royal Conservatoire of Antwerp in 2014. I can't describe the feeling of reading that email. I was so proud, excited and ready. I could never have imagined how Belgium would change me. In 2014 I would begin a master of flute degree with the incredible Aldo Baerten, who has taught me a great deal in a very short time. My progress is as much his success as it is mine. In 2015, I began a master of piccolo alongside my flute master.
For the last two and a half years I have been living in Antwerp, and I have changed exceptionally as a musician and as a person. I am reaping the benefits of hard work, determination and working with some incredible professors. Belgium hasn't come without its challenges, however. There was an element of culture-shock involved in the move, and at times I could be surrounded by people and yet feel incredibly lonely - a very common feeling caused by depression, but this was different. I missed the Australian people, the Australian landscape, the Australian weather, and the Australian go-get-'em, happy-go-lucky, she'll-be-right-mate attitude. In the first year I also missed my husband terribly, who stayed in Australia to work.
There are many things I love about Belgium. These two countries are incomparable, and I'm very lucky to have experienced building a life on another continent. This experience has absolutely built my resilience and my confidence, and has both challenged and healed me. I have not only loved developing my career skills here, but I have also deeply enjoyed the travel possibilities. Being a short train ride away from another country and another culture is just incredible. My favourite experience so far has been an 8-day hike in the north of Sweden.
A real challenge: I wanted to push myself in Belgium, and to finish my studies as soon as possible, because now I felt I was heading in the right direction with some purpose, and I deserved to be where I was. So I decided to complete my flute and piccolo masters simultaneously. It's not a dual degree, but rather two full-time master degrees at the same time. I used to refer to myself as lazy. I don't anymore.
A Sunburnt Country
And we have arrived at the project. As part of my final recital project for my flute master, I had to create an interdisciplinary project which focuses on my instrument. I always knew I wanted to perform Australian works; I have introduced a few Australian chamber works to my peers, but have never seen or heard an Australian piece performed otherwise. I am also the only Australian student at the Conservatoire, so I knew an Aussie concept would be something new for the school. This initial idea slowly turned into commissioning and introducing NEW Australian flute music to Belgium. As the concept grew, I began to question why it was so important for me to showcase music from my country. I realised that my nationality and my upbringing was an integral aspect of my personality, my artistry and my being. I felt a need to 'give back' to Belgium, and at the same time to farewell it - sharing a project so personal and close to my heart felt right.
I do believe that we are defined by our experiences. For example, I know that growing up in a loving family and with parents who are madly in love after 25 years of marriage had an impact on my idea of marriage, and influenced my attitude towards relationship. Tim's family situation is very similar, so we have similar ideals and expectations. People were often surprised by this, but for Tim and I, it was just normal.
I am not a composer, so I don't have the ability to use sounds to describe how my collection of experiences throughout life defines me. I do wonder how my story would sound. I wanted to not only promote Australian music in the project, but also to explore how a composer would write their story if they were to focus on their life as a whole. How would their voice sound if they wholly reflected on their human experiences, cultural background and relevance of their nationality in their life? What does it mean to be an Australian creative? Does it matter at all? Some elements of the Australian culture might be incredibly relevant in the lives of certain people, and for others, not at all. This is the explorative nature of A Sunburnt Country. How does the Australian culture define you as an artist? The new music presented in the program represent very unique and personal answers to these questions.
I was especially interested in how young, emerging composers might reflect these questions in their work, so I reached out to Michael and Samantha, two composers I met in Brisbane at the Queensland Conservatorium. I am thrilled that they were both interested in exploring the concept, and I am very happy that the program now showcases a very diverse, very personal Australian art world.
The Next Step
A Sunburnt Country has developed very strongly since my original plan to showcase Australian works. We now have three music commissions, two dance commissions and two poetry readings involved - it's a collaborative project and these art mediums allow us to paint the ultimate picture of what it means to be an Australian artist. I am excited and stressed and all things in between. I'm not sure what will happen after May 19, but I'd like to continue with the concept and create an ongoing series of performances. I would also like to develop myself as a piccolo player and teacher. I will graduate from both my master degrees in July 2017, and after that, the world is my oyster. Who knows what will happen. But no matter what, I will always dream big.
Afterthoughts, and a Big Ask
I am not scared to talk about my battle with severe depression. Nobody should feel the need to hide the challenges of mental illness from anyone. Depression was a huge part of my life and has defined my progression until now; to not speak of it would be to incompletely discuss my life. Challenging myself by moving abroad was very helpful in the healing process. I carried crippling self-doubt and self-esteem issues into my education, but the dedication and determination I had to correct my attitude and succeed in my ambitions was strong enough to overcome it. This illness can be overcome.
I've set up a crowd-funding campaign with the Australian Cultural Fund to support the developments of A Sunburnt Country. I would appreciate any support - a tiny $5 from a lot of people goes a long way. Donations over $2 are tax deductible!
Asking for money from strangers for an arts project they might never see might seem like a big ask. It is incredibly daunting and difficult for me! Especially because the project is not wholly about me. But this investment in young artists is important for our arts scene and our country. It's important to promote Australian artists in any way we can, especially when an international opportunity comes along. The costs of creating a project like A Sunburnt Country are high and seemingly never-ending. We all appreciate your support.
Even if you just took the time to read this post. Thank you, very much!
Click here to donate. Why not sacrifice a cup of coffee this week?
Over the next few months we will be posting the stories of our other artists. If you enjoy the concept of this project, or enjoy the work of our artists, don't hesitate to donate and share our work with others.