Five questions for Andrea Keller, Lecturer in Music (Jazz and Improvisation – Piano)

Lecturer in Music (Jazz and Improvisation – Piano) Andrea Keller. Photo by Giulia McGauran.
Lecturer in Music (Jazz and Improvisation – Piano) Andrea Keller. Photo by Giulia McGauran.

She’s won multiple ARIA and Australian Jazz “Bell” Awards, written and recorded dozens of albums, and is a strong voice for women in jazz – so what would pianist and composer Andrea Keller have done if she hadn’t studied music?

As told to Susanna Ling

What do you consider your most valuable skill?

I still feel a novice in most areas, and work constantly on developing my skills in every aspect of daily life – from cooking to parenting to being a communicative and compassionate human being, and extending both my artistic and teaching practice. If I had to nominate one skill I possess that I’ve found to be truly valuable though, it would be my ability to organise – that has served me incredibly well in both my domestic and professional life, and I see it as a key contributor to why I’ve been able to achieve more than I imagined for myself.

What are you holding in your photo?

I’m holding “musicians’ dice”, which are part of a set of a dozen 12-sided dice that represent the chromatic scale. These were new to my collection of studio tools at the time of the photo shoot, and I had just begun using them as a means to prescribe restrictions in my daily free improvisations. I’m fascinated by the element of chance, and I highly value the flexibility and problem-solving strategies that one is required to engage with as a result.

Pianist and Jazz & Improvisation lecturer Andrea Keller. Photo by Giulia McGauran.

What’s the best thing about working at the Melbourne Conservatorium of Music?

The Music building at Southbank has had an immeasurable impact in nurturing who I am as a person and a musician. I arrived as a 19-year-old in the 1990s and have spent the majority of my life there – the space, the people, some of whom have changed, while others have remained the same… I enjoy the feeling of belonging to something truly enriching, life-changing, and ever-evolving – it provides a crucial balance of known and unknown, assuredness and curiosity.

When and where were you happiest?

One of my most vivid and treasured childhood memories is abseiling down into a canyon in New South Wales and then travelling via lilo along a stream flowing through it. I can still hear and feel it – the serenity, sense of awe, having no agenda.

If you weren’t a musician, what would you be?

I love being a musician and truly can’t imagine living a life occupied by another profession – but if I had my time again, and things had worked out differently for me, I’d be a secret agent, or a florist …