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