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First Nations Composer Program

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First Nations Composer Program is the first of its type in the art music sector in Australia. 

The program is designed to play an active role in addressing the disparity in opportunities afforded to Australia’s First Nations’ musicians and consists of a suite of activities with partnerships key to our growth in the First Nations music sphere. 

Activities include Ngarra- Burria: First Peoples Composer workshops, recordings and performances (with partners Moogahlin Performing Arts, Australian Music Centre and Australian National University), our inaugural First Nations’ Composer in Residence who in 2020 is Brenda Gifford and community workshops and performances as part of ‘Baiame’s Ngunnhu Festival’ in Brewarrina (presented by Moogahlin). 

About Ngarra Burria: First Peoples Composer Workshops

Ngarra-Burria: First Peoples Composers is a two year program and it had its first iteration in 2017. The program is aimed at supporting and mentoring emerging Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander composers in developing new techniques and skills in instrumental composition and notation, as well as industry knowledge and relationships to build their craft and networks into the future.

The first cohort of composers (2017-2018) were Brenda Gifford, Troy Russell, Elizabeth Sheppard, Tim Gray and Rhyan Clapham. The second cohort of composers (2019-2020) are Nardi Simpson, Eric Avery and James Henry.

Ngarra-Burria are Dharug words meaning to hear, to sing, and this program is intended to build bridges for First Peoples’ musicians to step forward, further develop their composing skills, and connect with the art music sector. Originally called Indigenous Composers Initiative, the program was initiated in 2017 by Aboriginal composer Chris Sainsbury, and the words ‘art music’ here refers to the vast spectrum of contemporary classical/new music, contemporary original jazz and improvisatory practice, experimental practice, including sound art and installation, computer music, and more.

Read Chris Sainsbury’s Ngarra Burria Platform Paper | Read ABC Classic on Ngarra Burria | Listen to the music of the first cohort | Read Resonate Magazine on the Indigenous Composer Initiative

About First Nations Composer in Residence

Inaugurated in 2020, this position involves working with the virtuosic instrumentalists of Ensemble Offspring throughout the year in one-on-one sessions, involvement in local and regional touring programs and workshops on a new commission.

Application Process

Applications for First Nations Composer in Residence are by invitation only. However, if this is something that you are interested in, please email claire@ensembleoffspring.com.

Ngarra-Burria: First Peoples Composers is a two year program and it had its first iteration in 2017. The program is aimed at supporting and mentoring emerging Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander composers in developing new techniques and skills in instrumental composition and notation, as well as industry knowledge and relationships to build their craft and networks into the future.

Past Participants

Brenda Gifford (2020)