A key element of this year’s Australian Women in Music Awards has been the industry forum programming that offers attendees the opportunity to learn, share and discuss.
Taking place at the Brisbane Powerhouse this week, the AWMA Forum panels have covered everything from women in hip-hop to image making and the intersection between music and politics. Tuesday’s scheduling also saw the 2019 AWMA Keynote Speaker, ABC Classic broadcaster, musician, teacher and author, Eddie Ayres.
Bringing his story and journey of transitioning from female to male to the Australian Women in Music Awards audience in the Visy Theatre, Ayres commanded the stage with candid honesty and humour. As he explained, the relationship one can have with music can have quite a few parallels with the ‘transgender experience’ – parallels explained with depth and music itself.
On stage with a cello, violin and viola, Ayres took the crowd through a journey of self-discovery and continued development. As a musician, Ayres’ own education and career has taken him throughout Europe and particularly Afghanistan, where he spent a year teaching music. The author of three books, and with a voice that many ABC Classic listeners have been loyally tuning in to for years, Ayres’ presence is a charming one with stories to boot.
“I was surprised when they asked me,” he told Music Feeds earlier in the week. “It is quite funny that I do get asked to do more of these things since I transitioned. It’s obviously a great honour, and I hope that I do a good job.”
And on Tuesday, Ayres went above and beyond.
Speaking about the importance of community and support as he went through the process of transitioning, as well as developing into new phases of his career, Ayres shone light on the difficulties musicians still face. Particularly in the Classical music field, Ayres opened up on how the tides of change are presenting themselves in the genre, and how there is still much more to progress to be made.
“I think for a few years, progress has definitely been made within the classical world.” he said.
“I think it started off by having screened auditions, so that the people played behind the screen so you didn’t know what gender they were. That continued into the latest rounds where, quite often, in the final round you’d have two women. That’s done a huge amount of righting the gender balance of orchestras and in fact, to the advantage of women in a number of orchestras now.”
“I’m not absolutely sure of the numbers but at a rough kind of look at orchestras, I would say that there is half or more than half of the players in the orchestra are women.” he continued.
“Perhaps less so in the brass, but even with brass, I think it’s changing more. In conducting as well. It’s great to see so many women conductors having due respect given to them and work as well. It’s grown, I really do think it is changing.”
Now that more women in music are being instilled with the confidence to stand up and tell their truth, Ayres believes that there is still more to be uncovered in terms of covered abuse within the Australian music industry.
“Obviously, stuff still does need to change in terms of the #MeToo movement and righting the wrongs there.” he said.
“I feel that a number of names have come up, but I do feel that there’s still a lot below the surface that can be talked about and hopefully, not repeated.”
The Australian Women In Music Awards are currently taking place in Brisbane. Head to the AWMA website for more details.