Celebrating Kerrie Biddell

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Exactly one year ago today I took some of the most talented (and kind) people I know into the Sydney Conservatorium of Music so they could perform with me for my Final Masters Recital. It was tough as there were NO examiners. It was explained to me that it needed to be filmed and sent overseas to be marked as no jazz vocalist had attained a research degree from the Con before, so there was no procedure in place for marking an exam like this. We had all played a zillion gigs before, yet it made us kind of nervous! I felt soooooo happy that so many people came along in the audience to support. I am still really grateful to those who came, and there is never a way to explain how much artists love to see, feel, and experience the support of others. Plus, if no one came, we were about to perform to empty chairs.... haha.

The journey was a massive one as in 2014 the research began and in that same year, we lost dear Kerrie Biddell who had such a tremendous impact on so many of us. It was horrendously devastating. Grief is so hard isn't it? She was absolutely golden. I don't know a single person who heard her sing that did not think she was the bees knees.

Inevitably I was a bit teary in the recital at one point as I mentioned the very last lesson I had with Kerrie, only days before she passed. We had worked on a song of mine called Brokenness. It is not a jazz song. It is more of a rock/funk style. It was included in the program due to the significance, and Kerrie herself sang across many genres so it was entirely relevant in that sense.

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We received a High Distinction for our efforts ( I say "we" as the band with me made it all shine) and I know Kerrie would have been so happy. On one of the annual reviews I had during my candidature I was told, "the work you are doing is so important. This is such important work." She meant that including Kerrie in scholarly work was an important thing for Australian music/education/knowledge pool.

I completely agreed, as Kerrie was so significant.

I heard Kerrie sing when I was a teenager at a jazz workshop and it blew me away! My singing teacher Fairlie Garven said I would really like her, and she was right! She sang "Cry Me A River" and I will never forget the passion, anger, prowess, and full abandon, that she brought in that performance. I have never experienced anything like it before or since. I also sang for her that day. I was a bit scared as I had see her express frustration towards people who wasted her time. She seemed to mellow over the years however back then you really needed to have yourself in order. I sang "God Bless The Child." She was so complimentary. (Phew.)

Kerrie was also a guest vocal lecturer at our uni and it was so exciting when she came to Lismore. We had an amazing vocal lecturer at Southern Cross University, Valerie Tamblyn-Mills, and Valerie contributed beautifully to the research as did Rebecca Henry, Nicky Kurta, Jim Kelly and Nikki Ngao. All people who had known Kerrie in some way.

I had many trips to Kerrie's place in Bondi for lessons over the years especially around 2004 and onwards, and she was way more than a singing teacher, she walked me through some very serious life challenges as well.

In 2008, and 2009, I booked Kerrie to come and teach singers at my own, "You Have A Voice" workshops as the inspiration I received from Kerrie in the early days helped me bring those workshops to pass. I was over the moon when she said, "YES!" that she would come and teach. I excitedly called my friend Susanne Parris with the good news as she was assisting with You Have A Voice! I remember it all.

Decades later in 2014 after that first workshop in 1992 when I was a teenager listening to Kerrie, I recorded that same song, "God Bless the Child" and included it in the Recital program.

This video presentation I am including here was lovingly created to bring some context to the musical journey across my Masters Degree. It was shown prior to the live final recital at the Sydney Conservatorium. It includes some precious rare footage of Kerrie Biddell the topic of the research, who is dearly missed.

Thesis title: "Communicating artistry through gesture by legendary Australian jazz singer Kerrie Biddell."

It also includes special footage with Jim Kelly, Greg Lyon, and Sam McNally - all legendary figures in the Australian music scene plus some clips of music videos created over the duration of the degree.

If any of this Australian jazz history interests you, have a little look and see why we all loved her so much. She was completely HILARIOUS too.

Thank you wonderful Kerrie for the opportunity to study you, and to study with you x

* All footage used with permission.

If you are interested in a free copy (usually $80) of the You Have a Voice DVD including Kerrie's teaching from the 2009 workshop please contact me as I would love to give a copy to anyone interested in this wonderful teacher x

I’d also like to let you know that there is ONE room left for our amazing YOU HAVE A VOICE SUMMIT - January 27-31 in Port Douglas. If you are ready to make 2019 your best ever, sincerely, then this is absolutely for you! Investing in YOU is your best investment. Contact me right now for more info.

Kind regards,

Simone Waddell