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Collaboration puts students on front foot to ‘break a leg’

Original cabaret developed by second-year University of Southern Queensland students on stage September 16-17

Jazz pianist Herbie Hancock once said, “Music is the tool to express life – and all that makes a difference.”

It’s a line that University of Southern Queensland students and lecturers alike have taken literally as part of a new cross-disciplinary, collaborative performance project.

‘Growing Up Gets Old’ is an original cabaret developed by second-year music students, supported by their peers studying creative writing, editing, and publishing.

The stage show takes a deep dive into the highs and lows of the journey from childhood to adolescence and adulthood, using a combination of both much-loved and little-known songs to offer a soundtrack to milestone moments.

School of Creative Arts Lecturer in Contemporary Music, Helen Russell, said the music students have been responsible for the planning of the show and the arrangement and preparation of the music, while UniSQ’s creative writing and editing students have mined their own tender years for insights to be used as part of the performance.

“This style of collaboration is an incredible chance for these students who ordinarily wouldn’t have the opportunity to work together, and most importantly, it provides them with an invaluable broader knowledge of the arts industry, not just their discipline,” Mrs Russell said.

“You can study music and have a career as a musician and never engage with film or writing, and vice versa, so offering this level of understanding of how each discipline can work together offers a brilliant insight to what’s possible once they graduate and start exploring next steps.”

Lecturer in Writing, Editing, and Publishing, Dr Kate Cantrell, said the experience had challenged her future writers and editors to rethink their audience.

“For the first time, our students are writing for the stage, not the page, so they’ve had to think carefully about how to write for a real-time audience as opposed to a more abstract and less immediate readership.

“Working remotely on a multi-authored project has also provided them with valuable insight into the way the arts industry is thwarting the pandemic, which is through remote collaboration, peer-to-peer exchange, and creative resilience. While our performers are based in Toowoomba, our writing, editing, and publishing students are based all around Australia,” Dr Cantrell said.

“The project has helped our students expand their networks, while wrestling with logistical, ethical, and aesthetic tensions they haven’t had to consider before. Naturally, this has forced them to be flexible and resilient, which will serve them well in their creative careers both now and in the post-Covid world.”

‘Growing Up Gets Old’ will be performed at the University of Southern Queensland Arts Theatre in Toowoomba at 7.30pm on Thursday 16 and Friday 17 September 2021.

woman singing into microphone
Music students Benjamin Terrell and Kassity Knox preparing for 'Growing Up Gets Old'.