Meet our new Course Coordinator, Charlotte Mclean

charlotte mclean
Congratulations to Charlotte Mclean who has been appointed our new Course Coordinator in 2024!
We had a quick chat with Charlotte to discuss her love for jazz, her approach to teaching and what she is most excited about in undertaking this new role.

Tell us a bit about yourself and how you’ve been involved with JMI?

I’ve always loved singing, but JMI really was the catalyst to my love of singing Jazz when I studied here (quite a few) years ago. Previously I had been involved in singing other contemporary styles like Pop and RnB but when I visited JMI I fell in love with the idea of improvisation. I did my Bachelor of Music performance here, then went on to do my Masters in Vocal Pedagogy as I’ve always wanted to teach. After studying, I worked for several years teaching voice at several high schools and eventually some tertiary work. I then launched the Jazz vocal night class at JMI and took on some private students here and then eventually I was lucky enough to start teaching the bachelor students here as well. Over the years I’ve been recording albums and gigging but my goal was always to be in tertiary education, so I’m extremely lucky that I can now work academically with students, overseeing curriculum while also getting to lecture/teach and then make music in my spare time.  

Listen to Charlotte’s ‘Live at The Jazz Club’ album on Bandcamp

What is it about jazz that you love the most? 

I love that it is so expressive and a very individual thing. All of my favourite Jazz musicians sound like no one else and I love the authenticity. Improvisation is not only fun but it is such an incredible form of creativity because it involves that element of expression while also being an intellectual challenge and at the same it’s a way to connect with other people both on the stage and in the audience.

I also love that you can do the same song over and over again but it will never once be the same.  

charlotte mclean

Why do you think it’s important in this day and age to learn and study jazz? 

There are many reasons but the most profound for me is the process a musician needs to go through to improve and grow. It can be tough practicing something every day for years, so there is a kind of grit and determination you need to develop to keep going, which means you need a certain level of personal insight and to work through any psychological barriers. This is profound because it changes every aspect of your life.

Jazz has taught me that hard work, purpose and connection to people are what matters and that other superficial things aren’t important at all.

With the absolute explosion of things like social media, it is easy to lose sight of what matters, so I feel this music and these people keep me grounded. Plus if you study Jazz it gives you the skills needed to perform other genres of music, so that’s a bonus! 

What do you enjoy most about teaching? 

I enjoy helping different types of people with the process of learning and practice. It is less about the technical or musical concepts and more about looking at any learning barriers and going, ok, how do we get through these barriers and to the other side? I love that everyone is different and wants something different out of learning. It might be purpose, knowledge, fun, connection, or personal development for example and I get to figure out with them how to achieve these goals. Also, I get to sing with people or talk about my favourite topics all day so that doesn’t hurt.  

Do you have any advice for someone thinking about studying music? 

It’s well worth it.

I couldn’t imagine my life without music, it adds so much purpose, creativity and fun and you get to work with like-minded people.

I would say the best advice I could give would be to listen to as many kinds of music as you can. Seek out new music. Ask people what they have been listening to and find what really resonates with you. The more listening you do the more fun you’ll have and the more you’ll learn.  

Do you have any music you’re looking to release at the moment? 

Yes! I am currently working on my next Bluegrass/Folk originals project. That’s the great thing about Jazz, it teaches you the skillsets needed to work in other contexts if you want to. Last year I released a Country single and a couple of albums including a Bluegrass inspired Folk(ish) album.

Listen to Charlotte’s album ‘I Know Why (and So Do You)’ on Bandcamp

It was so much fun I wrote a bunch more songs to do it again so am hoping to release that this year. These songs are more focused on lyrics and melody. The harmony and arrangements aren’t particularly complex as the aim was just trying to connect with people on universal experiences, but from a fresh perspective. The next project after that will be another Jazz album but a quartet or quintet this time with my favourite Jazz standards.  

What is a highlight moment from your career thus far? 

It would definitely be getting the course coordinator role at JMI. I have other performance and collaborative highlights but this was always something I was working towards and was a dream of mine to work in this capacity at a school like JMI. Other highlights would include getting to the QMA finals for my original music as part of the Jazz category, being nominated for a Freedman Fellowship award, and my Bluegrass project is always a lot of fun getting to collaborate with musicians like Jamie Clark in a totally different musical context. I also had a lot of fun presenting some of my research at the last ANATS conference in Adelaide. 

What jazz musicians or albums would you suggest someone to listen to? 

Good question! I’m a massive Art Pepper fan so anything he plays on. Sonny Stitt sits in with the Oscar Peterson Trio is a fantastic album and fun to listen to if you are starting out with Jazz. Australian musicians that I think have lots to offer to listeners are Rai Thistlethwayte, James Sherlock, Andrea Keller, Michelle Nicolle, Barney McAll… the list goes on. Vocalists I am influenced by are again, Michelle Nicolle, Veronica Swift, Anita O’Day, Lucy Yeghiazaryan (Blue Heaven is another great album) and Darmon Meader.  

What would be your dream musical collaboration? 

I think being Sting’s back-up singer would be a ridiculous amount of fun or working with Chris Thile, the lead singer of Punch Brothers. In terms of Jazz musicians, I would love to collaborate with Brad Mehldau (in my dreams). 

And finally, what are you most excited about in taking on the role of Course Coordinator at JMI? 

I’m excited that I get to spend every day at JMI working with people who love Jazz as much as I do! I can’t wait to work with students academically and to give them support with things like writing and time-management. Working with neuro-diverse students will also be rewarding for me as I get to think of creative ways to help people in individualised ways and set everyone up for the best possible outcome in their study.

Last but not least, I’m excited to work with these phenomenal lecturers/musicians to keep growing and continuously improving an already fantastic curriculum. 

charlotte mclean


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