Where Are They Now? Meet Alumni, Costa Constantinou

costa and his wife performing in brisbane, 2024

The Jazz Music Institute was founded in 1996 and has been a higher education tertiary institution since 2009.

In the following blog series of ‘Where Are They Now?’, we talk to some of our alumni who we haven’t heard from in quite some time! We find out where life has taken them since graduation, and how studying at JMI benefited them throughout their career and life.

For this particular blog, we were lucky to chat with JMI alumni Costa Constantinou who completed JMI’s Bachelor program in 2014! Read on for the full interview.

Tell us a bit about yourself. What do you play?

I did my Bachelor of Music at JMI, majoring in upright bass. My bass teachers were Helen Russell and Brendan Clarke. I currently play electric bass and guitar, performing mostly with my wife who’s a singer. I am also doing a Masters degree by research via USC.

How would you describe your musical career path, from the very beginning to where you are at now?

My path towards a career in music took the ‘scenic route’ so to speak. My family played Greek music together in Sydney 6 nights a week until I was 6 years old (1990). After my father passed, we moved to Brisbane and I lost touch with music until I was in high school. I started playing guitar when I was 14, but I mostly learned by ear, despite having excellent educators trying to teach me. After I graduated high school, I did a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Visual Arts at QUT (hence the detour). I worked in the arts for a few years after graduating but had found a deep yearning to play music on stage. I think the formative experience of being a child and watching my family play dance music together made a lasting impression on me.

When I was studying visual arts, I was also friends with some students of Jazzworx! (JMI’s former name) who greatly inspired me and spoke highly of the practical nature of the school. A few years later, at 25 years old, I was finally ready to apply myself, learn music theory and develop technical facility at a professional level. I enrolled into the Bachelor of Music in 2011.

2011 busking

Before: Costa busking in 2011

My connection to music has always been groove based – music that makes people dance. I also wanted to make a living from music – so I naturally gravitated towards playing in cover bands. I started my career saying “yes” to every opportunity to perform, at one stage in many original and covers bands. As my career progressed, cover bands became my sole musical activity.

What have you been doing since graduating from JMI?

For many years I was playing with an original band, touring around the east coast of Australia playing festivals and venues, whilst also playing with corporate / wedding agencies. In 2019, I was flown to South East Asia three times to perform. Since 2020, my wife and I have mainly been working on our own project. We’ve held a residency at The Brooklyn Standard since 2018 (voted best live music venue several times).

What has been one of your biggest musical highlights in your career thus far?

My personal favourite was the Woodford Folk Festival 2019/20. My original band was booked to play 6 of the 7 nights, and I was also in the Pineapple Lounge house band every night sharing the stage with players who’d inspired me greatly (2 of which are graduates of JMI). On New Year’s Eve the original band played the Parlour stage to a few thousand people… it would be the last “big gig” for a few years. It was while at the Woodford Folk Festival in 2009 that I decided to leave the visual arts sector and get into music. It was a really satisfying full circle to be performing at that same festival, exactly 10 years after I set my intention.


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A post shared by Fat Picnic (@fatpicnic)

Oh also, Tones and I supported my band on a gig in Rye, Victoria. Afterwards she asked if she could take a photo with us. A month or so after that, both our bands had a song playing on Triple J Unearthed… her one was “Dance Monkey”…

What are your future goals in music?

On a personal technical level, I would love to be able to play (and intend to study) drums and singing in addition to playing bass and guitar.

I love travelling. I want to be able to take music and create working holidays around the world. I still have so many things I want to do in addition to performing popular music.

How has studying at JMI helped you to get where you are and towards your future goals?

I’m deeply grateful for the experience because it accelerated my learning in a way that would have been impossible on my own. I was able to go from knowing very little about music to playing professionally in a very short space of time, thanks to the quality of teachers at the school, the encouragement and support of my peers and JMI’s very practical approach to music education via the jazz tradition. My ability to improvise, understand band dynamics and “hear the changes” went a long way towards getting work in cover bands.

While modern popular music has many philosophical differences to the jazz tradition, JMI gave me a musical education which I was able to functionally translate and make a career out of.

What advice would you have for someone thinking about studying music and especially jazz?

Remember everyone is on their own path. There will be those ahead of you, and those behind (or overtaking) you. It’s not a competition, but a conversation, as music is fundamentally an expressive activity.

JMI is about building a skill base and your industry networks. Being immersed in jazz music with a small, intimate school will fast track your progression (if you put in the work).

I think JMI is a great school because of how focused it is. Playing traditional jazz requires extensive knowledge of music theory, technical facility on your instrument and sensitivity to your bandmates. Emphasis at JMI is about the music ‘feeling good’, rather than pushing sonic boundaries. I did ‘sound art performances’ during my conceptual art degree at QUT, and while it opened my mind, it gave me no practical application in the “real world”. Making music “feel good” however will likely be the majority of your future performance goals.

From a professional standpoint, a career in music is not for the faint of heart. If you need job security and are risk adverse, it might not be for you. Be tenacious, take the time seriously to build your skills, and grow comfortable with uncertainty.

Any advice for current students as they complete their Bachelor?

If I could talk to my old self I would say to perform musically within your technical limitations.

There was a pressure I felt (likely from my own insecurity) to play “really fast and complicated”. But “really fast and complicated” is subjective – if it feels fast and complicated to you, then it’s probably not sounding that great yet. Keep that for the practice room. If you keep practicing, the passages you play that don’t feel fast, will eventually sound fast to your audience.

Any music links we can listen to of yours?

The covers band I play in with my wife is called Imessa.

The original band I used to play in is called Fat Picnic.


costa constantinou performing in 2024

Now: Costa performing with his wife in 2024

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