Meet the Music

Photo by: ACOM

MEET THE MUSIC: CHARLOTTE KOWALD

Adelaide City of Music exists because of the hard work and commitment and enthusiasm of its musicians, music organisations, and institutions. Drawing on strong music foundations, Adelaide is home to world leading artists and expertise. ACOM is committed to celebrating these outstanding individuals and the joy they gift our city across the UNESCO Creative Cities Network.

ACOM welcomes you to come Meet the Music and help us celebrate the people who make up our fantastic City of Music.

In anticipation of UNESCO’s International Jazz Day Adelaide City of Music General Manager, Joe Hay got to sit down and to delve deeper into the heart of Adelaide’s jazz scene and the key personalities shaping its landscape.

An accomplished jazz musician, singing instructor, and co-founder of Women in Jazz Adelaide, Charlotte generously shared her insights and shed light on her motivations for establishing this transformative initiative in 2021, her rich musical background, and the current state of jazz in Adelaide.

As a student at the Elder Conservatory, Charlotte, alongside her classmate Ruby Mensforth, initiated discussions about the challenges faced by women and gender-diverse individuals in the world of jazz. In a music genre historically dominated by men, Charlotte and Ruby recognised the need to create a welcoming and supportive space where everyone could thrive.

Describing Women in Jazz Adelaide as a catalyst for female jazz musicians to participate in events like the Adelaide Festival Centre’s International Jazz Day concert and other community-supported projects, Charlotte’s vision has yielded great results. Importantly, it led to the formation of ‘The New Standard,’ an all-female 9-piece big band that graced this year’s inaugural Adelaide Jazz Festival. This ensemble pays tribute to the renowned US drummer Terri Lyne Carrington’s New Standards project, showcasing the group’s extraordinary talent.

Charlotte portrayed the Adelaide jazz scene as a close-knit, exclusive community, home to many exceptional musicians who have tirelessly pushed to earn jazz the recognition it deserves. Venues such as Mother Vine, Arthur, Wheatsheaf Hotel, and The Jade have played pivotal roles in supporting this musical genre. Nevertheless, there is a pressing need to attract new audiences to sustain the vibrancy of the jazz scene. Charlotte emphasised the importance of supporting educational initiatives for audiences, ensuring jazz remains an accessible and thriving art form.

Charlotte’s exposure to jazz, as well as music in general, was heavily influenced by her parents, who frequently attended jazz events like the Barossa Jazz Festival. Furthermore, her great-grandfather’s legacy as a jazz drummer instilled a deep connection to jazz in her life. Despite limited options to explore jazz music during her primary and high school years, Charlotte’s passion for music persevered. She initially delved into classical piano and eventually found her voice in jazz, opting to pursue jazz voice after a year of university, abandoning a potential career in musical theatre. The transition brought her face-to-face with the intricate world of jazz, including the challenging art of improvisation.

Charlotte expressed her enthusiasm for jazz’s diversity and evolution, highlighting its roots in political expression— an important facet that Charlotte feels shouldn’t be overlooked and that warrants exploration and acknowledgment.

She also commended the inaugural Adelaide Jazz Festival, which showcased a diverse and musically eclectic lineup and the Adelaide Festival Centre’s commitment to hosting events for UNESCO’s International Jazz Day. Notably, The New Standard,  was a crowd favourite.

While many musicians understandably seek opportunities beyond Adelaide, either interstate or overseas, in pursuit of larger scenes and greater exposure, this exodus can have repercussions on the local jazz scene. Cities like London and iconic destinations like New York have become alluring hubs for further study and thriving jazz communities. Charlotte underscored the significance of networking with musicians who have explored these international avenues. In her view, the music industry thrives on connections, particularly in the realms of activism and education.

Adelaide holds a special place in Charlotte’s heart, and her deep appreciation for her home is unmistakable. She is committed to continuing her efforts to grow a diverse and accessible jazz scene in Adelaide, with a particular focus on nurturing emerging young talents and empowering women and gender-diverse individuals in the genre. In doing so, she hopes to further enrich the vibrant musical landscape of this city, fostering international collaborations and expanding horizons for jazz enthusiasts worldwide.

Adelaide City of Music wholeheartedly celebrates individuals like Charlotte, who champion our musical community, forge pathways, and who inspire a future enriched with varied and inclusive musical experiences.

Through extensive engagement UNESCO Adelaide City of Music works to identify and support the aspirations of South Australian artists, music organisations and institutions and to promote our music culture across the UNESCO Creative City Network and beyond. Although not a funding body, the UNESCO Creative Cities Network provides unique pathways for those looking to build networks and explore international opportunities.  For more information or to share insight, please follow us on social media or attend one of our regular events.

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