How long have you been at USQ
I started with USQ as a casual in 2009 and then full-time in August 2011, so I feel like I’m a newbie. My first employment was in a law firm in Brisbane for over seven years but I decided to study the Bachelor of Music degree in the Conservatorium and I loved it. This position at USQ is my first foray into academic life. You can look me up on my website melissaforbes.com
for more info on my performing career.
Why did you choose your current career path?
I really just fell into this path (academia) when I moved to Toowoomba for family reasons.
What do you like most about your role?
What I like the most is the fact that I can still work on my own creative projects and model that type of behaviour for my students - to me that is an ideal blend. It is a job that you can still validly incorporate those types of projects into what you do. In the end those types of creative projects are of value to me, my students and the university. I recently put on a concert ‘The Duelling Divas', and I think it is good for the students to see that I am a doer, not just a talker.
Of your contributions or achievements at USQ what are you most proud of?
This year we are using money from an LTPF (Learning and Teaching Performance Funds) grant to refashion our practical courses in music. We are trialling it this year, where we teach all first year students as a group. We break them up into small ensembles and allocate various songs and activities so that they learn all the skills of a functional musician. We are also using ePortfolio to support that learning – that is a big change for us. That is our major project for this semester. Previously the school has operated on the Conservatory model, more of a one-on-one model. Anyway, the first year students are loving the new practice courses and so are the staff. The vibe in the music discipline is really great at the moment.
What are you currently working on?
We are trying to get the students out in the community and getting them involved in community events. They performed at the Toowoomba Eisteddfod, and we are trying to get as many opportunities for them to give performances at different events, such as graduations, in an effort for them to have real world experiences. The other major thing we have organised is the ‘To glee or not to glee’, a musical competition held in October. Local schools and community groups are involved and put on 5 minute performance. It is another way of trying to re-engage with the local community and reignite interest in what we do. We have around ten groups that will be performing this year and it will be on-campus, instead of Queens Park, so that we can hopefully engage the university community as well.
What excites you about teaching and learning?
I like the fact that you can be creative within learning and teaching, particularly with blended learning environments. It is another outlet for creativity as you can find innovative solutions to problems. In Semester 3 I rewrote our popular song writing course that had previously been written in Microsoft Word. I researched some different options and decided to use Adobe Presenter as a platform. I recorded myself talking, some singing and playing examples, and some videos – it is so much richer in content and (I think) more interestingto the students.
How do you motivate your students?
To motivate my students, I try to model the behaviour I expect of them. There are a whole range of basic skills that they need other than musical skills. These include time management, being punctual, being organised, being professional and presenting yourself well. As musicians they need to be able to do all those things – so the best way for them to learn is to have the people around them that model that behaviour, so I suppose I motivate indirectly that way. I came from a professional background (law) and use that experience every day.
What is your favourite place in the world and why?
Favourite place is wherever my daughter is – she is five at the moment.
What is the best piece of advice you have received?
Life isn’t fair – no one can give you a guarantee that things will go well and in the music business it is particularly important to understand that. In any creative pursuit particularly, you are going to be criticised and you cannot expect decisions to be fair.
What is something about you that your colleagues may not know?
I am an avid Prince fan. I have been to all three of his concerts in Australia. From a musician’s point of view Prince is an unbelievable musician – he can play something like 26 different instruments - he really is amazing.
Contact Melissa Forbes