On the Couch with Jessica Gethin

Disney-100-The-Concert-Jessica-Gethin-photo-by-Stef-KingWho is Jessica Gethin?
I’m an Australian conductor born and raised in Perth, WA. I live on the northern beaches in Perth, with my husband and two beautiful kids, 13 and 10 years old. I’ve been conducting professionally for over a decade, my work ranging from symphonic top ballet, film, opera and contemporary. I’m really fortunate that my guest conducting work involves a fair bit of travelling, and that I can juggle it with regular seasons with the WA Ballet and my role as Head of Orchestra Studies and Conducting at WA Academy of Performing Arts.

What would you do differently from what you do now? 
I’m not sure I would do anything different in terms of choices I have made, as they have all in one way or another led me to where I am today! Perhaps learning to trust my instinct and developing a stronger sense of self and my abilities and aptitude would have helped when I started this career… but then again those things are learned through experience; trying, falling, persisting, succeeding and everything in between!

Who inspires you and why? 
My Dad has always been a huge inspiration for me, he has had a professional career as a guitarist for about 60 years and is still actively performing today. Watching Dad over the years, I have learned what it means to be a musician with integrity, have a good work ethic, continually work on your musicianship and live with passion for what you do. We work together quite a bit, but I’m especially excited that he’ll be joining me on stage for the Sydney performances of Disney 100: The Concert with the Sydney Symphony at the Opera House this month!

What would you do to make a difference in the world?
I believe that music – and the arts in general – are such fundamental parts of humanity and it’s so important that as musicians we continue to create innovative, relevant experiences to elevate vibrancy in communities, foster connection, capture our stories and bring joy. Finding ways to develop this further is something I’m keen to continue building on in all my work. I’m also committed to seeing more gender equality and opportunity for women in the arts, especially within leadership roles in the industry. While it has improved, more diversity in this area will change the entire landscape of what we do and why.

Favourite holiday destination and why? 
I love spontaneous escapes with the family down south in WA; beautiful beaches, lush wineries and coastal hikes to recharge and refocus. I also love experiencing new cultures and food, so a lot of my conducting work in Asia has me inspired to revisit one time for a holiday, especially places like South Korea and Japan. Really anywhere with good food and a great running track and I’m pretty happy! I’m heading to Fiji for the first time in July, very much looking forward to the snorkelling and water-sports!

When friends come to town, what attraction would you take them to, and why?
I live across from the beach so a sunset swim is a must, a day walking around Fremantle or a weekend at Rottnest is always enjoyable. The WA Museum Boola Bardip is fantastic, always worth a visit, and I usually encourage a concert experience at the Perth Concert Hall or His Majesty’s Theatre too.

What are you currently reading? 
I’ve always been a reader and have a terrible habit of buying books whenever I’m waiting in airports, a sure way to weigh down my hand luggage! My most recent buy was The Noise of Time by Julian Barnes. However the reality is that this year I have the most massive pile of scores to learn, so I’m usually buried in those instead of a book.

What are you currently listening to? 
I’m guessing like a lot of artists, my playlists are generally filled with works that I’m currently preparing to perform, so this month that includes Dvorak, Strauss, Tchaikovsky, Gershwin, Delibes, Glazunov and … Disney! I grew up in a jazz household so that’s my usual go to when I want to ‘switch off’, as well as Australian artists; last night I had Joe Chindamo and Zoe Black’s Variation 13 playing – sublime!

Happiness is?
In recent years I’ve realised it’s not about a time or place or occasion, rather just being present for the moment and finding gratitude for the little things that reminds me how fortunate I am. Simply spending time with my family, a run on the beach or making music bring me many moments of happiness.

What does the future hold for you?
I have a pretty busy few months ahead, between February and May I’m conducting concerts in Perth, Tasmania, Melbourne, Singapore, Mandurah, Bunbury, Sydney and the Gold Coast, a season with the WA Ballet and also starting my role as Head of Orchestral Studies and Conducting at WAAPA. I really love the different processes, skills and challenges each of these ask, certainly keeps both my brain and my hands very busy!

Jessica can be seen conducting the orchestras for Disney 100: The Concert – which will be presented at the Sydney Opera House (23 – 25 February); HOTA Outdoor Stage, Gold Coast (31 March- 1 April); and Riverside Theatre (PCEC), Perth ( 21 – 22 April).

Image: Jessica Gethin – photo by Stef King