Coming back after years apart from music

Tuesday 12 July 2022

“It’s like falling off a bike and getting back on again”

Julie hadn’t played the guitar in over 30 years. Now, in her sixties, she’s recorded a song.

“I’m grateful that happened to me; there’s times when I would think ‘I’d like to pick up the guitar and play something.’”

Penning ‘Oh Koala’ in the space of a night for “SongBirds”, an album of original music written and recorded by members of the Ozanam Learning Centre community, Julie’s introduction to music came decades earlier.

“When I was at school my mum managed to scrape enough money together to do guitar lessons, I went to one of the local music outlets and learnt Spanish Flamenco,” Julie recalls.

Continuing to play throughout her teenage years and attaining a second grade certificate of performance through the Sydney Conservatorium of Music, the financial pressures of life post-school saw the guitar “slip through my fingers a bit”.

Living a well-travelled life throughout Australia after picking up the travel bug by working on prawn trawlers as an adult, a return to Sydney paved the way for Julie to pick up the guitar once more prior to the onset of COVID-19.

Coming to the Ozanam Learning Centre in 2019, after first interacting with the service while participating in a local theatre company, the opportunity to take brush up guitar lessons from the centre’s musical coordinator led her to the SongBirds song writing program.

With the program predominantly taking place online during lockdown, the weekly Zoom sessions helped give shape to Julie’s song “Oh Koala”, a commentary on the state of the environment in the guise of a children’s song.

“[SongBirds program coordinator] Murray said, ‘we need to do something about the koala’. It was on my mind - before I went to bed one night, I thought, ‘I’ll sit down and write a little poem about the koala’.

“As usual I have my radio on until I go to sleep and a song came on the radio, I thought, ‘aha, that’s it’.

“So, I was up until 5 o’clock colouring the song - that’s how it came along.”

Making the song a musical signature during her weekly on-air program broadcast on Radio Skid Row, Julie is active in the inner west at the community radio station, crafting garments sold locally and being a part of the Ozanam Learning Centre community.

“The staff are great. I’ve made a couple of friends from the women’s library there.

“It’s all very well done – everyone who goes there has a huge amount of respect.”

The St Vincent de Paul Society NSW, in partnership with the Community Restorative Centre, has released SongBirds, an album of original music written and recorded by members of the Ozanam Learning Centre community.

SongBirds is available to stream/purchase on bandcamp.