Master of Music (Performance) graduate Joanna Swadling finished her studies mid-2021 and shortly commenced work at the College as Team Assistant to the executive team. She is a passionate soprano and when she isn’t working at Excelsia, she is busy singing at church, songwriting or taking singing lessons.
Joanna has a deep love of storytelling and emotional communion through music. ‘One of my main passions is using music to connect with people and share a joyful experience with them.
‘One of the things I loved about my time studying at Excelsia is that it took me out of my comfort zone in many ways and enabled me to do things I had doubted I would be able to do in the past. I took a composition unit as an elective, which helped me to believe I could actually write my own music. This was something I had wanted to do in the past, but I never knew how to stick with a song and actually finish it, let alone have the confidence to show it to others! The composition unit forced me to see the songs I wrote to the finish line and actually perform them in front of people, and it gave me really helpful tools for the process.
I think I was also stretched in terms of trying out a variety of vocal styles with my teacher Julia Michaels, including contemporary vocal styles such as musical theatre and belting, while also finding a way to mix this with my classical technique and find my own unique voice. I also learned practical tools for putting together recitals. I think it helped me to learn to take myself a bit less seriously and just enjoy making music and being creative, while at the same time helping me to feel more comfortable in myself as musician and a performer!’
During her time at Excelsia, Joanna had the opportunity to undertake an ethnographic case study of musical interactions in aged care. This emerged from her experiences singing and putting on concerts in aged care facilities and observing the way music provided opportunities for meaningful connections between the residents, herself, and others. Joanna was able to present her research, titled How the music treats us, as part of the 2021 Lumen Conferral which showcases Christian education research. ‘Being part of Excelsia has revealed to me a wider world of Christians who are using their craft and gifts to tangibly and practically live out their faith, which is a very exciting thing,’ she shares.
‘Growing, community, creative, Christ-centered and compassionate’ are the words that spring to mind when Joanna Swadling thinks about Excelsia College.
For Joanna, it has been lovely to continue her journey at Excelsia, now within a working capacity. ‘I have been surprised by the opportunities for creativity and innovation in the workplace, as well as the encouragement and nurturing of my own continued learning.’ One area includes her ongoing research into music in aged care, which she hopes to one day publish. ‘I’d love to continue exploring research in this area but also other areas of music. It’s still really a time of trying things out as a singer and working out what my focus might be,’ she explains.
A helpful piece of advice Joanna has learned while working here is to not be scared to ask for help or further clarification when you don’t understand a task! ‘It’s much better to ask up front than to wait and worry.’
‘God has reminded me and taught me that every single aspect of my life and work, from the small and simple to the involved and significant, is valuable and part of living a life in worship of Him!’
As for long-term goals, Joanna shares, ‘When I was a child, I was deadset on being an opera singer when I grew up! This is still something I love, but I’m a bit more flexible about what my music career may end up being. If I can record and perform my own music that’ll be amazing. I’d love to form a group or band to perform with. I am also passionate about ministry – music ministry but also other forms – so that’s something I’d been keen to explore down the track too.’
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