ARTIST FEATURE: Olivia Chamoun from ‘The Dream: Monash Sessions’

With the release of the album The Dream: Monash Sessions, featuring Dave Douglas and musicians from Monash University in Melbourne, Australia, we’re featuring artists the different artists who contributed to the record.

This time we’re putting the spotlight on Olivia Chamoun, who is a Melbourne based Jazz vocalist who recently graduate with a Bachelor of Music from the Sir Zelman Cowen School of Music. As the recipient of the 2018 ‘Monash Jazz Music Scholarship’, Olivia has since performed with local and international artists such as Ambrose Akinmusire, Tim Ries, Terri Lyne Carrington, and Linda May Han Oh, and in 2020, participated in a recording project with Kristin Berardi. She also has a deep passion for music education, particularly for students with additional needs.

What instrument do you play and can you describe the room you recorded in?

Voice. I recorded in my bedroom – a fairly large carpeted room with a few windows. As the room is upstairs, I had a nice view of my street from the windows while I completed the recordings.

What was the biggest challenge of remote recording and how did it differ from challenges to in person playing?

The biggest challenge was definitely the fact that it was an isolated experience (in a literal sense). Of course as improvising musicians, we find creative fulfillment playing in a room together. On top of this, I particularly like having a chordal player in the room with me, providing the harmonic context for the music, especially when improvising. It is something I’ve never had to think twice about prior to the pandemic! All of a sudden I found myself relying on midi sound files and ticking metronomes during the recording process. It was hard to get used to this. I’ve never really struggled to find emotional connection to the music I’m playing in a live ensemble setting, but this was much harder during remote recording. It is amazing that the final result is a cohesive musical product that does carry beauty and human emotion, in my opinion. Getting together over Zoom and hearing the progress of the music coming together certainly made the experience not so ‘isolating’.

How will the musical interactions you’ve had via remote stay in your practice when the lockdown is eased, if at all?

I became much closer friends with my piano during isolation. I’ve always practised voice whilst playing the piano, but didn’t care much for my own playing as my piano playing peers who I am so lucky to play music with, are much better than me! During isolation, accompanying myself became my only opportunity to experience ‘ensemble’ playing (playing with another instrument), and it was quite enjoyable. I’m certainly no professional but I will continue to try to develop this skill. During lockdown I also experienced the surprisingly vast possibilities of remote recording, and it is something I would consider doing again in the future, if needed.

Where do you see yourself and your music fitting into the community of musicians?

I have so many passions in terms of my own Performing and teaching. I enjoy songwriting- most of my own tunes are vocal pieces that tap into my own life experience and the experiences of people around me, with scope for improvisation within a small jazz ensemble setting (mainly quartet). I also love the Great American Songbook tradition, as well as vocalese, and enjoy tweaking my favourite jazz standards with arranging techniques that create room for exploring different sound textures within the ensemble, freedom in improvisation, and notated parts. I also have a passion for teaching singers to explore their own voice and improvisation from a young age. I teach students of all ages and abilities, and find this very rewarding. I see myself studying music therapy in the future, whilst continuing to write and perform in various venues around Melbourne (and hopefully beyond Melbourne), sharing the magic of music with audiences.

Where can people learn more about your work?

You can connect with me on Facebook and YouTube.

The Dream: Monash Sessions is available on Bandcamp here. Join us as a subscriber to stream and download this album, along with our entire catalogue and 30+ hours of exclusive content.