Interview of Issy by Amanda Attanayake
Hi Issy! How are you?
Hi Mandy! I’m very well thank you! How are you?
Great thank you! What are you up to this year?
This year I am studying contemporary singing at Monash University. When I’m not at uni I love to spend my time making music, dancing, and hanging out with my family and friends.
What are you listening to at the moment?
At the moment I’m trying to listen to as much varied music as possible, especially music and songs I haven’t heard previously- I’m trying to expand my musical knowledge! One of the university subjects I undertook this year focused on ethnomusicology, which was an awesome way to listen to and learn more about music from different cultures and countries without Western bias (well as little as possible whilst sitting in a lecture theatre in a Western university). We were also lucky enough to briefly look at music from Indigenous Australian cultures, which I would love to learn more about if appropriate and given the privilege- and on that note I also wish there was a greater platform in Australia for current Indigenous Australian music upon which to thrive and be celebrated. I’ve participated in a few different music ensembles at uni through which I’ve learnt some funky tunes such as ‘Brighter Day’ and ‘Hosanna’ (by Kirk Franklin), and ‘Chilli Con Carne’ (The Real Group), which always get me grooving.
As well as listening to music relatively unfamiliar to my ears, some of my fave artists who I always love listening to include Aretha Franklin, Amy Winehouse, Hiatus Kaiyote, Vulfpeck, Michael Jackson, Jacob Collier, Lisa Fischer, Earth Wind and Fire, and Prince, as well as many a musical theatre piece.
You’re a triple-threat: singer, dancer and actor. How have you seen the power of the arts help people?
Oh thank you, you are very kind! I have always thought that the arts possess a magical healing power. Art and life really do reflect and grow from one another and can’t be separated. Therefore I really believe art can explain a lot of things about our life as humans. In the context of healing, I believe the arts can help an individual come to terms with emotions, find closure, act as a catharsis, and can bring people together- whether they are like-minded or not. To quote the head of music at the Boston Conservatory, Karl Paulnack,; ‘[in the aftermath of 9/11] … At least in my neighbourhood, we didn’t shoot hoops or play Scrabble. We didn’t play cards to pass the time, we didn’t watch TV, we didn’t shop, we most certainly did not go to the mall. The first organised activity that I saw in New York, on the evening of September 11th was singing. People sang. People sang around fire houses, people sang “We Shall Overcome”. Lots of people sang America the Beautiful. The first organised public event that I remember was the Brahms Requiem, later that week, at the Lincoln Center, with the New York Philharmonic’. Paulnack later refers to music as a ‘basic need of human survival’ and I believe the same can be said of all art forms. Whether it be dance, visual art, or another form, art can provide clarity, explanation, beauty, solace, community, and therapy in our lives. Interacting with art can make us feel a part of a bigger community. Where there’s community, there is love, and acceptance, and support, which can help people find solace and support, especially when going through tough times. I suppose that’s also why most religions include some aspect of music in their worship. I truly believe art is all around us and can help us immeasurably.
And what do the performing arts/music/performance mean to you?
I can’t really imagine my life without the performing arts, so I think it’s safe to say that the performing arts are my lifeblood. To me, music means communication, emotional expression, and catharsis.
Performance is about communicating, whether it be letting out and sharing your emotions, or empathising with the listener/viewer. I also think performance is about the performer and audience having mutual respect for one another. In Western performance at least, it can be easy to get caught up in an egotistical mindset, and to approach it from a validatory perspective. Of course, performing can be incredibly exposing, and people like to feel validated. However, I think one of the most beautiful types of performing is when there’s a balance; to look after yourself as a performer but to also be able to perform, purely to give the audience something, to allow them to feel something, to forget about their woes for a little while. I feel that’s one of the most beautiful types of performing.
What advice would you have for those heading into Year 12?
For students heading into Year 12, I’d say enjoy it while you can. Year 12 is a year full of ‘lasts’. It may be the last time you participate in your school athletics carnival, or it may be the last time you are with all of your friends together in the same place. Although I can’t speak for everyone, I think it’s the little things that you miss after Year 12. As for study and exams, I know it’s incredibly hard not to feel you are determined by your ATAR, because there is so much hype around the single number you get. There seems to be a cultural weight on ATARs, implying that they are something more than just a number to aid in the university student selection process. It’s a cultural thing and it kind of sucks. I don’t want to undermine the incredibly hard work many students put in; if you succeed exceptionally, that’s wonderful. If you don’t get the ATAR you were hoping for, that’s wonderful too. No matter what, you are a person with interests, passions, hobbies, beautiful qualities, and intelligence, all of which have nothing to do with an ATAR. If there’s a certain course you want to do, there is always a way to get to it, even if it’s a slightly longer route. Sometimes that’s the route you’ll be so thankful you took! You never know where things will lead you. And if you don’t know what you want to do, that is more than okay! It may appear that everyone else already knows what they want but many people change their minds and courses and careers, and there is nothing wrong with that! And if you don’t want to go to university that is completely okay as well! In Year 12, my advice is, to work hard, but not too hard. Let yourself breathe, exercise, sleep, try to eat well, look after yourself, and don’t beat yourself up over marks. There is great satisfaction in working hard, but only when it doesn’t cost your wellbeing.
What do you love about being a girl?
I love the sisterly love girls can give. I know that boys can be equally supportive and uplifting of one another, but I feel there is nothing quite like a sisterhood of good gal pals who support and love you, and are there for you in the best and worst of times. I think it is invaluable, the amount of love and joy and good group of friends can provide you with. There is an amazingly strong feminine energy and power that comes with being a woman, that is such an essential part of making the world go around, and as a female I love being connected to that energy. Girls truly are a force to be reckoned with. I also think there is nothing like the power and strength of mothers and all that they endure. I believe all women have that unparalleled strength and courage within them and I love that about being a girl.
What is difficult about it?
I do find that being a girl can definitely set you up on the back foot sometimes. Actually it’s not the act of being a girl, it’s being in a patriarchal society. But I like to try and see that as an opportunity to show people what I’m made of and prove wrong anyone who has doubts based on my gender. Recently at uni we had a discussion based around sexism in the music industry and how it’s really a pity that a lot of people don’t realise what incredible strengths a female can bring to their ensemble or band for example. No matter what industry you’re in, there is bound to be sexism, but in the long run I suppose you just have to trust that there’s only so much you can do, and in the end it’s up to the (sexist) individual to realise what an amazing power a woman is. Having said that I think it’s important that everyone realises their role in the strive for gender equality, knowing that everyone plays a part, and that it’s something that can only be achieved if each individual does their bit.
If you could change one thing in the world, what would it be?
As with most individuals, there are many things I wish I could change, however one of the most pressing issues for me is lack of respect. I believe once we, as a collective, can share and circulate respect amongst ourselves, and the greater population, then it will in turn aid respect for other things, such as our planet. I think if people could see each other as individuals rather than having negative assumptions based on a community or group the other person may belong to, then a lot of issues would be solved. Of course, some assumptions are justified: if a group is based solely on values of white supremacy for example, then it’s safe to say members of that group are white supremacists and racist. But apart from negative assumptions that are rightly assumed, I think if we could minimise the amount of negative judgement and maximise respect for one another, the world would be a much more peaceful place. Our diversity is what makes the world beautiful, but having said that, we are much of a muchness; we are in reality very similar to one another. I think it’s safe to say that at the end of the day everyone wants to be loved and feel accepted, and I think mutual respect is a wonderful place to start.
Who is your heroine?
My list of heroines is endless, from my friends, to all the women who have done good things in the world, including the quiet achievers who I may never hear of. I honestly believe everyone, at least initially, has something to offer the world and to inspire others with. However, my all-time heroine is, and always will be, my mama. She genuinely inspires me, everyday, to be a better person. Her patience with and understanding of others is phenomenal and her lack of judgement never ceases to amaze me. She is my complete safe space and is one of the strongest people on the planet. After all that life has thrown at her she still has so much love to give and trust in others. I can only hope to be as phenomenal, generous, giving, courageous, kind, and beautiful as she is and feel so lucky to call her my mum. I realise I am lucky to have a mother who is supportive of me and understand that not everyone can have great relationships with their mothers for different reasons, but I think we are lucky to have lots of amazing strong women in this world to look up to.