Keyna Wilkins

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Keyna Wilkins is a pioneering Australian/British composer-musician.  Described as a "powerhouse" by Jazz Journal UK and "Arresting, genre-blurring..Disquieting music with massive breadth and high drama." by the Sydney Morning Herald, she was one of three finalists in the Australian nation-wide APRA/AMCOS Art Music Awards for Individual Excellence 2018. Her compositions are performed internationally and published by Wirripang.  An innovative solo artist and leader of cutting-edge chamber groups, her music is characterized by a fascination with astronomy, First Nations culture, jazz, and dance forms. Composition highlights include composing Celestial Emu didgeridu concerto in collaboration with leading indigenous didgeridoo soloist Gumaroy Newman for The Metropolitan Orchestra that was performed early 2020 in Seymour Centre. Sydney Arts Guide wrote "In Wilkins' and Newman's "Celestial Emu" didgeridu concerto, to hear the unmistakable reference to First Nations song so well pitted against The Metropolitan Orchestra’s Western Art Music instruments was a touching and admirable step forward. It received an extended and hearty standing ovation and will add tremendously to our orchestral music canon." 

Wilkins is an Associate Artist with the Australian Music Centre and has five tunes in the Australian Jazz Realbook. She also writes music for films and theatre including short film "Remote Access" which won Best Short Film at the Imagine This International Film Festival in New York 2019 and her composition New Galaxy has been recorded and broadcast by the ABC. Her compositions are performed around the world including USA (concert series at Universities of South Carolina, Vandebilt and Georgia and recitals at Cleveland Institute of Music and Taos Falls Arts Festival in New Mexico, Wesleyan University), Asia (Singapore Saxophone Symposium), Croatia (World Saxophone Congress, Zagreb), Ireland (Cork School of Music), Germany (Hildesheim Audimax Theatre), UK (Bristol Victoria Rooms, Bridgwater Arts Centre), as well as Australia (MONA, Sydney's City Recital Hall, Art Gallery of NSW, Royal Easter Show Main Arena, Melbourne's Preston Town Hall, Melbourne Conservatorium Melba Hall, Adelaide's University Henze Room and Beamont House, Brisbane Conservatorium). Her works have been commissioned and/or performed by artists and ensembles such as The Metropolitan Orchestra, Syzygy Ensemble, Elysian Fields, Preston Symphony Orchestra (Melbourne), Lilith Night (including ABC recordings) Sydney Conservatorium Spanish Encounters Piano Symposium, Marquez Laundry Theatre Company, Australasian Saxophone Quartet, Collide Trio (Melbourne), Ensemble Muse (Sydney), Sydney Conservatorium Sax Orchestra, Marquez Laundry Theatre Company, flamenco ensembles Pena Flamenca and Arrebato and soloists saxophonist Joseph Lallo (AUS), pianist Elodie Sablier (France), flutist Donna Maria Held Wilson (US), flutist Alison Mitchell (UK/AUS), Kosmas Lapatas (Greece), double bassist Elsen Price, violist Carl St Jacques, violist Ryan Greiser (US), Taos Pianos (US), flutist Jessica Scott, oboist Briana Leaman and trumpeter Will Gilbert.

She has presented at Australasian Piano Pedagogy Conference 2017 and 2019, Australian Flute Festival 2019 and MLC Australian Music Day on topics such as improvisation and composing techniques. The University of Valencia's Revista De Investigacion de Musical (Journal of Musicological Studies, Spain) published her article on the history of astronomy and music in the context of her compositions.

Originally classically trained in flute, piano and composition in UK, Germany and Australia and subsequently branching into jazz, flamenco and tango, Wilkins has also studied intuitive conceptual improvisation with Tibetan Buddhist musician Tenzin Cheogyal. Stylistically broad, inspired by Debussy and Miles Davis in equal measure, her music embarks on a journey of impressionistic dream-like sequences alongside landscape depictions, existential spiritual quests, and whimsical gestures alongside driving rhythms. She performs her own solo compositions and improvisations with projections and loop pedal at venues all over Australia including Pheonix Central Park and Museum of Old and New Art (MONA, Tas).  In 2019 she founded the indigenous-jazz fusion duo Yulugi in collaboration with leading First Nations didgeridu player Gumaroy Newman and received rave reviews. Yulugi means to play, dance or have fun in Gamilaroi, the Northern NSW First Nations language.  Performance highlights include Woodford Folk Festival 2019-2020 and opening the Australian Flute Festival 2019. In 2016 She founded the breakout space music sensation Ephemera Ensemble, which has been described by Jazz and Beyond as “Full of sonic textures and infinite possibility” and The Music Trust as "a sustained exploration of a certain sonic luminescence". Ephemera was featured at the Sydney International Women's Jazz Festival 2017 and at Extended Play Festival of New Music at City Recital Hall 2018 and future bookings include Melbourne Recital Centre and MONA. 

Having completed her Master of Music Composition at Sydney Conservatorium in 2016 under the supervision of Professor Anne Boyd and Doctor Rosalind Page, she also studied composition with Sadie Harrison (Bath Spa University, UK), Jessica Wells and Martin Wesley-Smith (Sydney Conservatorium), classical piano with Jeanell Carrigan and Julie Adam, jazz piano with Oliver Gross (Hildesheim University, Germany) and flute performance with Nicholas Vallis-Davis, Laura Chislett and Alison Mitchell including completing her MA Flute Performance at Bristol University (UK) in 2008 and BA Mus in 2003. Since then she has freelanced in a wide range of ensembles in many genres such as jazz and experimental live theatre.

Photograph by Phyllis Photography

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