Interview: 2011 Freedman Fellowship Finalist Ben Vanderwal

We asked the Freedman Fellowship finalists to help us out with a little Q&A and this is Ben Vanderwal’s contribution.

Ben Vanderwal (Drums, Perth/Melbourne) is one of the most in-demand jazz drummers in Australia. He has participated in several US tours and has also performed with John Scofield, Charlie Haden, Chris Potter and Sam Yahel. He has toured internationally with the Jamie Oehlers Quartet and nationally with Rumberos and The Hands.


What are they key features of the proposal you’ve submitted to the Freedman?

James Muller, Alex Boneham and I have been playing as a trio for the last year or so and every time we get together we have a really great time musically, and the audiences seem to like it. The performances are very energetic and have a raw edge and we’ve wanted to capture that in a live recording for a while.

The Freedman Fellowship would allow us to record a series of concerts we have booked in Sydney, Melbourne and Perth in July/August this year and release a live album of the best selections. With the show piece of a live record we’d like to organize some more touring, particularly internationally.

How did this project come about?

Well I’ve been a long admirer of James’ music and we’d spoken about doing some playing for a while. I’d seen Alex Boneham perform a handful of times and had a hunch that we would have a lot of fun playing together so James booked some shows in Sydney and Melbourne, I flew over and it’s a been a unit ever since.

This is a band, despite the fact that we live on the opposite sides of the country. We swap music or scores over the internet and get together before a series of shows to nut out the repertoire. We have an easy rapport so a lot of the music seems to come together on the bandstand.

What is the place of the Freedman Fellowship in the jazz award and performance landscape in Australia?

For starters it’s an amazing opportunity to co-headline a concert of jazz music at the iconic Opera House. I think it’s a nice idea sharing the bill with your peers too

The funding itself gives a musician a chance to realize their artistic vision on a scale that would usually be unattainable or to take steps to bolster their profile or career on a grand scale.

You can see this band play at the Opera house on the 8th of July or if you are in Melbourne at the Uptown Cafe on the 23rd of July and Bennetts Lane on the 24th of July.


Part of Ben’s proposal includes a new web presence.

Meanwhile, here he is on MySpace >>>>

And you can find James Muller on the web here at >>>>

Since 2001, the Freedman Music Fellowships have offered a unique opportunity for some of Australia’s most talented classical and jazz musicians. The prize for each Freedman Fellowship is $15,000 cash. The award includes consultations to assist with non-musical aspects of career-building, as well as active support from Music Council personnel during the Fellowship period. Fellows are asked to submit a proposal for a project and the finalists also pe rform at a concert, after which the fellowship is announced.

In 2011 finalists performed on Friday 8 July at the Studio at the Sydney Opera House. The finalists were Tom O’Halloran (piano/composer, Perth), Ben Vanderwal (drums, Perth/Melbourne), Evan Mannell (drums, Sydney), Matt Keegan (saxophone/composer/director, Sydney).