Interview: 2011 Freedman Fellowship Winner Matt Keegan

Pictured here playing at the finals concert on 8 July (picture by Glazebrook/Farmer)

Matt Keegan at the Freedman finals concert. Pic by Glazebrook / Farmer

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

Matt Keegan (Saxophone/composer/director, Sydney) plays saxophone in a number of Sydney bands and has also performed and toured with such artists as Guy Sebastian and Jackie Orszaczky. He has performed in festivals both nationally and internationally, most notably the Tokyo Jazz Festival, the Melbourne International Jazz Festival and Womadelaide. Matt currently performs regularly for the Musica Viva in Schools program with The World According to James.

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

My proposal is to initiate a creative development project between a select group of my musical peers from Australia and India. We will meet in New Dehli, India and undertake an intensive two week period of rehearsals and recording. The main purpose of my proposal is to develop a new ensemble that can be a focal point for long term collaborative composing and international performing opportunities.

At the heart of this project are the people I have chosen to involve. I believe the members of this cross cultural ensemble will relate well to each other as people and work very well together as artists. The Freedman Fellowship will facilitate an opportunity for us to assemble in one place for a significant length of time and also provide a professional document of our work.

How did this project come about?

On a trip to India in 2009 I spent 7 weeks playing and performing with a variety of musicians from various folk music traditions as well as the contemporary music scene. It was after several positive interactions with different artists that I began to feel that successful collaborative work could be a real possibility.

I returned to Australia totally inspired and two years later when I was given the opportunity to write my Freedman proposal the concept of an international collaborative partnership was the first thing that came to mind.

In my imagination I combined the musical personalities, voices and sounds of specific musicians I have had success playing with in the past and this naturally led to the make up of my proposed cross cultural ensemble. All I had to do was figure out a way to make it happen within budget!

Who’s playing with you at the Freedman concert?

Matt Keegan – Saxophones

Cameron Deyell – Guitars

Tim Keegan – Bass

David Goodman – Drums


Are they a band you’ve worked with before or specially put together for this project?

My proposal is all about creating new international musical partnerships, so in the spirit of new beginnings I have decided to use a fresh group at the concert rather than relying on my well established band, the Matt Keegan trio.

My group for the Freedman concert reflects my application with the inclusion of a key member of my proposed cross-cultural ensemble, the guitarist and composer Cameron Deyell. On the night Cameron and I will be joined by my brother Tim on the bass and my long term musical collaborator Dave Goodman on the drums to premiere a new suite of music I have composed specifically for this occasion.

I was wary of trying to artificially manufacture what may happen creatively in India by using Indian type instrumentation. The spirit of my proposed idea is a collaboration between specific artists rather than simply a combination of generic sounds and styles.

I have been greatly inspired by this opportunity and have relished the challenge of preparing for this performance.

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

Receiving a phone call and being asked, ‘How would you develop your career if you were given $15000?’ is a powerful catalyst for reflection and positive thought. Every year the Freedman Fellowship provides about 15 people the chance to imagine what might be. This in itself encourages positive intellectual stimulation and helps stretch the boundaries of artistic possibility in the Australian jazz community.


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).