Celebrating 20 Years of AGC Brisbane

Celebrating 20 Years of AGC Brisbane
September 21, 2022 AGC

Celebrating 20 Years of AGC Brisbane

In 2002, 18 years after the Australian Girls Choir was established, ASPA directors were keen to grow and the sunshine state eagerly opened its doors to its first cohort of choristers.  20 years later, AGC Brisbane is thriving across three busy venues. Take a trip down memory lane with us as we reflect on 20 years of success and happy memories at AGC Brisbane.

Humble Beginnings

Unlike today’s flexible working arrangements, home offices were uncommon workplaces in 2002. In true AGC style of breaking tradition, Brisbane’s first AGC office was run from the spare bedroom of Kylie-Lee Archer’s Paddington residence, not far from Brisbane’s first rehearsal venue at Indooroopilly High School. No stranger to humble beginnings, Kylie was positive that Brisbane would soon develop as a popular AGC venue, having been the on-the-ground leader when Sydney opened its doors four years earlier. Kylie recalls,

“I never had any doubt that the AGC would fly in Brisbane. My confidence was partly based on our experience in Sydney where we had more than 200 girls enrolled before we even started classes but we’d also found some fabulous new Tutors who I just knew the girls were going to love.” – Kylie Lee-Archer

A year before the official opening of AGC Brisbane, ASPA’s current General Manager of Public Relations and Marketing, Jasmine Cruickshank, had circulated interest in Brisbane by facilitating a recruitment campaign auditioning girls in local schools.

In addition to this, a newspaper advertisement invited girls who loved to sing to audition for AGC’s first Queensland venue. As the AGC soon discovered, “Interest was very high so we pretty quickly opened in Mt Gravatt (now Holland Park) and Kedron (now Aspley).” – Kylie.

The journey from chorister to staff member

The ambition to open a venue in Brisbane was led by ASPA CEO, Nicole Muir and the dedicated team of staff who wanted to spread the AGC’s wings even further. Much of Brisbane’s success as an AGC city can be attributed to these passionate staff members, as well as Brisbane’s new recruits, many of whom started at AGC as choristers. Kylie’s nine-year chorister journey began in the choir’s early years in Melbourne in 1986. Soon after finishing, Kylie became a Venue Manager and Tutor in Melbourne, before moving to Sydney as the on-the-ground leader, and then to Brisbane as State Coordinator of Music and Administration. The pull of Melbourne was strong though, and Kylie eventually found her way back to ASPA’s Head Office where she works as the General Manager-Business Services at ASPA, and Program Director at Girls from Oz.

Similar to Kylie, current AGC Brisbane staff member Emily Parker (Venues and Events Lead) also grew up in the AGC before embarking on a career with the choir. Emily’s invitation to join AGC Brisbane came after an audition run by Kylie in 2002. Eight years later in a full circle moment, it was Kylie who again invited Emily to join AGC Brisbane, this time as a staff member. Over the course of her twelve year career at AGC Brisbane, Emily has forged her own path beginning as a Trainee Venue Manager, and now working as the Venue and Events Lead.

Eliza de Castro’s chorister to staff member journey also began in the first year of AGC Brisbane. Unlike Emily who started at age 12, Eliza was only five years old and in the most junior level. She doesn’t remember anyone else in her level who stayed with her until the end, making her possibly one of the first AGC Brisbane choristers to go through all levels, finishing as Choir Leader in 2013. Whilst Emily was a few years ahead of Eliza, they now enjoy working together in the State Office – Eliza is the current Music and Production Coordinator (QLD). Both Emily and Eliza work with many other like-minded ex-choristers, sharing the unique bonds of AGC friendship.

“I have the delight of working with Alumni in all of the work I do at ASPA… It’s intangible what connects us, but it connects us very deeply.” – Emily Parker

Also an important figure in Brisbane’s story is Emi Scott – AGC Brisbane’s first Choir Leader in 2003. Emi was tutored by none other than Kylie, who she knew from Melbourne where she began as a chorister in 1991. In 1996, Emi “moved to Brisbane… and waited for AGC to follow” – Emi. After four years of waiting, Emi was able to re-enrol at Concert Level – the highest level AGC Brisbane had at the time. She remembers 45 fellow choristers in her first year – many of whom finished with her the following year in Performing Choir where she had the inaugural role of Brisbane Choir Leader.

“I felt surprised and honoured to be selected for the Jean Oliver Memorial Scholarship for Choir Leader. It was a daunting role, especially at Music School and on tour when the other leaders had a lot more experience than me… It was a lot of fun to take warmups and mentor the younger students though.” – Emi Scott

Despite the immense responsibility of the new role, Emi was the perfect fit as Brisbane’s inaugural Choir Leader which can be seen as the first stepping stone of Emi’s 18 year career path with AGC. For those doing the maths, that’s 26 years of Emi’s life spent with the AGC! In 2007, Emi invited the AGC to sing at her wedding (Bel Canto), adding to the long string of memories Emi holds from her time as both a chorister and Tutor.

Connecting with the National Team

Connecting with the National Team was, and still is, hugely important for AGC Brisbane to thrive. Kylie recalls,

“I remember that in 2002 we had our national staff training weekend in Yea in Victoria and the new QLD staff came. It was wonderful to get to know them and for them to get to know the staff from other cities before they even started.” – Kylie

For major events like Annual Concert, Eliza loves to collaborate with Vicki, Jane, Laura and other members from the Music and Production Team to “execute their vision” – Eliza.

The evolution of technology has been great for strengthening the links between AGC Brisbane and the five other AGC cities. Emily admits that one of the benefits of COVID was becoming  more competent with using Zoom to connect with the national team of staff. As someone who recalls Performing Choir Music School as one of the few occasions she could see and converse with staff members face-to-face, Zoom has been the next best thing for Eliza in understanding the national picture.

Sunny Memories

Over the course of 20 years, AGC Brisbane has packed an incredibly long list of events, tours and special memories into its life. Whilst there are too many to list, some of Brisbane’s key milestones include performing at QPAC for the first time at the 2006 Annual Concert; joining Hugh Jackman on three tours (2009, 2015 and 2019); the Celtic Woman Tour; National and International Tours including the infamous G’day LA tours; singing at major sporting events including Rugby World Cup and the Ashes at the Gabba and Suncorp; television appearances including the Channel 10 Weather and the Today Show … the list goes on!

Our Brisbane choristers have also been lucky enough to meet with and perform to a host of celebrities and influential figures including (but not limited to) John Travolta; Bindi Irwin; Dame Quentin Bryce AC CVO; Jessica Mauboy; Paulini; Melinda Schneider; Dawn Fraser; Leisel Jones; the Bananas in Pyjamas; and of course, the aforementioned Hugh Jackman.

Emily looks back on these milestones as being pivotal for her own self development, as well as the development of AGC Brisbane – something she didn’t quite grasp at the time. On the performance opportunities she had at AGC, Emily shares

“I only realised when I left and the older I got how special this was.” – Emily Parker

Hopes and dreams for AGC Brisbane

What began as an idea on paper, and a dream for an AGC branch in the sunshine state has since evolved into three flourishing Brisbane venues. While many pages in Brisbane’s history book have already been filled with extraordinary memories, there is no doubt that there are still many remarkable chapters to come as Brisbane continues to write its unique story.

“What I want most for the girls in the AGC in Brisbane is that all of the opportunities that were afforded girls before the pandemic are made available again. Public engagements, touring – both nationally and internationally – special parts, concerts for families and friends. Most importantly I want all girls to have the chance to join the AGC if they wish to. To sing and dance together with like-minded peers, to make friends and enjoy themselves!” – Kylie