Three-time Grammy-award-winning flautist Tim Munro (Bachelor of Music (Honours) ’99) is driven by a single goal: to draw audiences into an engrossing and whimsical musical world. The Chicago-based UQ alumnus spoke to Contact and shared a sneak peek into his melodic life.
You’re passionate about creating immersive and dynamic musical experiences. So what does music mean to you?
Years ago, when I first joined Facebook, my profile asked me to name my religion. I wrote ‘JS Bach’, and then I’m sure I laughed quietly and nerd-ily to myself. But that answer has felt more real every year. I believe in an ephemeral thing, for whose existence there is no objective evidence, a thing that has the power to move people to tears, a thing whose beauty is understood differently by people all across the globe.
How would you describe your music?
I seek anything that grabs ears and eyeballs, and doesn’t let go. Sometimes that thing is old old old music by dead European blokes. Sometimes that thing was written yesterday and has relevance to us now. But one thing I’ve never liked is the idea that there are some musical genres that are ‘better’ or ‘more worthy’. There are no guilty pleasures. All of my artistic pleasures add up to who I am as an artist, whether it is a terrifying horror film, or a stand-up set, or the work of an electronic musician.
"I seek anything that grabs ears and eyeballs, and doesn’t let go."
When you are performing a piece, what do you want to impart upon the listener?
It’s quite simple: I want to tell a story. But that’s quite complicated: there are often not words with which to tell this story, just notes. So I’m always looking to find the perfect venue, the perfect lighting set-up and the perfect physical presentation to tell that story. That might mean that the musicians physically surround the audience in a very dimly lit church. Or it might mean that the musicians are spread throughout a building, and the audience can take their own journey.
What has been the highlight of your career so far?
Oh gosh. That is such a hard one. I’ve been lucky to play in quite prominent music venues in several countries, but I have to say that my favorite performances are whenever my mum is in the audience. My mum is my number one fan, and no matter if I’m playing in Sydney, Miami or Liverpool, I do love the feeling of having the home-team advantage!
"It’s quite simple: I want to tell a story. But that’s quite complicated: there are often not words with which to tell this story, just notes."
How has the music landscape changed since you first started in the music profession?
In some ways it is unrecognisable. We’ve seen the explosion of streaming services, the continued descent of classical music from its ‘sacred cow’ status, the falling away of arts coverage, the drying up of paid freelance work across the globe. But in some ways it refuses to budge. Huge music organisations still hold sway, be they orchestras, opera companies or even universities. Young musicians still spend hours practising for few orchestral jobs. But the music world is artistically healthier in many wonderful ways. Women and people of colour are starting to have more of a voice in the classical music world, as composers, conductors and administrators. There is an explosion of young, energetic groups that bring zero snobbery and hugely open minds to the presentation of music.
What advice do you have for musicians who are starting out?
Be prepared to jump ship. The journey that you set out on at first might seem like a straight line, but it will have twists and turns aplenty. Those detours are where I have learned most about myself, where I’ve had to ask myself the difficult questions.
"There is an explosion of young, energetic groups that bring zero snobbery and hugely open minds to the presentation of music."
Who are your top five musical influences?
I’m not good at 'top fives'. But here are five people who are on my mind at the moment!
The violinist ‘PatKop’ has consummate technique, but she throws it to the wind in favour of blistering, wild interpretations.
The Philadelphia School District owns more than 1000 broken instruments, and David composed a musical work for 100 of these instruments.
This theatre organisation started a list of recommended un- and under-produced plays by female and trans authors of colour.
The African-American composer, pianist and singer died in 1990, but Eastman’s raw, mesmerising music is screaming back into the public eye.
Julie is the artistic director of the Chicago-based Filament Theatre. She believes the best audiences are young audiences. Now when I make work for grown-ups, I do my best to create work for the child within. Oh, and Julie happens to be my wife.
Want to hear more from Tim? Watch the video below to hear Tim's advice for aspiring musicians.