Jodie Blackshaw was born and raised in the Riverina with the majority of her years spent in and around Griffith, New South Wales. It was a beautiful place to grow and change, affording her a great deal of freedom and exploration. Music was not prominent, however, she had very supportive parents and there was a town youth band that provided the opportunity to learn the clarinet. This lead to other opportunities such as music camps and the chance to play in regional school ensembles.
After completing her Bachelor of Music in Composition with Larry Sitsky at the Australian National University, Jodie ventured back into the country to provide music opportunities for young students in remote communities. It was nine years later that she completed a post-graduate teaching qualification and commenced classroom music teaching, alongside wind band instruction. In those nine years, she taught clarinet, saxophone, and keyboard to a wide range of students from varying backgrounds. She also directed a variety of music ensembles and composed ‘custom-made’ music due to the diversification in instrumentation and ability.
It was this experience that shaped Jodie’s student-first approach and allowed her to experiment with alternate orchestration techniques. When she studied Education through New England University, she was tremendously inspired by Howard Gardner’s Multiple Intelligence Theory and the Orff-Schulwerk approach. Since then, she has further developed the compositional skills she acquired at the ‘coal-face’ and combined them with learned educational practice to create innovative works for symphonic wind bands at all levels.
It was during educational studies that the question was posed ‘As a teacher, what do you want to achieve?’ For some time, she did not know the answer, but after a while it became apparent. Upon reflection, she realised that she was sincerely concerned about her students, about their welfare, about their personal growth, and the pathways they chose. So she decided that as a teacher, her ultimate goal was to foster self-esteem and love of self through music.
Now that she is a full-time composer, Jodie achieves this in her music by offering students the opportunity to make decisions and be creative with the material. This experience enables the players to take ownership of the piece they are learning to play. This simple idea is incredibly under-utilised in educational wind band literature yet it offers students and the Conductor an opportunity to grow and change in ways they had perhaps not thought possible, at any stage of learning.