13/08/2008 - 22:00

Culture corner: Julie Warn

13/08/2008 - 22:00


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Julie Warn Director of the Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts at Edith Cowan University (4.5 years)

Culture corner: Julie Warn
Julie Warn

Director of the Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts at Edith Cowan University (4.5 years)

WABN: Describe a day at work.

JW: "Stimulating, frenetic, inspirational, varied, productive, occasionally frustrating, potentially exhausting but always exhilarating and fulfilling. Two days are never the same. At WAAPA, we run courses for over 800 students in Aboriginal theatre, acting, arts management, broadcasting, costume, dance, lighting, music, music theatre, props and scenery, sound and stage management and present over 200 performances a year. It is a busy schedule."

WABN: What is the best piece of advice you can give someone to motivate a team?

JW: "Aim for a common goal, and aim high. I'm a great believer that, if what you are producing is the best it can possibly be, then everyone will take pride in doing their very best to ensure that the highest standards are maintained. And never give in to red tape - work through it or around it, but never let it drive you"

WABN: What has been the most challenging event in your career?

JW: "The building of Federation Concert Hall in Hobart. The Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra had been rehearsing and performing in an inadequate converted picture theatre for years. The orchestra needed new facilities and the concert-going public in Tasmania deserved a new venue with excellent acoustics to appreciate their wonderful orchestra. Everyone said it would never happen. Well, it did!

"It took persistence, persuasion and a lot of diplomatic positioning on all sides of politics and all tiers of government - local, state and federal - the ABC, private enterprise and influential individuals. Eventually everything fell into place, and with a relatively small amount of money and a lot of imagination a magnificent new concert hall was provided.

"I learned that if you have a good idea, a sound business proposition, a definite requirement and sufficient support, you can achieve the seemingly impossible. It takes time, effort and belief."

WABN: What is the main quality are you looking for in your team members?

JW: "Passion for the performing arts, pride in achieving the highest standards, patience in dealing with the inevitable problems that will be encountered, imagination in solving them, and good humour."

WABN: Can you name a highlight in your career?

JW: "Being named a Member of the Order of Australia and being awarded a Centenary Medal were both very special moments."

WABN: How do you deal with egos in your workplace?

JW: "Everyone has an ego - that's not necessarily a bad thing, especially in the performing arts. But you have to keep things in perspective, and as WAAPA is a proud part of Edith Cowan University, I find it useful on occasion to remind colleagues that our purpose is to do our very best for our students."

WABN: Is there an organisation/business model that you strive to achieve/reach?

JW: "I find Cirque du Soleil a very interesting model. From very humble beginnings, it is now a multi-million dollar company run on very sound business principles. It engages enormously talented artists from around the world, it allows sufficient time to develop new shows to the highest artistic and technical standards, and then tours internationally - self-sufficiently in their own touring 'tents'."

WABN: What frustrates you the most about your sector and what would you do to change it?

JW: "The sector can display great collegiality and there are many instances of this, however there is sometimes a tendency to think small and parochially and this can result in mediocrity. It is vitally important for people in the performing arts to read and research, to travel and attend a wide range of performances, use their imaginations while maintaining a degree of reality, make contacts and share knowledge."

WABN: What are the specific hurdles that you meet on a daily basis in your sector?

JW: "Building capital to ensure you can achieve your dreams is a constant battle. WAAPA provides fantastic training; it stages wonderful performances, it attracts terrific staff and students, but there is so much more we could do - and we plan to do it."

WABN: Who is someone that you dream to work with?

JW: "I would love to have worked with Sergei Diaghilev, the great Russian impresario. He was so influential in shaping the arts in the 20th century. He brought together extraordinarily gifted artists - dancers, composers, designers - nurtured their talent and brought the most incredible works to the stage. His legacy shouldn't be underestimated."

WABN: Have you read a good book on management you can recommend?

JW: "I find biographies and autobiographies more illuminating than texts on management."

WABN: Who has influenced you personally?

JW: "My grandfather believed in me and thought learning ballet wasn't a silly idea. He paid for my lessons and used to walk into town with me to buy ballet shoes and ballet books for my birthday. That began my love of the arts."

WABN: Who has influenced you professionally?

JW: "My boss at Music Viva, Phillip Henry. He was a remarkable man with artistic vision, acute business skills, a wonderful sense of humour and great humanity."

WABN: What were you doing before your current position?

JW: "I was CEO of The Queensland Orchestra at an interesting period in its development. The Queensland Symphony and Queensland Philharmonic Orchestras had just been merged into a single entity and it was a fascinating time to be there to build a new artistic and corporate identity. Before that I was managing director of the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra.

"During that period, the TSO delivered a very busy and exciting touring program nationally and internationally and built its artistic reputation through an impressive range of recordings."

WABN: What is your education background?

JW: "I have a bachelor of arts and diploma of education from the University of Tasmania and I graduated from the production course at the National Institute of Dramatic Arts [NIDA]."


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