The ‘D’ word and the lives that ‘matter’.
Being drawn into the issue of diversity has always been an inciendury one for me. This is mainly because of my own story in relation to personal identity which means I don’t fit into any particular or assumed demographic, because my story is so unique. That in itself is something I don’t need to go into, but the issue as a whole and how it relates to me professionally is something I can’t ignore in the current climate.
So I wanted to just expand on that a little more before you read further about my project.
My first professional job was Assistant MD on Little Shop of Horrors for a rural regional theatre. There are 3 POC characters in the cast and without exception whenever we as a group walked around the community and even within the theatre, we’d hear ‘Oh! I thought there were only three of them!’. Nobody could contemplate the thought that anybody could be there in any other professional capacity. It was of course offensive, but mainly mind-boggling. And that was the first precedent set for me as a young artist.
Early in my career as a visiting artist and practitioner, I was frequently employed to faciliate enormous educational projects that took Opera into the most challenging and under-resourced boroughs in London. One residency run of a projects would engage 20,000 students over the project period. I did four seasons of this.
I saw first hand, without having to articulate or allude to anything, what the impact was of someone like me standing in front of a room full of primary school students in Lambeth, Tower Hamlets, Clapham Park and teaching them Mozart, Leoncavallo & Prokofiev.
In my professional capacity, I will never accept a position, a job, a commission or any accolade that I feel is offered to me out of a quota-filling necessity. I never have, and I am offered them frequently. I am not interested in urban stories, making a ‘particular’ type of work that pigeon holes me because of the colour of my skin. I actively push against that and have done consisitently for over twenty years which has been a career-defining choice in itself.
And then came the Black Lives Matter Movement.
Aside from all the obvious emotional fall-out the creative idustries as a whole experienced when this blew up in the Spring (on the day that I was listening live to the BBC Leeds interview about my film FLOMO, the far right riots were happening in Trafalgar Square), there has been an immediate and personal fall-out for me related to the things I mention above.
Once the theatre industry tentatively started to make plans for returns, whether that be in the near future or for later in 2021, I started to get contacted regarding availability for projects and also sent things I ‘might be interested in’. Every single one was about black history, black stories or was some BAME scheme or other. Every. Single. One. It felt, and feels like, the 22 years I’ve spent railing against being forced into any kind of bracket or any situation where someone could say that frequently heard thing about there being a ‘reason’ I got offered that opportunity over someone else, has gone for nothing. Like I’m back at square one. Just like that. Like the only stories I’ll ever be asked to help tell are very specifically about me ‘staying in my lane’. And I’ve been very depressed about it.
As far as I’m concerned, the balance will only be shifted, the playing field will only be equal when these conversations don’t even need to be had, when these agendas don’t even need to be overtly and agressively pursued. When people like me who have fought tooth and nail to not be pigeon-holed and consistently challenge and surprise their audiences are given opportunites to continually do so. When an artist can say ‘I have some stories to tell with my art’ and ‘there are some people in them’ and that can BE IT.
I regularly get asked questions like: ‘Can you write a rap?”; ‘Can you recommend some Caribbean/African drummers.” “Looking for black singers – do you know any?” ‘Need an onstage MD for our Cuban Musical – are you interested?” and my only consistent response has been to find new ways to consistently generate my own style of genre-bending, contemporary, challenging, engaging and thought-provoking work that bucks every stereotype you can think of, both in terms of all the artforms I do and aspire to work in, and in terms of what the perceived place for people like me should be within the industry and the music business as a whole.
That’s the impact my work does, can, and will continue to have across the board with the right support. My artistic existence should be helping to keep the conversations open & helping to push things forward to a place where hopefully the conversations themselves become unnecessary, but I need projects like this for it to be able to do so because the only way I get to help make that happen is by making my own work, across all the mediums I want to work in, telling the stories I want to tell, writing the music I want to write, and being able to exist in the music business ecosystem in a visible, prolific and self-sustaining way.
I hope you are able to help.
Here are some examples of my work, including FLOMO, the lockdown film I mentioned in my application, plus two playlists from my theatre catalogue, including the show I’ve just opened for Little Angel Theatre, called ‘Reach for the Starts’, and ‘Genesis Inc’, Hampstead Theatre 2018,
I include them not only because I worked with Gareth on two out of three of these projects, but in terms of the music playlists, they are my own final music masters (Gareth didn’t master my Genesis tracks – we just added a little processing when we got into the theatre). This means you should get a very clear sense of the level that I am at regarding my music production skills. The track called ‘Space Academy’ from ‘Reach for the Stars’ is one of the tracks I’m going to work through with Gareth, as that one in particular most recently caused me mixing and mastering and I couldn’t fix it enough for it to fully work the way I wanted it to, sonically speaking, once it was inside the theatre. I’m excited about the level I’ve managed to reach alone, but even more excited to see what I can do to enhance my skills with the help of Gareth and Kerry through this process.
FLOMO | written, composed, produced and edited by Zara Nunn
REACH FOR THE STARS | commissed by Little Angel Theatre, October 2020 music by Zara Nunn
GENESIS INC | (selections) by Zara Nunn
Gareth and I first worked together in 2018. He was sound designer and I was composer for ‘Genesis Inc’ at Hampstead Theatre. This year, he has sound designed both FLOMO and ‘Moving Water’ (my audio musical project) for me and he and I are fast becoming a frequent collaboration team. He loves my work too, which helps. He will be guiding me through the mixing/mastering/sound design and session prep part of the project.
Here is some more about him:
Gareth Fry is a multi award winning sound designer, best known for his cutting-edge work in theatre, and his collaborations with many leading UK theatre directors and companies. He has also designed events and exhibitions, from the V&A’s landmark David Bowie Is exhibition, to being asked by Danny Boyle to design the sound effects for the Opening Ceremony of the 2012 Olympic Games.
Awards include an Olivier Award, Tony Award, Drama Desk Award, and Outer Critics Circle Award for Harry Potter and the Cursed Child; a Special Tony Award, Drama Desk Award, Helpmann Award and an Evening Standard Award for The Encounter (with co-designer Pete Malkin); an Olivier Award and Helpmann Award for Black Watch; an Olivier Award for Waves. and an IRNE Award for Wild Swans.
He is a specialist in the use of binaural stereo sound, being involved in a number of theatre productions, VR, exhibitions and advertising campaigns, including for Bose, Volvo and Land Rover. HIs work in VR has been featured at the Tribeca, Vienna and Sundance festivals. He has created large and small scale exhibitions, for the V&A, National Gallery, Imperial War Museum and Somerset House. His work includes over 20 productions at the Royal National Theatre, over 20 at the Royal Court and countless more at venues such as the Old Vic, Young Vic and in the West End.
He regularly runs workshops for directors exploring how they can use sound design in their work. These workshops have been commissioned by the National Theatre, Sadlers Wells, Complicité, the Prague Quadrennial, Mousetrap Theatre Projects, NSDF, the Brit School, the JMK Awards, Birkbeck College and the Royal Central School of Speech & Drama.
He is a founder of, and former chairperson, of the Association of Sound Designers, a charity that works to support people working in, and entering, the UK theatre sound industry. Gareth is an honorary fellow of the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama.
He is the author of Sound Design for the Stage, published in 2019 by Crowood Press. He has contributed to BBC Radio 4’s World at One, and the World Service, to talk about the use of sound.
Gareth initially trained as a studio recording engineer and spent two years working for AMS Acoustics on speech intelligibility modeling before moving into theatre. He spent 4 years engineering the live sound component of BBC1’s New Years Eve broadcast and works extensively at Somerset House on their public events including the annual ice rink and the Film4 Summer Screen open air cinema.
Kerry was my Mentor for the Manners McDade Mentorship Scheme I took part in earlier in the year. He will be guiding me through the Library/Production Music/Sync/Publishing part of the project.
Here is some more about him:
Kerry Muzzey is a film and modern classical composer whose music can be heard on both the big and small screens. His most recent albums, “Trailer Music 4: NEO” and “The Vision” debuted at #6 and #5, respectively, on the iTunes Classical Chart. Before turning to composing full-time, Kerry started off his career on the business side of the industry, learning licensing and the business of copyright by doing synchronization licensing at EMI Music Publishing in New York in the early 90s, including administering the Beatles catalog for TV during the first year of EMI’s administration of the Lennon/McCartney copyrights. Kerry then switched to the other side of the business table and began working in the Business Affairs department at MTV Networks, doing rights clearance and media licensing for VH1, where he worked hand-in-hand with VH1 Production, VH1 News and VH1 Series & Specials and oversaw a staff that did rights clearance for music, film, photography and talent, struck deals with music libraries and was also the music cuesheet liaison between VH1 and ASCAP and BMI. Kerry left the business side of the industry in 2006 and made the leap to being a full-time composer, armed with enough practical business knowledge to be able to self-publish and license his own works and manage his own business affairs.
Kerry’s most recent work was for the stage in the form of the full-length orchestral score for the original ballet “Casanova” by Kenneth Tindall and Northern Ballet, which wrapped up a UK-wide tour in 2017 with a sold-out week of performances at London’s Sadler’s Wells Theatre. His past scores include “Hole in the Paper Sky,” the first film from Jessica Biel’s production company Iron Ocean Films and “To Russia With Love,” and the Sundance Films documentary executive-produced by Oscar nominee Howard Gertler of “How to Survive a Plague.” But this mostly-orchestral composer is probably best known for a quiet little piano piece called “Looking Back” that found its way into the hit TV series “GLEE” as a recurring love theme for the show’s two most beloved couples, Rachel & Finn and Will & Emma. Kerry’s music also found its way to #1 on the iTunes and Amazon charts after his pieces “Architect of the Mind” and “Bernini’s Angels” were choreographed and performed on the show “So You Think You Can Dance.”
In 2014, Kerry recorded a collection of works for string orchestra called “The Architect.” The album was recorded in the legendary Lyndhurst Hall at London’s AIR Studios by the Chamber Orchestra of London, and spent three months featured on the front page of the iTunes Classical Store after spending its first two weeks of release at No. 5 on the Billboard Classical Chart and the Billboard Contemporary Classical Chart.
Kerry’s most recent score was for the documentary “Look & See: A Portrait of Wendell Berry,” by filmmaker Laura Dunn, executive-produced by Robert Redford and Terrence Malick and produced by Nick Offerman, which premiered at South by Southwest in 2016 and then did a featured run at the 2017 Sundance Film Festival as part of the festival’s new Spotlight series.
Vicky is an award-winning theatre producer and arts consultant who recently achieved advance certification as a business development coach. She has known me as a professional colleague and artist for several years, and recently commissioned me to write the theme music for her forthcoming podcast series related to her coaching busines. I feel that our existing relationship, her thorough knowledge of me as an artist, both in terms of my exisiting body of work and my future aspirations means that she is the perfect person to oversee my progress at the vital milestones near the beginning, middle and end of my project.
Here is some more about her from her client website:
I’m Vicky. I’m a professional coach, arts consultant and theatre producer. I’m fascinated by stories, inspired by bravery and passionate about supporting people to be the best they can be. I have studied at Cambridge University, Universite de Paris IV: Sorbonne and Mountview Academy of Performing Arts. I trained with the world-leading Co-Active Training Institute and have recently achieved a CPCC qualification accredited by the International Coaching Federation.
Following fifteen years in theatre, running my own business, working with writers, creating award-winning shows, mentoring and consulting for a broad range of clients, I am fortunate to have found a second profession in coaching. A second profession in which I get to focus on stories (the stories we tell about ourselves), risk-taking and supporting clients’ individuality.
My journey to coaching started as a client. Single, working alone and living alone, I struggled with personal and professional progress. I found a coach. With her, I was able to articulate my goals and make real change in my life. When Covid-19 closed the theatres, my next move was clear. It was time to acquire the skills which would enable me to provide the same support to others. I am drawn to people who are kind, curious and courageous. I endeavour to be the same. As your coach, I will be ambitious and fearless on your behalf. I will challenge and champion you. You can read more about my theatre work with Vicky Graham Productions, about my training, qualifications and achievements on LinkedIn and things that interest me on Twitter and Instagram.
The addition of video and digital content to my online presence as an artist is something I really started to spend time on from 2016 onwards. Whilst my Youtube channel is still in relative infancy, in comparison to my Soundcloud page (which I’ve had since 2013), I’ve already been able to see the remarkable impact that online video and audio content has not only in terms of audiences engaging with me and my work, but also in the way it is definitely helping to generate commissions, sheet music sales, work enquiries and a wider (global) reach for my work in general
So I take my online and digital presence very seriously and spend a great deal of time curating quality content to distribute through these channels. The prospect of being able to uplevel in this area and actually move into the realm of full releases of my music because of the skills I wlll develop throughout this project, is really exciting.
Here are some more examples of my work. Thanks for watching.
FINE | words & music by Zara Nunn
BATHROOM FLOOR from IN VERSIONS | words & music by Zara Nunn
CERI WITH A C | words & music by Zara Nunn
Reached the Commended List after submission to Funny Women & Comedy Central’s Comedy Shorts Competition 2017/18.
MY SISTER & ME | words & music by Zara Nunn
CHANGE THE VIEW from IN VERSIONS | words & music by Zara Nunn
WHEN THERE ARE NO WORDS | words & music by Zara Nunn
THE OTHER SIDE | words & music by Zara Nunn
TALKING ABOUT ‘IN VERSIONS’ a new musical by Zara Nunn | filmed & edited by Zara Nunn
THE SONG OF US from GENESIS INC. | music by Zara Nunn | words by Jemma Kennedy