Musical journey leads to OAM

Linsey Pollak.

By Margaret Maccoll

When your day job is something you love to do, being awarded an OAM in the Queen’s Birthday Honours List for it is just icing on the cake.

“Oh well, wow, thanks,” was Linsey Pollak’s reaction to this week being listed to receive a Medal of the Order of Australia for service to the performing arts and to music.

“It’s a great honour. It’s nice to be acknowledged for what one does,” he said.

For 50 years the long term Kin Kin resident, who now resides in Maleny, has delighted audiences with his musical instruments made from found objects such as his carrot clarinet or watering can clarinet, his incredible talent and his extensive list of community music projects.

Linsey Pollak is well known across Australia as a musician, instrument maker, composer, musical director and community music facilitator.

He has toured his solo shows across Europe, Canada and Asia since 1996.

He established The Multicultural Arts Centre of WA and has co-ordinated five Cross-cultural Music Ensembles in three different States. He has performed at most major festivals around Australia and recorded 34 albums (solo and with various groups). He has devised many large festival pieces such as BimBamBoo! (Woodford and Brisbane Festivals), Sound Forest (Qld Music Festival) and The Dream of Zedkat Nabu (APRA Performance of the Year in Qld 2013).

Linsey views his life as a series of random opportunities that “grabbed him“ as he stumbled along his journey.

“At the time I wasn’t even aware of making the choices that have had huge impacts on my path,” he said. “It feels as though I’ve sort of improvised my way through life and in many ways that is how I approach the music that I make.”

His musical journey began as a 19-year-old when he took a gap year before beginning a science degree (still deferred) and found a bamboo grove which inspired the creation of his first musical instrument – a bamboo flute.

He discovered Macedonian Folk Dance from an album in a friend’s collection that began his love affair with the gaida (Macedonian bagpipe). On a trip to London he came across a band of Macedonian folk musicians missing a gaida player so he filled the spot, before travelling to Macedonia and finding a gaida teacher to hone his skills.

His association with Macedonian music led him, back in Australia, to eventually establish The Multicultural Arts Centre of WA.

Hi knack for making instruments and his use of technology led him to create travelling shows and community projects.

While living in Kin Kin Linsey started to focus on the use of the percussion instrument, Marimbas in community music workshops. This led on to The Big Marimba, a community music project that involved 400 people making a 320 metre long marimba that stretched across the Brisbane River.

The journey continues for Linsey, even during COVID when musicians felt the impact of isolation and the few gigs that were available were online, he saw it as an opportunity to be more creative.Linsey used his time to create 30 tracks and raise money for Oxfam.

In a collaboration with singer Lizzie O’Keefe, the performance combines the human voice with the sounds of endangered animals as a way of honouring ecosystems and species, gone and going.

He’s played and recorded music with birds in the local rainforest and put more time into making instruments, where it all began.