Award winning hair-colourist, global educator, lover of music, arts patron and an enthusiastic ACF donor. We spoke with Alyson about her passion for music and her relationship as a patron of the immensely talented musician and ACF artist, Joseph Tawadros AO.
Firstly, a challenge: tell us about yourself in 40 words or less.
Work: hair colour specialist (1976 – present, NYC, Germany, Sydney) and global educator (2000s+)
Passions: music, art, fashion, flowers, colour, vintage, jewelry.
Loves: Bruno [Alyson’s dachshund], my clients, negronis.
Blessings: my life.
Name a talent you don’t have but wish you did.
In recent years I secretly longed to revisit playing the piano. I mentioned it to a neighbour one champagne-infused night. The next day she knocked on my door, followed by two guys and a 1950s Beale on a trolley. I play scales and bits and pieces from my childhood music sheets. It brings back memories of my Mother’s soprano voice coming from the kitchen. I wish I could play it well.
If money were no object, what work of art would consume or buy?
In today’s world of human suffering, money has a dual role of power and responsibility. I buy art from the ownership project in Melbourne. They bring young refugees, asylum seekers and Indigenous youth from remote communities to Melbourne and teach them printmaking. I make choices based upon my belief that art, culture and music are the world languages that freely cross borders, oceans and religions. Peace is their outcome.
It is also why I am a patron of Joseph Tawadros. Apart from being a virtuoso on the oud, his original compositions provide a modern emotion-filled voice born from an ancient culture played on an ancient instrument. His works involve musicians from all corners of the globe, who add their own historical influences. World music!
Tell us about a recent experience you had with a work of art or performance that truly moved you.
In December last year, I attended the final concert of the Australian tour of Joseph Tawadros’ collaboration with Richard Tognetti and the ACO, featuring Vivaldi’s Four Seasons and orchestrated arrangements from Joseph’s Permission to Evaporate CD. Not only was it the first CD I was a patron of via the ACF, it also won Joseph his third ARIA.
Joseph, his brother James and all the ACO Musicians played as if light shone through their fingers. The audience was transfixed by the music. The energy in the concert hall was electric.
I glanced down at the program. The composers list ran: Vivaldi, Tawadros, Vivaldi, Tawadros…it was then that I fully appreciated the importance of my patronage. The ACF enabled me to play an important part in the creation of this amazing evening. I stood with the rest of the Opera House in a thunderous standing ovation…never could I have imagined such a feeling of pride, joy and gratitude.
As you mentioned, you’re a committed patron of one of our amazingly talented ACF artists, Joseph Tawadros, who was recently awarded an AO for his services to music. How did this relationship start, and what about Joseph and his art has driven you to support him in such a way?
I first met Joseph at his concert with the Song Company based on Kahlil Gibran’s The Prophet, a much loved book throughout my life. It was a concert of beautiful voices evoking many emotions. Joseph played a solo improvisational piece – I don’t remember breathing during it. It was as if angels were present and time stood still. Tears rolled down my face. It was a deeply moving spiritual experience.
I sought him out after the concert and asked him “how do you do that, night after night, bare your soul to a room full of strangers?” he replied that it was exhausting but that he was compelled to play that way. We have been friends ever since.
I have been equally successful as a business woman and creative artist. Consequently, I am interested in success and what it means to different people.
While sharing a train journey, Joseph had me listen to some musical ideas he was working on; I had just attended his CD Launch of Chameleons of the White Shadow and jokingly asked how many CDs he had actually recorded. He replied “ten!” “Ten! Really? Ten!? You’re only 29!”
“How can you afford to do that? Record a CD a year?” I was having a fiscal meltdown.
He explained about different patrons, sponsorships, record labels etc. over the years, and then he told me about the Australian Cultural Fund. I heard myself say “I could do that!” I was so excited. Joseph probably thought I was a bit crazy. It’s been three years now, three CDs and a life-changing experience. Amazing!
What do you think Joseph is doing right when it comes to finding and maintaining donors and supporters of his work?
He honestly loves performing and is transported to another realm as he plays or listens to others play that share the stage. His obvious joy, combined with the levels of difficulty he pushes himself to play at, evoke standing ovations and enthusiastic applause.
After every performance – no matter how large or small, no matter where in the world it is, or how exhausted he is – Joseph always turns up in the foyer to talk to the audience members; he signs CDs, chats, remembers people’s names and thanks them for coming (and he hugs and kisses the sweet older ladies). He is the last to leave…He is an excellent networker. He attends many, many concerts. He keeps in contact with people, lunches etc. and maintains a huge and entertaining Facebook page.
Basically, he works very, very hard. Music is his life, his breath and his heartbeat.
As his patron, I donate via the ACF to enable him to record new music. I believe his music is worthy. It is a unique and important contribution to not only the Australian musical soundscape, but in representing Australia on the music stages and festivals of the world.
Speaking more generally, if/when an artist or organisation comes to you for support, what do you want to know about them and the project? What makes you want to give?
I am attracted to original, unique ideas; I respond well when I see progression from an idea to a reality. Not just in words but in tangible results. I have coached hairdressers to enter awards and, like artists, writing isn’t always their strength. Clear, concise communication is essential as well as face-to-face. I would like to meet them, watch their body language, their expressions, listen to them, even via an online YouTube interview/pitch. Humour goes a long way with me too. Then tell me what you need. Don’t waste my time.
What spurred you initially to donate to the arts? Do you remember the first donation that you made?
Victoria Lynn (then Curator of Contemporary Art at the Art Gallery of NSW) was a client of mine and she suggested I join the Contemporary Collection Benefactors in 1994. I was a member for seven years and then changed to be a Foundation member alongside my father who I talked into joining with me, and he’s been a member for five years now! I bought artworks every year at the fundraisers. Around the same time, I met Paul Dyer from the Brandenburg Orchestra and sponsored a pipe in the Baroque organ being built in London. I still get a kick out of hearing it.
I was inspired by their passion, dedication, lofty ideals and ambitions for their institutions.
What do you like most about donating through the ACF?
1) With the new platform it’s so easy and fast to donate… 5 minutes! And instantly you receive an email with your tax deductible invoice. Done Deal. Love it.
2) It gives a format to the artists to follow, to enable them to promote their projects with a pitch that attracts an audience. It’s an online dating service for the arts.
3) I know if they are on the ACF, they are credible and have what it takes to make it happen.
What would you say to those who are thinking of donating to artists, but haven’t quite taken the plunge?
It enriches your life. You can make a difference and see exactly where your donation goes. Every day more and more funding to the arts is disappearing – it’s up to us to support the Australia that we want to live in.
“The object of art is to give life a shape.” – William Shakespeare
Using the ACF on my mobile, I can show and share any of the projects I support to my client’s and friends, and encourage them to get involved, e.g. encourage them to attend Joseph’s concerts and gigs as well as buy his CDs. It’s like an extended family. It’s the personal part that is so engaging and rewarding.