Chief Executive of the Sydney International Piano Competition, Marcus Barker, says he has Townsville to thank for his career.
Growing up in Townsville, the youngest of eight children, Marcus Barker showed an interest in music from an early age.
“Most of my time was spent inside practicing or collaborating with other musicians,” says Marcus, who went on to complete a Bachelor of Music at James Cook University.
“I was fortunate that my time at JCU was also the time that the Australian Festival of Chamber Music was established and I can proudly say I was involved with the first AFCM more than 25 years ago.”
Although Marcus’ passion was undoubtedly music, he soon realised that being good just wasn’t good enough and he didn’t have what it took to be a concert pianist.
“That was hard and even during university I considered a move away from music to veterinary science,” Marcus says.
“Fortunately, because of my parents and other supportive people around me, I stayed with my music degree and I feel that Townsville allowed that to happen.
“Townsville gave me the professional support to ‘test’ the waters in Arts Administration and to work out that I was okay at being behind the curtain instead of on the stage.” Marcus now lives in Sydney’s eastern suburbs and loves his daily commute to the Sydney Conservatorium of Music, where he is the Chief Executive of the Sydney International Piano Competition. This is one of the most prestigious competitions in the world and certainly the preeminent competition in the southern hemisphere for the piano.
“I was fortunate that my time at JCU was also the time that the Australian Festival of Chamber Music was established and I can proudly say I was involved with the first AFCM more than 25 years ago.” – Marcus Barker
“My journey to work involves a ferry on the harbour and arrival into Circular Quay with the stunning Sydney Opera House and Sydney Harbour Bridge buzzing with the anticipation of the day ahead,” Marcus says.
“Then it’s a short walk via the Botanic Gardens, past Government House, to the beautiful Sydney Conservatorium of Music.”
As Chief Executive of the Sydney International Piano Competition, which is quadrennial (like the Olympics but for the piano), Marcus is a busy man.
“After a selection process we bring 32 young virtuosos from around the world to compete in Sydney for over $200,000 in prize money,” Marcus says.
“Besides the prize money they’re competing for career-defining international performances and engagements, mentoring and introductions to the labyrinth of the international classical music world.”
The years between competitions are focused on developing relationships with corporate and philanthropic individuals.
“We don’t receive any government support and invest a lot of time in fundraising activities to raise the $2.6 million budget to run the event,” Marcus says.
“In addition we do a lot of touring of our young artists around Australia and New Zealand.”
Marcus is currently working on a national tour with one of the young artists for 2018 and hopes to bring him to Townsville so audiences can hear one the world’s most exciting rising stars.
“I come home as often as I can during the year – particularly in the winter,” Marcus says.
“My mum is turning 86 this year and I love being able to come back, still to the same house I grew up in, and spend time with family and friends.”