Interview with lecturer Cary Bennett
The team at Creative New England is creating a range of exciting competitions for one and all to get involved in over our lockdown period. But we also want to use this space to talk about some of the incredibly talented people in our community.
Cary Bennett is a lecturer in Sociology at UNE. However, most of the local community know him as a talented jazz musician who plays and organises gigs for numerous bands around Armidale. He is the person behind the Thursday evening band program at the Welder’s Dog and regularly performs with various trios at Charlie Last Stand. He is also researching the importance of venues and the music economy in regional towns and communities.
We chatted with Cary about his field of expertise and how his involvement within the local music scene is giving back to the Armidale community.
Can you tell us a little about what you teach at UNE?
I teach one of our large first year units: SOCY110 Foundations in Society; and two 300 level health-related units: SOCY321 Sociology of Health and Illness and SOCY374: Mental health in Society, which I alternate between. Throughout my academic career, I’ve taught a wide range of subjects in areas including globalisation and social development, media, gender and sexuality, family, social theory to name a few.
What is your field of expertise?
Up until recently, my field of expertise has been drugs and drug use in society. Although, most recently I have moved towards the sociology of music.
What first inspired you to study in this field?
In terms of drugs and drug use, these were (and remain) a serious socio-political issue. When I was an undergraduate, I thought I could contribute to the area by bringing some sense to it. Not sure what sort of contribution I have made, but it is a complex issue.
At the beginning, I wanted to keep my leisure and academic interests separate (prior to becoming an academic I was a full-time musician). More recently, I have moved towards music seeking to align my music interests with my research interests, also hoping to contribute to the issue. My current research is on the value of and barriers to live music in Armidale, using Armidale as a case study for regional Australia.
When you aren’t at work, where might we find you spending your leisure time?
Music is my prime leisure pursuit, but I’m also very interested in photography and I’m an avid reader. I also love the theatre and hope to get more involved with this when time permits.
What was the first instrument you ever learned to play?
Ukulele. I started to learn this when I was around 4 years old as the guitar was too big for me to play. I moved from the ukulele to guitar, and then drums. I also sing and have always done so.
Where do you think your musical aspirations come from?
I’ve always been attracted to certain types of music. Neither parent was particularly musical, but both enjoyed music, especially with mum being an avid record collector (and reader) in her early days. I was also encouraged by people who became my mentor.
Music opened all kinds of avenues, including performing on stage and at friend’s parties and even on TV, which then serves to reinforce one’s interest. Later I worked on cruise ships, resorts (eg, great Keppel Island), and toured Australia with shows (Rocky Horror Show) and artists (eg, Tony Christie). They were amazing experiences that I have been so grateful for!
You play at several gigs around Armidale, how does your involvement give back to the community?
There are two ways I can think of: One is that we as musicians help to create a vibrant and dynamic culture in Armidale. We have some marvellous musicians here who help make Armidale an interesting and pleasant place to live in. Can you imagine living in a place where there is no live music? There is no reason for people to feel disadvantaged living in Armidale (or regional Australia) when so much talent is around.
Creatives are everywhere; they just need to be given some support and encouragement.
Secondly, music, in general, can stimulate thought and action, but it can also provide a reprieve from the everyday vicissitudes of life, helping to recharge the batteries so that one can go back into battle again.
What do you hope to see in the future for the music scene in Armidale?
I would love to see a strong and vibrant scene where local and visiting musicians and performers can perform all sorts of styles of music. We are on the way towards this but there are a few infrastructural things holding us back. We have a few great little venues, but we need more mid-sized venues that can accommodate larger and louder bands, and we need a large size venue for special local concerts and big touring bands or events.
We also need people to come out and support what is happening in Armidale and its surrounds. Audiences play a major part in all of this, providing the funds to keep bands on at venues, but also inspiring the bands to ever-higher heights.
Where can we see you play?
All around the place, but especially the Welder’s Dog – where I organise the Jazz, Blues, and Alt. Grooves on Thursday nights; Charlie’s Last Stand – a fab venue where I play with my trio; The Tattersalls Hotel it’s exciting to see new place’s introducing live music; Dobson’s Distillery -a great Sunday lunch venue with Stephen and Lyn, and that’s just to name a few.
Who are your favourite artist to listen to when you’re marking assessments?
Haha, I can’t listen to music while marking assignments. If the music is good, it distracts me away from marking (and if it’s not good I wouldn’t have it on in the first place). Music is my reward when marking is complete.
Whats your all-time favourite song you like to play that puts you in a good mood?
I have too many songs and albums that I love to choose just one. Still, I’m a big jazz fan and so something by Miles Davis usually helps.
Whats your favourite place to hang out in town?
Cary, wow, we’ve loved learning a little more about you, your involvement in the community and your love of music, thank you for sharing some of your story with us.