As a professionally trained classical music singer, Fiona Gaske’s inherent qualities of poise, grace, determination and self application have stood her in good stead to face the obstacles that life has thrown her way.
You might find it hard to believe that I was a shy child who hid behind the skirts of my mother,” recalls Fiona Gaske. “Mum tried, unsuccessfully, to get me involved in extra-curricular activities like gymnastics, but these sessions always ended in tears!” she says.
“Singing and ballet were two things that I adored right from the start. I danced three afternoons a week and squeezed in drama and music at every other opportunity.”
Fiona’s mother is a trained speech and drama teacher and her mother’s love for all things musical and theatrical rubbed off on Fiona. “I grew up in the back of a theatre – I was either there performing, waiting for mum … or doing my homework,” Fiona recalls with a laugh.
Fiona’s childhood was spent in Mackay and when she went away to boarding school in Brisbane, Fiona sang in eisteddfods and the school’s elite choir. After leaving school, Fiona studied Business at QUT but her heart lay elsewhere. “I would hear the practice sessions and auditions [at the Conservatorium of Music] and I knew that I wanted to be singing.” A successful audition granted Fiona her dream and she studied for three years at the Conservatorium of Music at Griffith. “It just felt right – it was all I ever wanted to do. I enjoyed the technical classes and developed a special interest area in vocal pedagogy.”
Fiona’s talent as a soprano saw her receive an invitation to study for a year with a highly sought after teacher in Italy. At the time, Fiona worked at David Jones department store to save for her airfare. However, sadly this opportunity was not to be, as Fiona was diagnosed with Lupus and became gravely ill. “It is hard to describe how difficult this setback was for me; it was all I ever wanted to do,” Fiona says. “After my recovery I did a lot of soul searching and decided to go back to university to study speech pathology.”
Around this time, Fiona met her husband, Andrew, and eventually the couple settled in St George and started a family, Jack (4) and Elizabeth (2). Fiona operated her own ballet school in St George for three years and she continues to sing at special events in the region. Thriving on a challenge, she was voted in as a councillor for the Balonne Shire Council 12 months ago. She maintains her work in speech pathology part time and is the newly elected president of the local kindergarten. “I wanted to have a say in the way our town is shaped – I believe it is important to have representation from a wide demographic. I am proud to serve such a strong, dynamic and resilient region.” Life’s twists and turns have resulted in Fiona rising above her own challenges to give her community the chance to sing.
Words by Kerryn Suttor | Images by Dana Gluzde