Cathy Gordon - Our Director
Cathy Directs in Newcastle 2011

Cathy Gordon

Born in Maryborough, Queensland, Cathy grew up having no intention of making music her career in life. Although piano lessons and singing in a junior choir began at the age of five and she brought a trumpet home at the age of 8 and joined brass and concert bands, her first love was horses.

An unfortunate injury during her final year of secondary school ended her riding days so studying music at a tertiary level seemed a feasible option. She chose to begin her studies in Toowoomba at the D.D.I.A.E. entering a Dip. Creative Arts (Music) majoring in trumpet. Cathy graduated with a double major in Teaching and Performing and went on to obtain a Grad. Dip. Ed at the same institution, now known as the UCSQ. She was also a Resident Fellow at Steele Rudd College providing pastoral care and support to the residents, some of whom were older than Cathy. Working in the School of Arts in the Performance Centre for about a year was all well and good but Cathy thought this was a perfect opportunity to pioneer a Music Administration program and thus a year on she graduated from the same institution (now the USQ) with a B. Creative Arts (Music Admin.). Yes readers, three qualifications…three different names…one campus. Saved moving around I guess. Also, Professor Peter Rorke, who Cathy credits for her work discipline, ethics and love of teaching, was in charge of the Music Program for the entire time Cathy was enrolled.

Applying for a job with the then named ABC Concert Music as a bit of a lark upon graduating, was her ticket to the world of Arts Management. Her application was taken very seriously and her interview proved to be very successful, so things were packed and a new adventure began.

Her two years in Sydney as International Publicity Assistant had her noted by many in the industry as the best music administrator the country would see in the not too distant future. During her second year, Cathy was seconded by the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra to act in various Management positions when people took leave. With a small staff of 8 running the Orchestra, it was excellent training and experience so when a position became vacant, Cathy applied, was successful and packed up to begin her Tasmanian Chapter.

Being the Concert Manager of the TSO was not so much a job but a way of life for Cathy. ‘It made my heart beat’, she confessed. Working with International and National conductors and soloists, organising orchestral tours and the day to day business of running the TSO, though incredibly busy and demanding work, was the most rewarding career for this young administrator. It was to end too soon.

On 28 April 1996, as part of her job, Cathy was at Port Arthur Historic Site with six members of the Australian Opera showing them some sights before leaving on a tour to regional VIC and NSW. This was the fateful afternoon when a gunman took the lives of 35 people, the Port Arthur Massacre. Fortunately Cathy and her six charges survived. Unfortunately, Cathy’s life would be changed and her Music began to disappear.

Thus began a journey of human decline and when her job was ‘permanent sick leave’ and her days and nights melded into a haze of medication and personal struggle, a permanent ending seemed the only option. Then entered a large, 4 legged part of Australia’s history, also knocking on eternity’s door due to neglect, one of the last descendants of the original Walers (horses bred for WWI). Cathy and her new charge ‘Whale’ began an amazing journey of recovery, relying on each other’s strength of character to conquer each new day. ‘He guards my soul’, Cathy says of her best friend. ‘We still keep each other grounded and let’s face it, nothing beats unconditional love.’ They ended up in Ballina for one reason and another and began a new life of rehabilitating racehorses. One of these horses wormed his way into both their hearts as he struggled daily with pain and mistrust and Cathy vowed to give him the love and life he deserved. He is still a member of the Gordon clan and has turned out to be nothing but mischief and a beautiful and loving chap. His name is Ben.

So why barbershop, and what does all of the above have to do with it???!!!

As part of Cathy’s rehabilitation, her Doctor gave her a choice…indoor cricket with him (Broken fingers and horses don’t go well together) or singing with his wife… well she chose the singing option. People weren’t Cathy’s favourite pastime at this stage but after 4 weeks of sitting at the back of the room and observing, Musical Director, Jen Squires managed to convince Cathy that she should get up and give it a go. They say that singing heals the soul and by all accounts this has proved to be correct in Cathy’s case. Through the love, care and support of the Headliners, Cathy’s “music” started to wake up. People, as it turns out, aren’t all that bad; and Barbershop…well, what a genre.

Her confidence is slowly returning and many skills that have lain dormant for 15 years are starting to return. There are things that have been damaged irreparably but the music is slowly waking up again.

Jen Squires moved to Perth in 2009 and the Headliners chose Cathy to step into the position of Musical Director to lead them on their “Journey to Excellence”… and that, in a rather large nutshell, is why Cathy Gordon is the Musical Director of the Headliners Chorus.