Laura Glitsos (1999) Commands Both Centre Stage and the Lecture Hall
Having garnered two West Australian Music Awards and successfully completing her PhD, Laura Glitsos (1999) consistently surpasses expectations. Over the past decade, she has lectured extensively across the Arts and Humanities spectrum, culminating in the publication of her inaugural sole-authored book. Through this blog, Laura reflects on her experiences at Santa Maria College, her eventful music journey, and the motivations behind her transition into academia.
Could you share your experiences at Santa Maria? Were there subjects or staff that stood out for you?
I was truly a Santa girl, having also attended both Pignatelli and Mel Maria before making the transition to Santa Maria for high school. It was during these formative years that I forged enduring connections and cultivated robust female friendships, which played a pivotal role in shaping my sense of self in later years. I had many strong role models, but my absolute favourite teacher was Samantha Perera, who helped me cultivate my love for English and literature. Given that I now hold a doctorate of cultural and literary studies, I feel that she was a big part of my professional and personal success.
Do you remember when or where your passion for music began? Were there any musical or artistic influences in your life?
My passion for music began very young, from the moment my father introduced me to Elvis and the Beach Boys! As the 1990s exploded into grunge and heavier rock and roll, I was enthralled by the incredible women who were also picking up instruments and fronting the stage—particularly PJ Harvey, Tori Amos, and Adalita from the Australian band Magic Dirt. However, my single greatest influence was Rage Against the Machine, who I discovered around 15 years of age. This was a band that helped me understand the role of social justice and the way music can help us navigate the most complex cultural issues.
After graduating from high school, what paths did life lead you down?
Armed with a love of both music and literature, I simultaneously pursued media and writing while cultivating a professional music path and was honoured with two West Australian Music Awards in 2001 and 2002. I was highly active in the Perth popular music scene in several different capacities (bands, organisation, lighting and rigging, sound, and of course as a fan) and I was also working on community radio while finishing my degree in Cultural and Literary Studies with a Major in Journalism. All of that work culminated in a job in Paris in 2003 on the first English-speaking radio station in the city where I produced and presented two shows.
Laura Glitsos (R) and her Santa Maria peers
Can you highlight some challenges you encountered in your music career and some of your most memorable times?
Looking back, it has been both thrilling and tumultuous! The most memorable times always include being with my friends and taking on challenges together and as a community of loved ones. My family was there to catch me when I made mistakes and faced challenges. Many times in Paris I felt overwhelmed and out of my depth, but met the most genuinely wonderful people who helped me through and who are still my loved ones today. My PhD was also extremely challenging – not knowing whether I could truly meet the academic challenges. But my family and friends believed in my abilities, and that is what got me through. In media and music, certainly, many challenges were gender-based. But having a strong foundation in women’s studies and coming from Santa Maria, I felt equipped to navigate them.
One memorable anecdote was coming off stage after a large concert in Perth City (at what used to be called Capitol Nightclub) and being asked by a man whether my stage voice was ‘real’ or indeed ‘faked’ by vocal technology of some sort. I explained that it was my natural voice and only a microphone was used (just like any of the men also performing that night). To which he ‘didn’t believe me’. Sometimes—all we can do is laugh in the face of idiocy and misogyny.
Returning from Paris, what prompted your decision to make a significant shift into academia?
After Paris, I felt quite lost because I had taken on so much and achieved such heights, but did not know where to turn my professional pursuits. I realised that finishing my degree would buy my ‘ticket’ into more professional opportunities. So I forced myself to ‘settle down’ and focus. Being (slightly) older and more mature, it was much easier!
Congratulations on the recent release of your first solo-authored book, “Somatechnics and Popular Music in Digital Contexts.” Could you share your motivations behind the book and some key findings or themes explored?
This book emerged from the research carried out in my PhD, which, in the first instance, revealed that our relationship with modern music is based on a wonderfully wild and complex convergence of our body with new technologies – from the first time humans recorded sound all the way up to streaming and VR. From that research, I developed this idea to fit the revelations about music and technology into a theoretical framework known as ‘Somatechnics’, a niche branch of cultural studies that takes our bodies and lived experiences as the most important aspect of research and understanding the human condition. I plan to continue this research journey by looking at different aspects of bodies, technologies, and the human condition as it changes so rapidly in the contemporary world.
Outside your professional endeavours, how do you like to spend your free time?
For the past few years, I have absolutely loved to garden! Tending after plants and living things is so therapeutic and takes my mind away from heavy-duty academic challenges for a little while! In addition, I spend time in Europe with my family and partner who lives in Amsterdam, and in between I snuggle with my two beautiful sphynx cats, Dana and Suki.
What advice would you offer aspiring musicians?
In my experience, grit and determination trump nearly every other skill. Those that succeed are the ones that don’t give up and don’t stay down for long. Don’t be afraid to ask for help – people love you and will help you navigate the journey.