Music at the Basilica, Jeannette

Winner of a Kardinia Rotary Club Volunteer of the Year award, Jeanette Johnstone, tells us about her role in staging musical performances at St Mary of the Angels Basilica, Geelong. Since 2006 these have made a big contribution to the cultural life of Geelong through the ‘Encounters’ and ‘Seasons’ Series and the popular free lunchtime Organ Recitals.


‘When our organist Frank De Rosso first talked to me about putting on @Music at the Basilica, I said, “Certainly, I’ll help out”, thinking it would mean selling a few tickets in the foyer. But it has turned into an enormous learning experience for me. “We’ll keep in touch by email.” said Frank. “Yes,” I said, wondering how I would ever cope with that- at that time I hardly knew what email was! I soon found out and learnt many other new skills at the same time. I really love music and I love learning new things so it’s been a good fit.

‘In 2006 St Mary’s had just been renovated and we saw it also as an opportunity to open this amazingly beautiful Basilica to the people of Geelong. We’ve hosted over 300 events over about 10 years, ranging from the ancient to the contemporary, in solo and ensemble settings for voice and instruments.

‘They have all been musically excellent and we’ve kept prices affordable.

‘We’ve since become an incorporated organisation and our events are listed in the Geelong Region ArtAtlas Calendar. My new skills have been self-taught and include the writing of funding applications and sponsorship pitches, creating budgets and organizing events, to name a few. Whenever I needed to know something, I went straight to the internet. My best friend and teacher! Also, I became adept at secretly picking up clues from everyone – from small grandchildren playing computer games to a casual computer chat show on the drive-time radio. Phoning Consumer Affairs or the Australia Taxation Office for rules and information is just routine for me now.

‘I was thrilled to be acknowledged by Kardinia Rotary and to be able to bring a cash prize back to our cause, I’ve been enthusiastic about sacred music all my life, and being able to present fine sacred music performed by excellent artists for the people of Geelong in an amazing setting, is an absolute pleasure. I love what we do. It is our way of giving back to the public.’

Photo: Phil Hines Photography