From touring Australia with the Hilltop Hoods to forming a band and releasing an album, Christina Guala knows a thing or two big-time performances.
A saxophone/clarinet teacher and ensemble/band leader at Blackfriars since 2019, Ms Guala now adds another great performance to her resume – joining our Music Department as Administration Assistant.
“I love Blackfriars in terms of the community and the students and the vibe is so nice, special” said Ms Guala, who is also a vocalist, pianist and composer.
Her musical journey started as a student at St Aloysius College, where she played “lots of different instruments”, including clarinet, double bass and piano. She then went on to study a Bachelor of Music – Jazz Performance in saxophone at Adelaide University’s Elder Conservatorium.
“After uni, I started teaching, starting gigging. Then I started writing my own projects. Part of my Honours project, you had to do compositions and I just really took to it,” she said.
That initial foray into composing evolved into the creation of the Christina Guala Saxophone Quartet.
“I did sax quartet as an elective at uni and I just really enjoyed that vibe,” she said. “A lot of my mentors and teachers, past teachers, had played in that kind of ensemble before. And I just thought it was really cool. I initially just wrote the three pieces for my Honours project and then I ended up writing a lot more and I recorded an album.”
Recording that album – It’s Been a While – was somewhat of a full-circle moment. “It was great because Adam Page, who’s been working with the boys here, he was actually my first sax teacher. He’s amazing. We recorded the album at his studios … Wizard Tone Records, and he also offered to produce my albums. So that was so great having Adam involved; he’s just this extra-creative force.”
Since the album’s release, Ms Guala has also recorded an EP – What It Is – with the CG Octet, in which she sings. So, how does a jazz musician find herself touring Australia with, arguably, the country’s best-known hip hop act?
“Max Grynchuk, who is one of my partner’s and my best friends, plays trumpet for the Hilltop Hoods and does all the horn charts for them,” Ms Guala said. “I think they (the Hilltop Hoods) decided they needed a bit more diversity on stage and put that to Max and he said, ‘I know just the person!’.”
She has since performed with the Adelaide-founded group in every Australian state and the Northern Territory. “It’s crazy. It’s so crazy. It’s really, really fun,” she said of life on tour.
And does she feel like a rock star? “I’d love to say no, but I really do! People know the guys, so to be in that crew … sometimes there are people showing up at the airport, waiting to see them, and we get driven everywhere because of security. That’s obviously not how I normally travel to gigs!”
She said having someone working in the industry could only benefit Blackfriars music students. “I think it’s good for them to see, ‘Oh, you’re not just my saxophone teacher, you’re actually out there, performing’,” she said.
“Like with Generations in Jazz, I was so sad not to be able to go … but I was playing with the Hilltop Hoods. Half of them (the students) don’t actually believe me, but that’s OK! As a working musician, my skills stay relevant, as well. I’m still gigging professionally, I’m writing professionally and even our sax ensemble has used a couple of my charts before, which is great.”