There's something about the country that's drawing Jacqui Smith back.
The relaxed rural lifestyle and the chance to become the Hume Conservatorium's new CEO proved too tantalising when the Goulburn role popped up.
Ms Smith will take up the post in mid-August, replacing director of the past 11 years, Paul Scott-Williams.
"I've lived in Sydney for 20 years and I'm keen for a tree change," she told The Post.
When it came to choices, COVID and inner city living were no match for the opportunity to return to country roots. Born in Wagga Wagga, Ms Smith grew up in Lithgow and Bathurst and was a strong product of their conservatoriums of music.
She played clarinet and recorder but with no music program at her schools, studied under the Cons' scholarship program during her secondary education. During this time she played in the Bathurst Chamber Orchestra and the school's concert band.
"Mitchell Conservatorium at Bathurst supported me to get into Sydney University and so I've always wanted to give kids the same opportunities I had," Ms Smith said.
"Goulburn is perfect because it's two hours from Sydney, one hour to my sister in Canberra and I just love the town. We used to stop through and always had meals at The Paragon."
Conservatorium chairman Ed Suttle said the board was "ecstatic" about her appointment
"She has a range of experience and qualifications that made her the stand-out candidate, and we have no doubt that she has the capacity to guide the Con to the next level on many fronts," he said.
"She has already arranged accommodation in Goulburn and can hardly wait to meet the entire Con community of teaching staff, students and schools."
Ms Smith brings a lifetime of skills. It started with a Bachelor of Music at Sydney Conservatorium of Music and postgraduate degrees in law and publishing. Mr Suttle said she was highly respected within the arts and education sectors and had run her own consultancy, providing editing, project management, marketing and promotion services to a broad range of clients.
For the past seven years she worked beside the Sydney Con's Dean in strategic relations, international partnerships, marketing and communications.
Ms Smith said communication with regional conservatoriums was a key component. The 'buddy program,' for example, connected city and regional institutions and delivered workshops and performance opportunities to rural students. The new CEO remains a board director of Albury's Murray Conservatorium.
She's excited about the possibilities in Goulburn.
"I want to continue the good work Paul did," Ms Smith said.
"...I want to make connections around Australia that will put Goulburn music on the map."
This means a continuation of workshops, music programs, including for older people, and connections with schools.
But Ms Smith is also keen to expand into other areas, such as music therapy and youth justice. Ten years ago she worked with Moorambilla Voices, which helped transform male adolescent lives.
"The change it can make is quite inspiring," she said.
The Performing Arts Centre's completion later this year also opens new partnership opportunities for the Con.
Likewise, the conservatorium's new Creative Arts Precinct will open in coming weeks. It will host the inaugural Hume Chamber Festival later in September.
Ms Smith believed Goulburn had a vibrant arts and cultural scene, with the Regional Art Gallery, Southern Tablelands Arts and Create NSW programs.
She will move to Goulburn in early August with partner, Todd, whom she will marry in September.
"I'm looking forward to the fresh air," Ms Smith said.
"Goulburn has a real sense of community and it will be good to be part of a place where you can help make a difference. That seems to get lost in the big cities."
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