A funny thing happened to Jacqui Smith at the bumper Rotary markets on Saturday morning.
In between watching her Hume Conservatorium students busking and chatting with the locals, her dog escaped her grip.
But within minutes he was returned by someone who recognised her pet.
"That would never happen in Sydney," Ms Smith quipped this week.
After taking up the Con's directorship in September, the former Sydney Conservatorium of Music strategy and communications officer has settled in well with partner, Todd, to a new life in Goulburn.
She says she loves the sense of community, which is abundantly clear at the monthly markets and in many other aspects of the region.
"Coming from Sydney where people and families can be isolated, here you feel like you're very much part of the place," Ms Smith said.
Her role also connects her with the surrounding towns and villages, where the Conservatorium holds teaching programs.
She is no stranger to country towns; Ms Smith was born in Wagga Wagga and has lived at Bathurst and Lithgow where, as a recorder and clarinet player, she harnessed everything the local conservatoriums of music could offer.
After 20 years of working in Sydney, the past seven as the Dean's "right hand woman" at the Sydney Conservatorium, she leapt at the chance to return to the country.
As she explained, starting a new job mid-lockdown could scare anyone off but it gave her valuable time to familiarise herself and chart a direction.
Now she's thrilled that freedoms are easing and music is filling the Con's spacious building, rather than just online.
"We have amazing students and staff here," Ms Smith said.
"We've just established a youth leadership team and their spirit is inspiring. Everyone is so supportive."
The new director has met the Con's first chief, Paul Paviour, whom she describes as a "guardian angel." She has also established firm relations with the council and other arts groups in town.
It started with an informal conversation with Southern Tablelands Arts executive director, Rose Marin, but also tapped into Ms Smith's prior networking experience. Realising that coordination was needed between all the groups about events, they established the 'Goulburn Arts Ladies Society.' It is not gender exclusive but all members just so happen to be female. They include newly appointed art gallery director Yvette Dal Pozzo, Performing Arts Centre manager Raina Savage and Rocky Hill Musical Theatre Company president, Alex Ridley.
"We meet regularly, have a laugh, share our knowledge and events and help each other out," Ms Smith said.
The next step involves creating a database.
At the Con itself, she is putting the final touches on a three-year strategic plan. With all concerts cancelled in 2021 due to COVID restrictions, Ms Smith is looking forward to a full and diverse program. Here, she says, people just want things to happen, but in Sydney, it's "more about doing deals."
"I've been back to Sydney a few times and I don't regret moving at all," Ms Smith said.
"I love the fresh air, the space and the buildings here. It is such a beautiful city."
She plans to stay for a few years yet and if nothing else, leave the Conservatorium with a new roof.
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