Your stories—Alex Pertout

August 2017

Chilean-born UniSuper member Alex Pertout has music running through his veins.

He’s lent his extraordinary talents to several number-one singles, albums and even contributed to numerous motion picture scores. The award-winning recording artist, composer, multi-instrumentalist, senior lecturer and UniSuper member gives us an insight into how he got started and his career highlights.

I grew up in Santiago, Chile, in a family environment that celebrated music. My parents were both ardent musical aficionados, so music—and in particular classical music and opera—were part of my daily sound spectrum. We moved to Italy and it was there I became fascinated by Latin American music and started a life-long mission to research this area. When I was 12, we moved to Australia and I became obsessed with percussion instruments, Latin American styles, jazz, orchestral and world music. I studied a wide range of genres that I am still drawn to on a daily basis.

As I was developing my art and reputation, I started to get calls for performances and recording sessions from many producers and artists from diverse styles. As the decades passed, I became a versatile creative and respected percussionist and was blessed with working in many areas of the music scene. Consequently, I have experience working in pop, jazz, rock, folk, world, theatre, television, soundtracks and orchestral settings.

I love working with the students and emerging artists—talented young people who are eager to learn, keen to take the necessary steps to become the best they can in a tough, competitive environment. It rewards me by mentoring them in unique areas of study and, in turn, inspiring their creative lives.

I was, and still am, inspired by artists such as Mongo Santamaria, Miles Davis, Tito Puente, Pat Metheny, Karaikudi Mani, Inti Illimani, Santana, Sergio Mendes and Steve Reich to name just a handful. I would also add all my current creative and inspirational colleagues, many of whom I collaborate with.

Receiving the International Prize at the 2015 Cuban Music Awards for the album Tales to Tell—which I recorded and produced with my colleague Nilusha Dassenaike—stands out as one of my proudest moments. Cuba is an amazing musical territory, recognised worldwide for its contribution and wide-ranging influence on global music, especially contemporary music from jazz to pop to everything in between.

As a serious creative practitioner, one of the most important things is to have unconditional devotion to your chosen area. In music, the need to improve is a daily task, so practice and the development of a long-term structured program is crucial. Music is everywhere. Music inspires. Music is healing. Music is life. If you’re devoted, you’ll follow your heart and you will succeed. It’s all here, all around us, you can’t miss it.

My ideal retirement? The trouble with thinking about it is that I will never retire! Strange thinking—that’s creative art practitioners, I guess!

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