Heather Price has seen the world as a touring professional musician.
And she prefers Newcastle as the best place for her, as a working musician, to call home.
It's fair to call it going full circle, as Price was born in Newcastle. She is the daughter of retired opera singer Jennifer Barnes and musician Rod Barnes. She learned to play violin at age five.
Price is as busy as ever. Married to musician and producer Adam Price, the couple have two girls, ages nine and six, who both play music and sing. Price does private tutoring as well as mentoring students doing HSC music performances at Hunter School of Performing Arts. And she performs in the city with various musical groups, from orchestras to jazz and classical, and also does her shows, performing her own original music, mostly singing while playing the double bass.
"Living out of Newcastle I think was part of the recipe to loving Newcastle," she says, "because having lived in the UK and Melbourne, you realise what you have here and i think it makes you more passionate about the things you have available here, especially when you have a family, bringing them home to grow up here.
"There's enough opportunity, but there's also the ability to take things a little bit slower than in a place like Melbourne. It's really important."
Her appreciation of music is ingrained in her DNA, and she wears of love of music of all kinds on her sleeve.
While performing her own original material is perhaps the most satisfying aspect of her musical life, her passion for music to reach all people is contagious.
She teaches music privately, both singing and double bass, to a wide range of students.
"I think it is a really valuable thing for kids to have as they are growing, and it would be a really nice thing for more adults to have, for self-expression, delving a little deeper than the day to day allows us to do," she says of learning music. "That is what music is so good at it.
"One of my students is 89, a retired art professor. He's one of my favourites actually. I see with him, that element, delving deeper and using it for expression and that fulfilling life doesn't ever have to stop.
"We associate that with kids, give them a taste of that so they've had a go, but actually it doesn't ever have to stop."
Price is key performer at the Newcastle Music Festival, which celebrates its fourth year of events in August with a powerful, wide-ranging program of 33 music shows.
She will perform in four shows at the festival:
- vocalist with the Dungeon Big Band in the Swing Swing Swing show on Thursday, August 8, at 7.30pm, as part of an Adamstown Arts event at the Adamstown Uniting Church.
- singing and playing double bass in a solo show billed as Italian Soul at The Umbrian Cafe on Hunter Street on Saturday, August 10, at 12.30pm. Only this year she began using a loop pedal in her own show, looping her double bass, keyboard and guitar in different combinations. She will perform her own music.
"My style of writing is very much influenced by soul and jazz," she says. "It's all original. I will be releasing a single that day, one of my tunes, Always."
She took up the double bass at age 16.
"At that time, growing up in Newcastle, I played electric bass and I played violin when I was young," she says. "There was no contemporary music degree in Newcastle at that time, and so for some reason, I didn't think of going outside Newcastle so instead I took up double bass to do a classical degree.
"I really like it."
- performing with pianist Terence Koo in a show called Landscape of Music at the Maitland Regional Art Gallery on Sunday, August 11, at 6.30pm. "He's such a great pianist, he never ceases to surprise with what he'll turn up with," she says. A few years ago she was in a gig with him where, at one point, he was playing the piano with one hand and playing a melodica with the other.
- as a member of the Christ Church Cathedral Camerata at the Festival Finale on Sunday, August 18, at the cathedral.
Price is a huge supporter of the diversity of events at the Newcastle Music Festival, as she says they will bring music to a much wider audience.
For example, the Music on a Plate series offers three events in this year's program.
"They accompany the music with the food, but you don't necessarily eat while the music is happening, letting both elements shine," she says.
"That is something across society worth nurturing. We try to do 10 things at a time, we tick so many boxes all at once, but to give a space where we can appreciate something is pretty special."
Coming from a musical family, Price never gave a second thought to being a woman playing the double bass. It wasn't until people came up to her after gigs and said things like "pretty good for a chick" that it struck her some people held a bias, a prejudice, against women in the music industry.
"That is a huge passion of mine, empowering girls to do whatever they want," she says. "I really like it when I see particularly girls who realise they can follow their creative urges."