Melbourne-based woodwind artist Tony Hicks has performed across Australia and internationally since the late 1970s.

He began studies with Australian saxophone virtuoso Peter Clinch, in 1976, performed with the Peter Clinch Saxophone Quartet from 1977 to 1988, and in 1984 competed as a national finalist in the ABC Concerto and Vocal Competition (now Young Performer’s Award) playing Henri Tomasi’s Concerto for Alto Saxophone and Orchestra.

He maintains a dynamic jazz and experimental improvisation practice, and works across a range of commercial contexts including TV and recording studios, theatre orchestras, big bands, function bands and productions by small arts organisations.

Between 2000 and 2014 he performed with the Australian Art Orchestra,  and was a key player in Crossing Roper Bar, the orchestra’s award-winning collaboration with indigenous Wagilak songmen from NgukurrArnhem Land.

In a continuation of investigations into South Indian Carnatic music concepts begun with the Australian Art Orchestra in collaborations with Guru Karakudi R Mani and his Sruthi Laya Ensemble, he traveled to Chennai, India, in 2016 with colleagues Adrian Sherriff and Jonathan Dimond for a collaboration with Mani Sir that was broadcast live to the international audience of Jaya TV.

He has also participated in numerous projects with the Monash Art Ensemble in collaboration with international composers and performers including George Lewis, Django Bates, Vijay Iyer and Barney McAll

In 2011 he completed a practice-based performance masters degree that focused on free improvisation processes and the development of improvisational facility with extended techniques, microtonality and tone rows on a range of woodwind instruments. The resulting thesis documents the emergence of an abstract improvisation language within the context of a series of duo improvisations with electro-acoustic sound artist David Tolley over an eighteen month period in 2010-2011.

He has performed with internationally recognized jazz and commercial superstars including Frank Sinatra and Stevie Wonder, Billy Cobham and Randy Brecker, and most recently, Lalah Hathaway. 

As a woodwind specialist playing flutes, clarinets and saxophones, he has worked in orchestras for over one hundred professional musicals including Phantom of the Opera, West Side Story and Porgy and Bess and Jesus Christ Superstar, in studio bands for nationally broadcast TV productions including “Dancing With the Stars” “Australia’s Got Talent” and “The Masked Singer”, and performed and recorded with iconic Australian artists including John Farnham, Marina Prior, Anthony Warlow, Tommy Emmanuel, Gurrumul, Paul Grabowsky and David Herschfelder.

He is a passionate educator, teaching saxophone, flute, clarinet and ensembles at secondary and tertiary level in schools and universities across Melbourne since the 1980s. Currently he works at Macleod College and Melbourne Girls College in Melbourne, delivering expert woodwind tuition across all levels and ages, and arranging for and directing a range of ensembles including stage bands, jazz orchestras, small jazz and rock groups, and orchestras for school productions.

He tutors students of saxophone, clarinet, flute and bassoon at Melbourne Polytechnic, and is engaged as a woodwind consultant by composition departments at the University of Melbourne and Melbourne Polytechnic to perform student works, and offer professional level real-world advice on technical possibilities and orchestration approaches for woodwind instruments.

He also collaborates regularly with Dr. Gillian Howell to deliver creative music and composition projects for children in urban and regional settings.

Groups he currently performs and records with include:

space klezmer sensation YID!

Melbourne Ska Orchestra

Jack Earle Big Band

John Montesante Dectet

His creative improvisation practice has included collaborations with a range of local artists.

Dan Sheehan’s Infinite Ape explored serialist harmonic and rhythmic concepts in a free improvisation context.

Reassemble with Ren Walters and Phil Collings, explored free improvisation in a range of performance contexts.

The Monday Morning series explored duo improvisations with percussionist/improviser Carlo Carnevali

In 2017, his ensemble Inside Outside 123 completed a 7 month fortnightly residency of creative multimedia improvisations at the nexus of free serialist improvisation and Ngali, the traditional Iranian theatre form.

Through a Glass Darkly with Sam McAughliffe and Mark Shepherd explored the development of an improvisatory practice informed by sounds of the environment.

Heretics Brew and the Bent Leather Band provided a platform for exploring the musical potentialities and sound processing capabilities of the Gluisop in experimental electronic contexts.

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