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Welcome to Deborah Cheetham Fraillon as Chair of Vocal Studies

This article is sponsored by the University of Sydney. Authorised by Vice-Chancellor and Principal Prof. Mark Scott. Enquiries: 9351 2000;


The University of Sydney welcomes Deborah Cheetham Fraillon to the Sydney Conservatorium of Music. As a practising artist, Professor Deborah Cheetham Fraillon will be lecturing and mentoring students in vocal and opera studies and composition. She will also conduct research delivered as performance practise.

Professor Cheetham Fraillon AO is a Yorta Yorta/Yuin soprano and composer specialising in chamber, orchestral, choral and operatic settings of First Nations traditional languages and narratives across Australia. She is widely celebrated and a leader on the subject of the importance of cultural authority in the Art Music space. Professor Cheetham Fraillon has championed the voice and visibility of classically trained First Nations musicians through her achievements as a composer, performer and artistic director of the Short Black Opera and Ensemble Dutala.

The position is funded thanks to a generous bequest from the late Elizabeth Todd OAM. Ms Todd was a graduate of the Sydney Conservatorium of Music before joining as a lecturer in singing in 1948. She continued to teach until 1985, retiring as Senior Lecturer and Head of Vocal Studies.

Inaugural Elizabeth Todd Chair of Vocal Studies
Professor Cheetham Fraillon graduated from the Sydney Conservatorium of Music with a Bachelor of Music Education in 1986 and returns this year as the inaugural Elizabeth Todd Chair of Vocal Studies.

“It is a great honour to return to my alma mater as the Elizabeth Todd Chair of Vocal Studies,” she said. “Ms Todd was a revered singing teacher, and I had the great good fortune to sing for her on a number of occasions when I was a student in Sydney.”

“I look forward to this opportunity to contribute to the development of the next generation of musicians at Australia’s most prestigious conservatorium. My aim is to strengthen knowledge and understanding of the true purpose of music as central to our way of being,” she said.

Composer, soprano, educator
Professor Cheetham Fraillon is much in demand as a composer with recent major commissions including works for The Australian Ballet (The Hum 2023), Sydney Symphony Orchestra (Ghost Light 2022), the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra (Baparripna 2022), and Victorian Opera (Parrwang Lifts the Sky 2021).

Professor Anna Reid, Dean of the Sydney Conservatorium of Music, said, “Deborah Cheetham Fraillon is the single most outstanding Indigenous classical music artist that Australia has produced. This is possibly one of the most important appointments we have made. The Sydney Conservatorium of Music is simply thrilled to bits to have Professor Cheetham Fraillon join our faculty – an artist of this calibre and experience will profoundly change the learning environment for our students and the manner of our engagement with faculty.”

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