There are no mistakes, only fun and joy, when the jazz gurus of I Hold the Lion’s Paw travel with you!

Emily Bennett, Ronny Ferella, Adam Halliwell and Reuben Lewis are the amazing musicians of jazz improv ensemble I Hold the Lion’s Paw and they are coming your way. Their show, Imagination Exploration, tours NSW, Victoria and SA in 2024. Before they packed their gear to get on the road, they stopped to chat with Musica Viva Australia's Ashley Ho. 

What is Imagination Exploration about? 

Reuben: Imagination Exploration is about giving yourself permission to explore, to let your mind run wild and see what happens, musically. It's about giving kids strategies to work with as well as just making stuff up. It's also about creating trust, and a way for kids to trust themselves, to trust the ideas that are quite clear in their minds, knowing that if they let it out something cool might happen. Which I think is an important skill! 

What excites you about bringing this show into schools? 

Emily: I'm really looking forward to meeting a lot of students and teachers around Australia, bringing our music to those places and learning from the energy and the ideas that will be encouraged in the show... 

Reuben: ...and I'm excited that we're learning as much as the students in the room when we're making this music. There's something about this process that is quite different to what we normally do as a band and that excites us and makes us make better music. I think that's infectious as an audience member. 

What are your memories of music education? 

Reuben: I wouldn't be where I am, not just as a musician but as a person, without music education. It allowed me to find myself, not in a corny way, but in a really serious way. Music allows you to, to open up your mind and different parts of your personality and your own confidence. I'm a firm believer that music allows you to do anything. 

Emily: I remember Musica Viva coming to our school. I remember being in the primary school hall, and it being really exciting and really fun. I remember the energy! 

Reuben: It's a great way to make a community.  

Ronny: Yeah, it's like a friendly sport. 

What's your music like? 

Adam: It's improv, with the language of jazz in mind, but more holistic.  

Reuben: We all love jazz and we all love improvising. But we also love other music. We love different forms of classical music, folk music, rock music, groove, noise music. And we bring all that together because improvising is being able to take what you're interested in and communicate with it. 

So where do you start? 

Emily: You listen. Then you feel, and you respond with whatever you have. That might be an instrument that might be your body, that might be your voice. I sing, and I play the synthesizer also, which allows me to make infinite sounds and craft them for the songs that we are playing. It's a cycle of listening and responding or perceiving and responding. 

Reuben: In this band we know that no matter what sounds we make, we're supported and whatever comes out of that will be interesting. 

And where do you stop? 

Emily: (laughing) Sometimes, I just want to finish so I'll just stop! But then I might have to wait If someone's still going.   

Ronny: There's a phrase we use which is ‘burning the toast’. You don't want to burn the toast. You feel when the toast is ready, and you stop and then it sounds better. 

Emily: (Laughing) Yeah, let's stop now. Stop! 

"I wouldn't be where I am, not just as a musician but as a person, without music education"