Texas Tech University

TTU Student Laura Flanagan

Department of Interdisciplinary Arts
Student Success
Laura Flanagan

Student Spotlight Laura Flanagan

Hi! My name is Laura Flanagan, and I am a PhD student in the Talkington College of Visual and Performing Arts. I am pursuing an Interdisciplinary Arts PhD with dual concentrations in Musicology and Anthropology.

I'm currently in Camperdown, Victoria, Australia, using a combination of archival and oral history methodologies to create a picture of the music scene in South West Victoria during the latter half of the 20th century. My research does not investigate a particular genre or type of music. Rather, through the collection of oral histories, archival techniques, and collaborative ethnography it documents the complex, often entangled, musical communities in one regional area of Australia.

Camperdown is a small agricultural town (population 3354, located about 120 miles south west of Melbourne) whose economy centers on the local dairy industry and has a continuing tradition of music making in the area. This includes music making in both popular and vernacular styles, instrument makers, music festivals, and community music ensembles. In fact, I was originally drawn to the area because I wanted to learn more about one of those ensembles. Tuniversal Music Group is a community music group based in Camperdown and meeting weekly which welcomes all ages, instruments, and musical ability levels. The ensemble performs at a number of community events, but as an organization also works to support live music locally by sponsoring local festivals and concerts.

Sunset at CamperdownSunset from the Mt Leura Lookout. Camperdown, Victoria, Australia. Photo by Laura Flanagan

It is this organization which invited me to Australia in December 2023, and it was my honor to attend several of their meetings and teach a collection of Irish tunes to the members. I will be performing as part of their ensemble at the upcoming Robert Burns Birthday Celebration held in Camperdown's public Botanical Gardens.

These first couple months have been busy for me. In addition to playing with Tuniversal and getting to know the local community, I have also been conducting research in the archives of the local heritage centre. Additionally, I have been working to make sure all ethics approvals are in place for collecting oral histories – a process I hope to begin soon.

The local heritage centre here is wonderful. The Camperdown and District Historical Society (CDHS) is an entirely volunteer run operation with an archive that is impressive both in scope and organization. Recently they received a donation of highland bagpipes and assorted materials from a community member with connections to the Cobden Pipe Band. With the permission of the CDHS, I facilitated the visit of community member Merran Moir whose family has been involved in local pipe bands for four generations, and who is herself an expert piper. Merran's expert knowledge allowed us together to catalogue the Cobden Pipe Band collection. It was a wonderful experience, and allowed me the opportunity to learn about local highland pipe bands. Thank you to Merran, the CDHS, and Maree Belyea for the opportunity and for allowing me to share this photo.

Laura Flanagan in CamperdonLaura Flanagan and Merran Moir cataloguing part of a highland pipe collection at the Camperdown Heritage Centre. 23 January 2024, Camperdown, Victoria, Australia. Photo by Maree Belyea and shared with permission.

Camperdown is located on a volcanic plain. The Mount Leura and Mount Sugarloaf Reserves on the east side of town are part of a 20,000 year old volcanic complex and offer an incredible selection of walking trails in and around the volcanic scoria cones. One of my favorite things to do while I'm here has been to get up early and walk to the top of Mount Leura which offers an incredible panoramic view of the surrounding countryside. It's also a wonderful area to see and hear native wildlife, including swamp wallabies, kookaburra, and Australian magpies. It is such a gift to be here and I feel so privileged to have this opportunity to record the musical culture and history of this community. Thank you to Dr. Angela Mariani (Music) and Dr. Michael Jordan (Anthropology) for their continued mentorship and thank you especially to Texas Tech University and the Talkington College of Visual and Performing Arts for supporting my research and making this opportunity possible.

Town of CamperdonPhoto by Laura Flanagan

Department of Interdisciplinary Arts

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    School of Theatre & Dance Building | Box 45060 | 2812 18th Street STE 222 | Lubbock TX 79409
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