I met Jess just over 4 years ago and she amazed me when she told me she was a professional photographer, graphics designer, and website designer running her own business (http://www.jessicairwin.com.au/). Jess’ enthusiasm for how technology can enable to live her dreams, express her creativity, and constantly push her own limits has been an inspiration to me ever since I met her, but even further to that is her incredible mindset. Even when new challenges are really difficult or even scary for her, she works hard and finds a way through to reach new goals and new heights. Over the time I’ve known Jess we’ve gone on photography adventures, tested new tech together, played virtual reality in the middle of a park, and attended some great concerts, including her fave musician Steve Balbi. I could always see that Jess wanted to be on stage, expressing her own creativity and love for music, but we hadn’t found a musical instrument that would be appropriate. So I told her that we’d get there one day.
That day came in July 2016 after about a year of planning. We had a few knock backs in 2015 to create a new instrument and witness Jess perform music through her eyes using a new device we would develop, alongside the Australia Piano Quartet (APQ), consisting of Rebecca Chan, James Wannan, Thomas Rann, and Daniel de Borah. But this year we pitched to the Opera House directly as part of the APQ’s Sense and Sensibilities Australian tour for the year and they loved the idea so immediately got it on the program. With the amazing support of Telstra Foundation and University of Technology, Sydney (UTS), we got stuck into this project. It took us a matter of weeks to develop the new music device, with myself and my Psykinetic team working closely with the APQ and Jess to create this eye-controlled device, allowing Jess to look around the screen, select different instruments and play individual notes by looking at the note once the instrument was selected and playing the note by blinking. Rebecca Chan of the APQ composed the piece they played together called Whispering Pectoriloquy.
It was a beautiful, original composition. It built up and took the audience through many different feelings and emotions, and when it really opened up Nick and I were jumping around behind the crowd. Jess absolutely nailed it and truly integrated with the brilliance of the APQ as they bounced off each other and seemingly danced their way through this mesmerizing performance. All the hard work from everyone ended in a standing ovation and 5 star reviews in the paper the next day (we didn’t even realise there were classical music critics in the audience)… Jess showed us all what it means to dedicate yourself towards your big dreams, and this is only the start for our wonderful Jess Irwin, a true Rockstar Champion!
I’m sure we’ll be hearing more from her soon, perhaps even towards the genres of rock. If you were to learn to play music what sort of instruments and styles would you choose?