A Coomandook Area School teacher has returned from the Tamworth Country Music Festival, where she competed in the Toyota Star Maker competition, which launched the careers of Keith Urban, Lee Kernaghan and Beccy Cole.
Tanya Cornish stepped in front of the microphone and thousands of fans at Tamworth on Sunday, January 21.
At the Star Maker grand final, contestants had to sing two songs, after earlier facing questions from a panel of judges, which included country stars Brooke McClymont and Adam Eckersley.
“As soon as I stepped on stage, all my nerves went away completely, just because it’s where I belong,” Ms Cornish said.
Her first song was called I’m Coming Home, then in the second half of the grand final she sang one called Paper Hurricane.
Ms Cornish said she wrote the first song at a songwriting retreat last year, near Tamworth at the DAG Sheep Station, with friend Jason Kearney.
“We wrote it about coming home,” she said.
“Being a musician, you’re always on the road and there’s nothing like coming back home.”
On weekends, she does just that, spending her time on the road to play gigs in the city.
“I have an agent who books me my gigs in Adelaide, so during the week I’m a school teacher, and every weekend I do the hour and a half drive to Adelaide, I do one or two gigs and then drive back for the school week,” she said.
“It’s exhausting at times, but I wouldn’t have it any other way – well I would if I could do music – but I think it’s good to have that balance for now and be able to do my music as well, because I wouldn’t give that up.”
She grew up in Tintinara on her family’s beef cattle property, where her parents still live.
“I went to Adelaide for my last three years of school and university and then I came back because I got a teaching job, so it’s nice to be back home and close to the farm,” she said.
“I’m definitely a country girl at heart.”
The 24-year-old started playing gigs professionally when she was 18, and it has brought her some success.
In 2015 she travelled to Norfolk Island, where she won the Trans-Tasman Entertainer of the Year, then in 2016, she was a graduate of the 2016 CMAA Academy of Country Music and later released her debut EP, before making the Star Maker grand final.
And the year 3-4 teacher has been keen to bring music into school.
“I sing in the classroom sometimes and bring in my guitar and now some of them want to learn guitar, so I’m hoping I can run some guitar lessons this year, and I would love for them to follow in my footsteps, or at least play some music,” Ms Cornish said.
While the school children were on holidays when the Tamworth Country Music Festival was on, she said plenty of the parents like her professional Facebook page, which promotes her music, and she received a lot of support.
“The children sent through messages from their parents’ Facebook pages, saying ‘good luck Miss Cornish’ and ‘you’re still a star at school’, it’s really sweet,” she said.