Fostering talent with mentorships


At just 25, a one-time Byron Steiner student has established herself as one of Melbourne’s brightest new voices in modern folk.

It all started for Domini ten years ago when she was just 15. Her music teacher Tom Whitaker saw something in her songwriting that he believed in.

‘I got into the Triple J Unearthed high school competition as a finalist,’ says Domini. ‘Tom managed to talk Glenn Wright at the festival into giving me a slot on the opening night at the gala. Tom later told me that I inspired him to get the Youth Mentorship program together; he said that I planted the seed!’

And from little things, as Paul Kelly tells us, big things do grow – such as  dreams, careers, lives.

Had it not been for that mentorship from her teacher, the encouragement to get out there, perhaps a young musician such as Domini wouldn’t have found the courage to pursue a creative career.

‘Mentors have been massive for me,’ she says. ‘Tom believed in me so much and was so encouraging. He created so many opportunities for me. He even played as my drummer for a while so I could get gigs. Having someone who believed in my music so much was amazing!’ says Forster, who says that it was a turning point for her when her music left the bedroom and hit the stage.

‘I realised my music could connect with other people. For me it was cathartic. It felt personal. It was a big leap that people want to hear my music. Of course my mum loves it, but I realised people I didn’t even know were connecting to my music, and for me that was a big deal and it was the first time I considered that my making music might be of value to other people – it might have meaning to them.’

Forster laughs about her early songwriting. ‘I got taught guitar by a high-school boyfriend. l wrote my first break-up song about him. On the guitar!’

Another of her important mentors was Lior, whom she played with at last year’s Mullum Music Festival opening night.

‘I was studying when I met Lior. One of my teachers was a friend of his and I performed in a competition and he saw me, and he asked me to do the support for his shows. In the four years since then we have done more than 60 shows together, all over the country. I have sung at the Enmore, Sydney Opera House… all these opportunities were massive for me and spending time on the road and learning the tricks of the trade has been so fantastic. Lior took me under his wing. I said to him once after a show at the Opera House, where I had to sing a duet, that I felt honoured. I went to a schmoozing thing afterwards. I did the embarrassing over-share, of saying Thank You after two champagnes. And he said, well I really like you but it’s not why I give you these opportunities; I love what you do and the way audiences react to what you do and the space you create. As a sensitive, creative person sometimes plagued by self-doubt, having those mentors who can show you the way has been invaluable.’

For a young woman with so much talent, it is surprising to learn that Forster does experience self-doubt.

‘I think a lot of creative people do,’ she says. ‘It is part of the flawed elements of humans and our psychology and our doubt that are often the content of my songs. It’s where my inspiration comes from but it can be a huge part of the difficulty of a creative career. Contrarily part of me wants to disown the self-doubt but in a way it’s part of the drive, and if it weren’t there I wouldn’t have done it!’

Her new album Raven, recorded with producer Nick Huggins in March this year, traverses the dark side. ‘It’s a reference to the darker parts of me and the parts I want to disown. It’s about growing up and having to come to terms with my dark side,’ says Forster.

Dominik Forster returns to Mullum Music Festival this year as a performer in her own right and as a mentor for the under-15s. She will also be joining Cecilia Brandolini in a show that features past mentorship winners.

‘It’s full circle,’ she smiles. ‘I haven’t played my music at Mullum Music Festival since the first year.’

Ten years on, Domini Forster is no longer a talented teenager; she is a woman, living life and making music her way.

Mullum Music Festival’s Youth Mentorship applications are now open. Alongside Domini Forster as the under-15s’ mentor, band mentors are Husky, singer/songwriter is Aine Tyrrell, and vocal mentor is Kodi Twiner (Lady Slug). Open to artists younger than 21.
16–19 November, 2017.  Go to the website for more details.

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