What's happening in Queensland?

Upbeat Arts in Queensland has been facilitated with the support of the Queensland Government through the Department of Health (MHAODB). Upbeat Arts is proud to be supported by Dr Christian Rowan MP, past president, AMA Queensland and Member for Moggill and Joan Pease MP, Member for Lytton. Both Dr Rowan and Ms Pease are Patrons of Upbeat Arts, Queensland. We acknowledge our outgoing Patron Ms Leanne Linard, Member for Nudgee.

We launched in October 2014 with the Absolutely Everybody Choral program and three additional arts programs commenced throughout 2015. We operate on a school term basis, providing ten weekly sessions of each program per term. In partnership with Queensland Health, the programs are delivered at no cost - however applicants will need a referral from Queensland Health, a non-government mental health service, or be receiving support from another mental health, disability or drugs and alcohol support service. Members may also be referred by their medical professional or GP. Refer to our application form for details.

Please click on the 'buttons' above or links below to learn more about our programs:

  • Brisbane programs are face to face whenever possible. Due to the ongoing Covid-19 Pandemic, they may revert to online sessions if deemed necessary. Registered clients are notified of delivery methods.
  • Online program for Queenslanders - this is an online creative writing group.

Our Queensland Operations Manager, Susan Gilmartin and the team have a deep commitment to empower disadvantaged Australians through participation in arts education and performance programs. They work tirelessly to engage the mainstream professional art, education and choral sectors to fulfil this vision and build a more engaging response.

We are happy to introduce Susan and our Queensland team of professional program leaders to you, as well as our current programs. 



Susan Gilmartin

Operations Manager

Susan has a wealth of experience in project, event, travel and volunteer management. Alongside her professional knowledge, is a lifetime passion for and involvement in the arts through singing and performance. This combination of skills lends itself perfectly to the role of Operations Manager of Upbeat Arts Queensland.

Her work entails managing the day to day operations of the business to deliver five arts-based classes each week. She coordinates the venues, program leaders, members and volunteers and loves the collaboration between all involved to ensure the success of the Queensland programs.

The opportunity to produce concerts and events for Upbeat Arts is a welcome challenge and creates wonderful performance experiences for those involved. Major concerts have been held at Brisbane's Concert Hall at the Queensland Performing Arts Centre (QPAC), The Edge Auditorium at the State Library of Queensland and the Events Centre in Caloundra. Susan also coordinated the 2016 Brisbane International Singers Festival, a two day festival for over 200 singers with an interntional guest conductor. Special projects like taking the Brisbane choir to Melbourne to perform in 2017 are all part of a day's work.

Before working in this role, a career highlight for Susan was working at World Expo 88, where she played a pivotal role in the planning and development of events at the Piazza. World Expo 88 was an iconic Australian event and in today's industry terms was a 'mega-event each day for 180 days'. The Piazza venue had 10 - 12 events each day of those 180 days!

Melissa Gill

Program Leader - Choir

Melissa Gill is a versatile singer, and passionate choral conductor with an undergraduate degree in Jazz and Popular Voice from Queensland University of Technology and a classical singing certification from Trinity College, London.

Melissa's career includes performances as a featured soloist in music festivals (Brisbane Biennial, Brisbane Jazz and Blues), in music theatre (Into the Woods Moonlight Theatre, Stepmother / Baker's Wife cover, Pirates of Penzance Deseret Theatre, Edith), and in concert (Gospel at the Symphony, Queensland Symphony Orchestra). Melissa has sung everything from Jazz with Australian icon James Morrison, to gospel with American conductors Isaiah Jackson and the Reverend Alvin Paris III, and the soprano solo in the Australian premiere of British composer Havergal Brian's 'Symphony No. 1 in D Minor, The Gothic' under the baton of John Curro AM MBE. Melissa has also lent her voice to the Queensland Ballet's 'King Arthur and the tales of Camelot' and the soundtracks for award winning Australian playwright Sven Swenson's works 'A Night in the She-Devil's Salon' and 'The Siren's Kiss'.

In recent years Melissa has become a passionate advocate for community choral singing. Melissa is the Program Leader for the Absolutely Everybody Choir for Upbeat Arts in Brisbane, she is the founding musical director of Brisbane based community choir, Musica.

Jaqui Cuny

Program Leader - Music Theatre

Jacqui fell in love with the theatre at the age of five and has been performing, directing, musically directing and teaching aspects of theatre for the last 38 years.

A graduate of the Queensland Conservatorium in vocal performance and teaching and the University of Queensland in music and drama, she began her professional acting career with the Queensland Theatre Company in 1981 with roles in Annie and Somerset Maugham's The Circle. Her career continued in Sydney with roles in Candide (1981) and the national tours of The Sound of Music (1983) and The Pirates of Penzance (1984), working with Philip Quast, Julie Anthony and Marina Prior before heading to her native England.

There she spent five years treading the boards in Manchester, Birmingham and the West End in Pirates of Penzance, Jeanne and Starlight Express. She wrote, recorded and toured with her first jazz-rock album Another Statistic in 1988 before returning to Sydney, where she was cast in the original productions of Buddy - the Buddy Holly Story, Return to the Forbidden Planet and Better Known as Bee. Over the last 23 years she has continued performing and musically directing, involved in numerous community theatre shows including Oliver, Into the Woods, Miss Saigon, Thoroughly Modern Millie, Annie and How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying.

Her film credits include How to Change in Nine Weeks in 2008, and Charge Over You, 2010, both shot in Brisbane.

In all that time, Jacqui has also poured her energies into teaching singing and training young people, within schools, colleges and conferences, both here and abroad. In London she taught for several years at the prestigious Arts Educational School and at the London Studio Centre - training actors and dancers for roles in the West End. Back in Australia she directed for five years for Hillsong College in Sydney before taking up positions at several private schools and colleges in Brisbane, including the Australian Dance Performance Institute, training young people for further tertiary study in Musical Theatre and preparing them vocally for a career in the commercial industry. She is passionate about the power of the voice as a tool for effective communication and brings her love and understanding of acting and authentic storytelling to her teaching of musical theatre and song.

Lucy Nelson

Program Leader - Online Creative Writing (currently on leave)

Lucy Nelson, is the Artistic Director of the Queensland Poetry Festival, previously co-founder and Artistic Director of Noted Writers Festival in Canberra. Lucy has written non-fiction for the Sydney Morning Herald and the Big Issue and her fiction has been awarded residencies and shortlisted for prizes in Australia and overseas. She has performed at arts festivals and events around the country including the Melbourne Fringe, You Are Here Festival, Falls Music Festival and was a 2017 finalist in the Moth Story Slam.

She believes wholeheartedly that literature and the arts are vital to our health and wellbeing. 

Claire Christian

Program Leader - Brisbane and online Creative Writing

Claire Christian is a storyteller; a writer, theatre maker and facilitator. She has four plays published by Playlab, including Lysa and The Freeborn Dames which debuted at La Boite in 2018. She has had the great joy of directing Michelle Law's smash hit comedy Single Asian Female since 2017. Her debut novel Beautiful Mess won the Text Prize in 2016 and was released in 2017. Her second novel It's Been a Pleasure, Noni Blake, a contemporary adult fiction romance, was released in 2020 through Text Publishing. 

Richard Thayil

Accompanist - Choir and Music Theatre

Richard Thayil, Melbourne born, Brisbane freelance multi-instrumentalist, composer/arranger, music educator and accompanist.

Richard studied the Piano, Saxophone and Trombone in his schooling years in Melbourne. He has been accompanying since 1993 and began working professionally as a performing musician, composer/arranger and music educator in 1997.  Richard moved to Brisbane in 1999, completed a Bachelor of Music in composition at QUT.  He teaches multi instrumental music in primary and high schools and currently lectures in aural studies and arranging at QUT.  Richard is often called upon as a brass and woodwind clinician.  As a conductor he has been MD for various musicals and shows - Les Misérables, Fiddler on the Roof and other local productions.  Richard enjoys regularly performing locally, nationally and internationally.  He loves to be in the studio recording music for various artists. Richard's eclectic skill set has afforded him the privilege of working with many and varied artists, such as James Morrison, Pete Murray and Gerry Connelly. He is the founder, director and arranger for his big band The Empty Chair Project.  Richard has a deep passion for musicians, especially his three beautiful children.

Richard is currently the accompanist for Upbeat Arts in Queensland with the Absolutely Brisbane Choir and the music theatre program Rhythm of Life.

Mandi Geary

Program Leader - Song School

Mandi Geary is an active Brisbane-based Contemporary and Jazz Vocalist and Songwriter who works with a various talented musicians on creative projects and performances of Jazz standards. 

Her experience includes performances of both originals and cover music in the London and Sydney pop culture scenes and tertiary studies in Music Theatre at the Central Queensland Conservatorium, Contemporary Music at JMC Academy and Jazz Music at the renowned Jazz Music Institute. Mandi has made a solo EP with well-known producer - Eric J (Art Vs Science, Chet Faker) and has been a session vocalist on numerous local and interstate acts' albums. 

Mandi was a dedicated backing vocalist with the established, Soul/Jazz band - Ladi Abundance Project - with whom she toured and regularly performed festivals and larger venues including the Hifi, The Bearded Lady, Woodford Folk Festival, Earth Frequency Festival and Manifest. Immersion in this talented group of Jazz musicians, ignited Mandi's passion for Jazz which soon became the forefront of her music career pulling her towards completion of tertiary studies - Bachelor of Music (Jazz Performance) from The Jazz Music Institute. Mandi's most recent notable performances include the QPAC Green Jam where she performed her own original arrangements and DooBop Jazz Bar where she performed alongside renown Jazz singer Belinda Monroe.  

Mandi is passionate about sharing the joy of music to others and regularly teaches Music, Voice and Songwriting to children and adults of all ages and musical ability. She is now furthering her scope as a Music Educator through the Upbeat Arts programs facilitating workshops in songwriting. 


Upbeat Arts in Queensland is governed in collaboration with representatives from the health,welfare, homeless, business, government, arts and corporate sectors.

We are indebted to Dr Christian Rowan MP and Joan Pease MP, the Chairs and Patrons of Upbeat Arts in Queensland together with the following organisations for their wonderful support and guidance:

  • Dr Christian Rowan MP
  • Joan Pease MP
  • Addiction Sciences
  • Mental Health Alcohol and Other Drugs Branch (MHAODB)
  • Footprints
  • Qld Alliance of Mental Health
  • Queensland Mental Health Commission
  • Queensland Network of Alcohol and other Drug Agencies (QNADA)
  • Recovered Futures Queensland
  • Homeless Health Outreach Team (HHOT)
  • Lives Lived Well
  • State Library of Queensland
  • Common Ground Queensland
  • University of Queensland
  • Volunteer Queensland

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