STAFF BIOGRAPHIES

Susan Gilmartin
Project Manager, Singer

Susan has a wealth of experience in project, event, travel and volunteer management.


Born in Bundaberg, Susan studied piano, dance and voice and was involved in the local theatre company before leaving Bundaberg. Alongside her professional knowledge, is this 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.

Before working for Upbeat Arts, 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 of course 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!

Today, 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.

Melissa Gill
Singer, Choral Conductor, Voice Teacher

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 has been the Director of our Absolutely Everybody Brisbane Choir since it launched in 2014 and whilst continuing in this role, she now leads the new North Brisbane Choir.

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. Alongside working with Upbeat Arts, Melissa has launched Sing Sing Sing, a choir for people living with dementia and she is also the founding musical director of Brisbane based community choir, Musica.

Richard Thayil

Musician, Teacher, Accompanist

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

Richard is our resident accompanist for both Brisbane choirs and has a long history with Upbeat Arts.

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.

Claire Christian

Storyteller, writer, theatre maker and facilitator

Claire Christian is a storyteller; a writer, theatre maker and facilitator.

Claire teaches our two creative writing programs - one is online only, and the other is face to face, although with an online option.

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.