Nat Bach

Merlyn Myer Music Commission 2023

Interview with Nat Bartsch winner of the Merlyn Myer Music Commission 2021.

With applications for the 2023 Merlyn Myer Music Commission closing in a week, we thought we’d chat with 2021 commission winner Nat Bartsch.

Pianist and composer Nat Bartsch occupies the space between classical and jazz with warmth and tenderness. She has a unique approach to the piano, composing and improvising lyrical melodies, and placing them in music that blends neoclassical ostinatos with rich jazz harmony.

Where do you find inspiration?

I love to respond to personal experiences and feelings in my life, in a way that creates a space for others to acknowledge and reflect upon their own experiences and feelings. Because so much is shared between us. In my 2021 Merlyn Myer Commission, I composed a suite responding to several portraits by Julia Margaret Cameron. These photographs are from the Victorian era, but in each movement I found myself writing about contemporary issues in response such as post-colonialism, feminism, Afghanistan, and the pandemic.

I also increasingly value and appreciate nature – I grew up in the Dandenongs, and Yarra Valley, and have just moved to Eltham North. Flora, fauna, open space, quiet… these things are my lifeblood. Being under a tree canopy is my happy place, as you can see on of my album covers!

Who are your biggest artistic influences?

I love drawing inspiration from a wide range of musical artists. From local jazz composers (and former teachers) like Andrea Keller and Paul Grabowsky; to the indie and post-rock music of my upbringing – Something for Kate, Sigur Ros, Elbow; impressionists like Debussy, and neoclassical artists like Luke Howard, Hania Rani, Nils Frahm. Ultimately I hope I just sound like me :)

Your favourite medium? Why?

Music is number one, of course! I also love photography (hence the Merlyn Myer Commission approach I chose). Photojournalism, in particular, helps me understand a greater range of human experiences.

Has winning the commission changed your career?

Absolutely. I have a very diverse career with projects that move between jazz, neoclassical and classical music scenes. The wonderful thing about The Glasshouse is that I got to bring those worlds together. I had the chance to learn from, and improve, my chamber music writing with Inventi Ensemble, which was a dream come true. I also got to bring my jazz piano background, and ambient electronics, to the work. It really helps clarify the type of genre-defying artist I’d like to be.

Advice to emerging composers.

Learning the craft of composing is important (be it in the jazz or classical realm), but don’t be afraid to just write from the gut. Set a timer for 30 mins and see what flows out of you. Try not to judge the quality of your initial ideas. Anything can become something better with editing and refinement.

Tell your own story, and try not to worry if it’s outside a particular ’scene’ or is even a complete departure from where you started your studies/career. Take care of your physical and mental health, and relatedly, create the space in your life for non-musical pursuits (so when you return to composing, you have a fresher perspective).

Key Dates

Applications open: 30 September 2022
Applications close: 30 November 2022 11:59 (AEST)
Candidates notified of application outcome: February 2023
Premiere performance in the Primrose Potter Salon: November 2023 (Date TBC)

Expressions of Interest Information

Applicants are asked to submit their biography (max 200 words), a statement about the proposed project (max 200 words), an idea of artists they would like to work with and confirmation that the artists would be open to committing to the project, links to recent music/video files, contact details, and an optional one-page PDF providing further information about the project.

Appications are now closed.

Please direct any questions to Renee Dawes, Programming Coordinator, at

The Merlyn Myer Music Commission is generously supported by The Aranday Foundation and The Yulgilbar Foundation.