Southern Institute of Technology (SIT) Research Manager, Sally Bodkin-Allen is a Woman of Influence. The Southland born-and-bred educator has been named as an Arts & Culture finalist in New Zealand’s Women of Influence Awards for 2020. Dr Bodkin-Allen has a pedigree of engaging with the community in a wide variety of musical endeavours, including: research, singing outreach, composing and arranging, writing, publishing and performance.
“I am absolutely thrilled to be a finalist. It is lovely to have the work that I do in the community with outreach singing, the book I published earlier this year which showcases music making in Southland, the impact of the SIT Kids Concerts, and all the arranging and composing that I do for local groups, recognised”, she said.
Dr Bodkin-Allen was nominated by Associate Professor Susan West, who is an Australian-based academic and one of her research collaborators. A requirement of the nomination was to write three pieces about herself and her work: a description of the journey to becoming a Woman of Influence, an example of how she has faced and overcome adversity, and providing a personal bio.
Dr Bodkin-Allen says her journey to becoming a Woman of Influence began with her PhD research. Over a period of six years she juggled motherhood (she has five children) and fieldwork, with her studies centred on early childhood music in Aotearoa.
She discovered many early childhood teachers, mainly women, were terrified of singing. This led to further investigation into the issues people have around singing, and how prevalent it is. She said it fuelled a desire in her to help those individuals to develop more confidence when singing around others, and see them progress beyond mouthing the words to songs.
During the process, Dr Bodkin-Allen said she had to confront her own insecurities and feelings about singing. Addressing her own experiences and anxiety around singing has helped her to recognise the same kind of damage in others.
“Overcoming my own challenges with music has given me the understanding and awareness to help and empower others through music”.
Dr Bodkin-Allen inhabits a variety of roles with her passion for music and engaging community. A well-known profile she fills is as the instigator of SIT’s Kids Concerts, which are in their eighteenth year. They’re the perfect illustration of how she creates opportunities for involvement, with the annual concerts beginning when she identified a need, and ran with it.
She said she wanted to create a win-win situation by providing performance opportunities for first- year Bachelor of Contemporary Music students, as well as giving local children the chance to come and enjoy the atmosphere of a live show and see live performances by the students. The shows have become a most-looked-forward-to event in Invercargill schools and preschools every year.
Dr Bodkin-Allen says the one thing she is most proud of is her community outreach. It is the culmination of all her volunteer work in music, alongside the strong belief she has in community and the desire to engage more people in making music.
“I am especially proud of my involvement with the Volunteer Outreach group at Southland Girls’ High School (SGHS), a group of young women who spend their Tuesday lunchtimes singing and chatting with the elderly at local rest homes. Seeing this group in action illustrates just what singing can do, for wellbeing, self-confidence, and kindness”.
The panel of judges for Women of Influence 2020, includes Dame Sylvia Cartwright and Sir John Kirwan. Dr Bodkin-Allen said “Dame Sylvia Cartwright is a bit of a hero of mine, so it is quite amazing to think that she has read about my work and knows a little about me”.
She added seeing her name next to fellow finalist, Parris Goebel, was a bit of a thrill for her children too!
“I think the best thing is having music education and its importance recognised. The arts are so important to our wellbeing, and singing is a very important part of who we are as human beings”.
Dr Bodkin-Allen and her husband are looking forward to attending the Black tie event on Tuesday, November 17 at the Aotea Centre in Auckland, where the winners will be announced.