Siobhan McGinnity: The artist & scientist saving kids' hearing in Cambodia

Siobhan McGinnity is a singer/songwriter from Melbourne who goes by the name Magnets. She is a research scientist, and an audiologist who founded a charity called Musicians 4 Hearing which raises funds through music events for All Ears Cambodia, a charity that helps kids with hearing problems in Cambodia. Siobhan was nominated for an anti-poverty award for her efforts, despite the charity just being a year old. She has been the keyboard player for rock band Sons of Rico, but is also a clinically-trained audiologist working on a PhD researching the effects of noise-induced hearing loss. With a debut solo single coming out next week, Music Love was keen to know more about the delightful, funny, intelligent and generous Siobhan McGinnity. 

 

What does music mean to you?

Everything. I've obsessively made everything in my life about sound; sharing it, creating it and being a part of it. I just love it

Explain the name “Magnets.”

I chose the name because it reflects a side of me that not many people know about. I'm a research scientist and from a young age always loved inventing/being inquisitive. I tried to design a perpetual motion machine using magnets as a kid, but my science teacher quickly shut that down when he told me magnets lose their charge. I guess now, I kind of connect with that. I work at a million miles an hour, maybe one day I'll burn out, but right now I'm happy at this speed.

Image via thehearingreview.com

Image via thehearingreview.com

When and why did you start studying audiology?

I love how I found audiology. It was by complete accident. I was staying at a hospital with my partner at the time who was unwell and whilst roaming the corridors in a bored off moment I stumbled across this sign, 'Audiology', and thought, sound and body? Could be for me! The audiologist I met let me sit in on her appointments for the day, and after seeing her turn on a childs' hearing aids for the first time and the way he smiled at his mum hearing her - I was done. RIP me and all other ambitions. Audiology for me is the perfect combination of three loves, music, science and helping people, all neatly rolled into one.

 

 

Can you tell us all something about audiology that we probably don’t know and need to?

So many things! But I think the most important for me is to make sure people know to care and rest their ears. If you ever go out to a gig and hear ringing afterwards, or your hearing feels dull, you've exhausted your ears. They're just like any other part of your body; if over-used, they get tired and that can really affect you in the future. Give them a rest for the next day (i.e. don't blast the headphones) and let them recover. Use these signs as a warning to maybe find earplugs next time, or step outside for a quick break.

Tells us more about Musicians 4 Hearing.

M4H is my lil baby.  We're only one year old, but have so many plans for the future. We're a non-for-profit using music events and programs here in Australia to help bridge the gap in access to hearing care overseas. In Australia there is one audiologist per 20,000 people, but in some places globally, that number is closer to one per five million. Our music gigs promote hearing awareness, are Auslan interpreted to include the Deaf community, and every ticket sale goes towards bridging that gap and restoring sound in someones ears who might never otherwise have had that opportunity.

Where, when and how did you discover your voice?

New Zealand. I'd always thought I was just a keyboardist until I lived in small town in New Zealand where there wasn't much else to do, so I turned to music. I started to muck around trying to write songs and jamming with the locals, which was incredible. My favourite memory of that time was getting the local farmer to deliver me and my piano on the back of his tractor to the local cafe so I could perform my first solo show. That was a deep Vanessa Carlton era.

Who are your favourite Australian women in music? 

So many! My favourite female vocalists in Australia are locals from Melbourne, Ainslie Wills and Jess Ribiero. They've both hugely inspired me at one point or another. Their song-writing is incredible, the use of harmonies, darkness and drive. Couldn't recommend more. 

 

Where did you grow up?

Ha. There is no short answer to that. I have lived in over 30 houses, with most of my extended family at some point, nine schools and several countries. In short, all over the place. The places that I most loved growing up in would be Christmas Island and Karratha. Whilst one is a tropical island, and the other a dessert town two days drive from a city, the beauty of nature in both was just astonishing and I was lucky to grow up surrounded by it.

What does Australia mean to you?

Home. However, I'm pretty down on a lot of our politics at the moment. The fact that we still have legalised marriage equality, and our history of treating asylum seekers are massively sore spots. I hope we can become a more compassionate nation in the future. 

What is your favourite place in Australia?

Oof. How to choose? If I had to, Dolly Beach, a little known, secluded portion of Christmas Island that you can only get to by trekking and is surrounded by cliffs and palm trees. Bliss.

What is your favourite Australian bar/café/restaurant?

Halp. I live in Melbourne. Melbourne is my favourite cafe. SOS my bank account. 

My favourite memory of that time was getting the local farmer to deliver me and my piano on the back of his tractor to the
local cafe so I could perform my first solo show. That was a deep Vanessa Carlton era.
— Siobahn McGinnity, keyboardist/singer/songwriter/audiologist

Who is your favourite Australian?

Fiona Stanley. How that woman achieved all she did whilst raising a family is beyond me. Queen. 

How did you get to this point in music, gearing up to release your new single?

I feel like I've had a ridiculously eclectic musical past. I started out as a classical pianist competing at eisteddfods, before somehow transitioning into the realm of live improvised musical comedy. Next came progressive rock, country, singing in an a capella Shania Twain cover choir (Shania Choir) and now this. I'm so confused.

What next?

Musically this is a big month for me. I get to release my first single on 8 November (plug plug) and perform my first solo show as Magnets - exciting!

Siobahn, henceforth musically known as Magnets releases her debut single Fight on 8 November. More info at www.musicbymagnets.com