School of Music Visiting Artist Series
Teaching the Wintersession course, “Voices in the Wilderness Improvising to exist in the world”
This course is set as a 24 hour camping experience in the Los Angeles National Forest. Arriving at 11 a.m. the participants will be exposed to basic techniques to sustain life in a natural environment, such as making a shelter for the night and building a fire, this as means to connect with the basic concepts and experiences of Survival Skills which emphasize the use of the senses, awareness of the environment, and the act of being present. The day will evolve into a series of guided and free improvisations for the voice among the participants. This course is facilitated by guest artist and survival expert, Manu Toigo in collaboration with jazz improviser, Meltem Ege, and experimental vocalist, Carmina Escobar. Manu’s interest in survival began the day she was born in far North Queensland, Australia. Her life growing up on a farm forced many encounters with dangerous wildlife, including several of the world’s top ten deadliest snakes, wild dingoes, poisonous spiders, kangaroos, wild boars, and saltwater crocodiles. This was true backcountry living from having chickens for food and growing fruits and vegetables. Life was very basic living conditions and excluded from worldly knowledge. From an early age, Manu had to adapt and improvise to the tough environment thrown at her. Manu was exposed not only to the dangers of farming activity, but also a climate of extreme heat and humidity and the seasonal Cyclones. She learned at an early age to rely on instincts and common sense. It was a hard, tough life and one you learned quickly from your mistakes. Many experiences taught her to rely upon her instincts and situational awareness. This has been a crucial asset when setting foot into the Wilderness and unknown territories.
Toigo first Survival show, I, Caveman on Discovery Curiosity was the catapult into her extreme adventures doing Survival Reality TV shows. The concept of modern people taken into the Colorado Wilderness Mountains to live as Cavemen having to make primitive tools and hunting and gathering, other works include Discovery’s ‘Naked And Afraid’, extreme adventure to follow the Wildebeest’s migration on foot crossing the Serengeti in Tanzania, Africa, among others.
At age 17, Manu first joined the 31 RQR (Infantry Reserve Unit) Army and served as full time Reservist for the first year of her 8 years in the military. During her last several years in the military, she was posted to Operation Deployment Forces as Transport Support, in which she spent months in the year doing field training exercises. The military helped her adapt her natural instincts into a more educated form of survival. Life is full of challenges and we may face many adversities. The determination to fight through difficult times will ultimately make us stronger with each experience, good and bad.