With her first album recently released and her star very much on the rise, Melbourne jazz singer Sarah McKenzie says Perth's performing arts talent incubator has played an instrumental part in her success.
Born in Bendigo, raised in Melbourne and educated in Perth at the WA Academy of Performing Arts from 2007 to 2009, the singer, songwriter and piano player isn't remotely hesitant in giving her former school some props.
"WAAPA has absolutely had something to do with my success," says McKenzie. "It has a reputation for being one of the best in the country for the arts. The training I got there really prepared me for everything I have done.
"Graduating from there was a really big deal. I had to write a lot of music and worked really hard. It was a fantastic place to develop my craft and play with some really inspiring musicians."
After graduation McKenzie moved back to Melbourne, put a band together and now performs regularly. Recently, the self-managed 23-year-old also released her debut album Don't Tempt Me.
Produced by keyboard player and Dancing with the Stars musical director Chong Lim, the 10-track album features such classic songs as Bye Bye Blackbird, Summertime and You'd Be So Nice To Come Home To as well as three of McKenzie's own compositions.
"I started writing when I was 16 but started composing seriously when I was at WAAPA and it's something I am very passionate about. But for the album I wanted a combination of jazz standards and some of my own.
"I just love music and I just love jazz standards but I also love songs like Elvis' Love Me Tender and others by marvellous composers, so it would be a shame not to have some of that on my album too.
"I picked songs I really liked to try and showcase the best I could do and what the band can do. I would definitely call it a jazz album but it also has lots of other things on it."
The award-winning McKenzie says she has received many comments about the variety on the album and really hopes people will just get to the point of not classifying the music as jazz but simply as good music.
"There is a lot of really interesting things happening in jazz at the moment and I think it would be great if it was more accessible to people. Sometimes people think it's old-fashioned - and it can be - but there's just so much more to it."
Trumpeter James Morrison has been a strong supporter and mentor to the singer and also plays on one of the album's original tracks, Don't Tempt Me.
"Sarah is a musical marvel," says Morrison. "She sings with the kind of phrasing that only a true jazz singer can come up with while her groove of the piano is the stuff that makes people want to play jazz."
Sarah McKenzie plays at the Ellington Jazz Club tomorrow night. Don't Tempt Me is out now.