By UTE SCHULENBERG
NAMBUCCA Heads musician and mother of four, Jo Hilder, has been on a musical high for days.
The buzz of Sunday's performance with the massed community choirs at the Bellingen Global Carnival had hardly faded when a phone call on Tuesday from ABC Radio had her whirling again.
Mrs Hilder discovered she was one of only 10 musicians Australia-wide to be picked as a finalist in ABC Radio's 2005 'Fresh Air' competition.
"This is just wonderful," she said.
"Doing music has always been my dream. I have been pursuing it seriously now for the last two years and doors keep opening."
Mrs Hilder made the decision to follow her dream, when she was diagnosed with Non-Hodgkins Lymphona in 2003 and undergoing treatment for the aggressive cancer of the lymphatic system.
"That was my turning point ? it made me re-examine everything.
"I was thinking about what I would do if I only had 12 months to live and music was it."
Since then she has been writing songs and commuting to the Central Coast to record her CD with musician friend, Ian Sell.
The song in question, 'Rise Up', was written about a friend who 'could never quite seem to get his act together despite helping hand after helping hand'.
"It's a bluesy song, although a lot of my latest work has a gospel flavour.
"I write about reality and how things are and about my Christian faith, which has helped me through some very trying times."
Fresh Air is the ABC's annual search for unsigned regional musical talent.
Project co-ordinator, Allyson Moore, said the competition was now in its third year and interest was growing.
"We receive around 600 entries each year," Ms Moore said.
"The music is generally Adult Contemporary in style and the quality this year has been fantastic. "A winner will be selected in the next few weeks and they will then have the opportunity to perform at the Queenscliff Music Festival in Victoria in November."
She said exposure and networking with other artists were other important aspects of the prize.
"There will be bands like The Saints, Not Drowning Waving and the Black-eyed Susans at Queenscliff," she said.
"Last year's winner, Paul Green, has just put out an EP with Midnight Oil drummer, Rob Hirst."
Mrs Hilder's husband Ben Hilder, is right there supporting his wife.
"This has always been her passion ? it's fantastic," Mr Hilder said. "We've had some very stressful times, so it feels good to get to this point. It's a miracle . . . and miraculously, they do keep coming."