A Life With Music | Update 1

On May 13th 2013 I posted that — as I build my new life in Australia — I intend to make my living from music: whether I am teaching it, performing it, or writing about it.

I am now Blue Card registered and therefore cleared to work with children. I advertised in Gumtree, and approached a few music schools. One was recommended to me by Anna Lu who runs Music Bumblebees. Anna has been such a source of inspiration and encouragement; she has been so generous with her information and I owe her so much for my inroads to date. How did I meet her? Because Yap Keng Vui went to school with her husband Heng in Sabah!

I’m working with a music school in Sunnybank Hills. I work there several full days a week and I’m LOVING IT! Teaching little kids, playing games, being animated, being careful to impart information clearly and consistently – it’s fantastic! I even got to wind up a teenager about putting more passion into his music, just a little wind up (wink). I’m given a wide range of students and the school arranges all the schedules for me.

I am particularly moved when teaching the younger kids. It reminds me when my own son Miles was young, he was like a sponge, absorbing everything I shared with him. I also remembered when he was a little older, and I taught him how to make a cup of tea. At the time, I told him to lift the teabag out of the cup, and just drop it in the sink nearby (where I would move it to the bin later). I watched him lift the teabag out of the cup and very deliberately lower it into the sink. I thought:

Ah, my mistake. He believes the sink is the correct place for it to be.

Sloppy teaching needs to be un-done!

Elsewhere, I have two students whom I teach at their homes, through Gumtree. I find myself thinking about how to introduce some notation in an interesting way to the younger one, who has a great ear. I don’t want to kill a budding musician with mundane delivery!

For gigs, I started telephone cold-calling: high-end hotels, community and sports clubs, restaurants, bars and pubs.

Hi, I’m a jazz pianist and singer, and I’m new to Brisbane! Could I speak with someone who deals with your entertainment?

It was bizarre, and also the most pleasant cold-calling I’ve ever done! I called marriage celebrants and wedding planners. I physically called-in cold on restaurants along Little Stanley Street in South Bank, walking from restaurant to restaurant and asking if they had any interest in live piano music?

Anna had sent me the link for DM Restaurant, a jazz bar in Brisbane’s South Bank. I went there and sought out the manager, Manny. After a chat, he said:

Come by tonight and meet my saxophonist John.

I brought my trusty melodica and ended up jamming on Manhã de Carnaval with John and guitarist Jaider, during their Brazilian set. John plays with no limits to his technical ability; he is free, or frenetic, or tender. No limits. Jader had lost his voice a few days earlier, he sang gently and infrequently in Portuguese. Over the course of the night, different friends stopped by, picked up the band’s shakers, cowbells, whistles and things I have no idea how to name, and added to the percussion. It was a friendly night, with dancing and a lot of chatting.

Turns out John Stefulj teaches at the Queensland Conservatorium (affectionately known as The Con) at Griffith University. He’s a guy who says funny things while being totally deadpan. There is a magic about musical people. John emailed me contacts for the head of jazz at The Con, and for Canadian pianist Louise Denson who is ex-head of jazz, and has just finished her doctorate about being a woman in jazz.

I met Louise a few days later. She and John used to be in a Brazilian band called Hot Mambo. Louise is still the pianist. We drank our “flat whites” (Australian for coffee with milk) talking about music; her teaching at a university; my writing possibilities; her finishing a doctorate and the sheer luxury of having time to sit and wax lyrical about anything. A cellist practised nearby, seated on the wide, winding staircase leading up to music studios. He provided the melodic backdrop to our conversation, which took place on a bright and perfectly cool day, in the courtyard of a music conservatory.

I am very happy today. Thank you for being part of my musical adventure.

View from the Science Museum bridge, South Bank

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7 Comments

    1. Joanna

      Chris, I am following your lead…you and Roger and Yap and Tonedeaf and everyone I wrote about… you all work in music! Haha – know what? I just realised – I’ve been SabahSonged!!!

  1. feminineocean

    Congratulations in manifesting your dream! You are so fortunate to be living such a wonderful life. Thanks so much for sharing it and I look forward to receiving new videos of your performances and your students.

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