2015 year in review

This year, I started teaching at a independent day school on the Gold Coast (pre-prep to Year 12). It’s a positive and interesting development for me. But there will always be a special place in my heart for my very first private students.

This year some passed exams: Tooru (Grade 5), Natalie (Grade 4), Fletcher (Grade 1), Jess and Sasha played piano at their school’s Excellence Expo. Adult student Dimi is singing pop songs, accompanying herself on the piano and really enjoying it.

I think Arthur is destined to be a rock star. He wrote lyrics for a song and after performing it, I think there’s no stopping him. AMEB took on the Rockschool syllabus this year, and I am excited about exploring this for Arthur and others in 2016.

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The families of students I teach at home have welcomed me into their lives in a way I never anticipated. Although it’s not the most efficient way to teach, I’m so glad I started this way. I teach kids in their onesies, I get cake on their birthdays, and mums give me freshly baked desserts to bring back to Miles.

Keely showed me sparkly baubles on her Christmas tree. One had her name on it and another had her brother’s name. She said each one was put on the tree in the year of their respective first Christmases. 

It’s been such an insight into the way Australians live. I’ve met many grandparents and all manner of visiting relatives. I talk with parents all the time so there is no need to communicate with them via a report.

At Christmas, I go home with things to eat, things which smell nice, vouchers to shop with. But the nicest gifts are the home made ones. This is Nadya’s clay model. I love it.

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A short story

Once upon a time a lady liked to play melodica. She had a YouTube account called melodicamum. She made friends with other people all over the world who played melodica. One day she moved to Queensland in Australia, and her YouTube friend Kenny and the Captains just happened to work at a music store nearby.

“Are you serious, you are here?” The lady asked.

“Yep,” said Kenny, “and we have a music school, why don’t you teach piano here?”

So she did and lived happily ever after. The End.

My relationship with Music Express continues to grow. This year I drove around with a box of their books, so I always had a range of lesson books with me when meeting new students. The shop has helped me no end, and a big shout out to Ken, Brett, Simon, Dan and Tina. Also thanks to owner Tony, for talking with me a bit about the business, and for many nice coffees.

This year I enrolled in a MOOC, which is a Massive Open Online Course. This one was run by Swinburne University, and was about understanding more about people on the autism spectrum. I wanted to raise my awareness of the needs of children who learn differently, in case I could be useful in the future. 

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Since I have no experience in this area, I was a passive participant in the course. What I learned above all else was what can be achieved when a positive community comes together. Tens of thousands of people all over the world logged on, introduced themselves as  being: on the spectrum themselves, parents of children and adults on the spectrum, special needs teachers and teachers’ aides, among others. They shared experiences, information, frustration and support. It was so impressive, the university would have been over the moon at the response and wealth of information gleaned for research purposes, in their aim to move away from the “one size fits all” approach to what they called the “salad bowl approach”.

In 2015, I had community in spades. I think someone up there is trying to tell me something. I often think of the old adage, “The lone wolf dies while the pack survives”, as I land in places the world over, get a taste of the culture, then move.

Two years ago I dipped my toe in the waters of community theatre in Brisbane, playing the piano in a musical Breaking Up Is Hard To Do at Sunnybank Theatre. This year I drowned in a sea of lurve that was the cast and crew of Dusty The Original Pop Diva.

If I felt a bit skittish in Breaking Up as Director Leonie Walsh paid me a little kind attention, this year I just opened my arms and said, “Take me I’m yours.”

Well, not quite. But these amazing people who come together and channel their energy for months to put on a dazzling show to their community – I just love them, and l love being part of them even more. I learn what a team can deliver, which an individual cannot.

The posts from the repetiteur’s point of view are under the tag: Dusty The Original Pop Diva.

The cast and crew

Photos by David Gemmell

More community and more melodica at the same time. Yep, I pinched myself a lot. Melodica got into an orchestra. A whopping 80-piece orchestra in a production called Under This Sky, a celebration of the people of Logan, as part of the Queensland Music Festival this year. All the posts for that are here in the tag: Under This Sky.

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The Under This Sky orchestra
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I got to work under conductor Shaun Dorney, and met many local musicians, including superb pop folk duo Cath Mundy and Jay Turner. Sydney rapper Morganics lead the artistic direction and I was Augustus Pablo for a few moments when he asked me to play some chords in a reggae style. He said I was playing the skank, but that sounds way too cool for littl’ old me. I was stoked.

Shaun Dorney is director of the Brisbane Regional Youth Orchestra, or BRYO. I saw their smaller Vivace ensemble play at a Sci-Fi event at my local library, and the post about that is here.

Going from Sci-Fi to metal jazz, Valtozash played at the Brisbane Jazz Club and they were (also) out of this world. I really want to see them again! Led by Andre Bonetti and anchored by consummate multi-instrumentalist (and my good mate) John Stefulj, I reviewed the gig and called it glorious chaos.

John also nudged me to see Dan Bolton at BJC, who’s an Aussie musician making good in New York City, the home of the musical!

John plays everything you can blow, and then some. He’s been playing double bass with me, and we hope to try some duo work next year.

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I did less agency work this year, as the piano teaching grew. There was a Mother’s Day tv commercial for Instant Scratch-Its, and different products from the Treasury Casino photo shoot emerged over the year. That was really fun to see. My son told me his girlfriend said: “Look! It’s your mum!” when they passed a banner hanging from the Treasury building. Yay!

The movie San Andreas was released and I was a convincing doctor in an evacuation scene, for about one second 🙂

That job was a great adventure. I had to turn up at 5am, and GPS took me into the middle of nowhere along the Gold Coast. I turned a bend and the darkness was shattered by brightly lit tents covering a massive field. Men waving torches signalled where I should park. Other people had been there two hours earlier getting their “dusty, disheveled and injured in an earthquake” makeup done.

Aussie extras walked around in police and paramedic uniforms, and I was given my white lab coat and stethoscope. It was a gas!

Perhaps the job I enjoyed most was being a hand model, rocking up to the set and saying, “Hi, I’m the hands.” The set was a riverside apartment. It takes loads of people  to shoot even a short film. Camera people, lighting people, script directing people. Makeup and wardrobe, account manager to liaise with the client. There are big wide-screened cameras with weights on them sometimes, and television screens for the client to watch. There are people snapping clipboards and shouting “Take 12, roll camera, action!”

The overwhelming feeling is that Time Is Expensive. A friend asked me if I ever got the giggles. No way. You just think: Listen to their direction. Don’t make mistakes, then maybe they will ask you back.

It’s great work, you visit new places and every job is different. If I could keep a hand in, so to speak, I would be very happy.

So here are a few shots of this year’s work.

My son completed his first year at UQ. I walked around the beautiful campus and couldn’t help feeling that the second generation is doing better than the first, and was happy. He’s taken up mountain biking and is checking out the Aussie terrain. I couldn’t be happier for all of us, and grateful for each day.

Happy New Year, here’s to a musical 2016.

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