Something is dumb and something is stupid. Something is ape with a cerebral cortex. Something is anthropologically awry. Something suspiciously sounds like Dr Seuss version 5.0.

These days, with all the hyper-normalisation, the inner self can appear to be on vacation. But let’s try and work backwards, counter intuitively.

You’ve heard the old tale about the bank manager from a bygone era being a friend of the family. A trusted confidant. Somebody you could turn to that had your best interests at heart. Well, sadly that era has all but vanished and not just from the banking perspective. The local music teacher typifies this in a humbler way, perhaps with greater resonance if the general perception of music wasn’t bird brained superficiality and society was not lured into disconnecting, despite humans being a relationally dependant species. Fortunately, there is still good to share around. Homo-sapien museums have not quite been fitted out yet.

These days, reading even a quarter of a product discloser statement will cause eyes to roll, as we attempt not to dose off, delicately side stepping to the next disconnected experience. It leaves us feeling that a task is somehow incomplete, maybe somewhat at odds with the world around us. Even an old transistor radio has an on/off button. Simple and effective. Who’d have thought we would one day use it as a metaphor for letting go.

One must possess more than an understanding of game theory or the asymmetrical skillset of an agency operative to navigate through corporate and technological control and an infinite array of passwords that suck the time, collagen, vitamin d and mitochondria out of our day. As we unwittingly scorn relics of the dot com boom, traverse the debris filled plateaus from the explosion of big tech, chaperoned by the noxious bipolarity of social media, it is then, clinging to a fingernails worth of optimism, we find ourselves both raising eyebrows and furrowing brows over forty years of trickle “up” economics, twenty years of wage stagnation, ten years of quantitative easing and five years of a globalism versus populism war, enmeshed into the fabric of most societies.

What sort of music is appropriate for this scenario? What sort of radio and television programming? Not to mention radically titled click bait. No wonder there is underwhelming sludge everywhere. The supply chain is broken. News outperforms entertainment and Daddy Pig must surely win for best moral fortitude on television. How can education, in all shapes and sizes, public or private, possibly run parallel to this shit show?

The arts, in particular music, offer us perhaps the most important ingredient of our lives. Meaning. The arts were always going to be an unquantifiable basket case since the industrial revolution, even before. Bach fathered twenty children. Mozart was neurotic. Franz Liszt, the first pianist to perform a solo piano recital, paid child support to kids he never saw and the love of his life was an already married woman. But the legacy of the gift of music lives on. There are steadfast educators closer to home, with volcanic belief and cyclonic passion. My friend and mentor, the late Richard Gill unleashed his energetic and inspired message to get music into schools, championing so many great initiatives. But the fight will always be young, for every generation.

So, what does music education need to do today to stay relevant? How does it speak to the individual, delousing and transcending what appears to be an existentially threatening avalanche of disposable perishable gunk? It really is a simple answer but it has become lost in the noise.

Guaranteeing young people magical future employment through a narrow, pseudo weaponised style of standardised individualism, between visits to the counsellor, while glued to a phone, fulfilling the role of food photographing brand ambassador is not exactly an enlightened outcome. It is a counterfeit business model, designed to fleetingly succeed at the shallow end of the pool. If this model continues, mental health, addiction and domestic violence will continue to be our primary concern. Jobs for all! It is education for the collapse of a chorus of dysfunctional, borderless corporate states.

Education, (which a google search states is an enlightening experience), has the potential to be transformative and connected, with infinite possibilities, if possibility alone were to exist. It’s just that debt, private wealth, rent seeking, share buy backs and legal red tape, continue to mutate it into a lavish, desolate enigma, like prime and composite numbers that have no relationship to each other. Education and its debilitating debt servitude and ranking system have contributed to crushing the hopes and dreams of developing young minds, down skilling for schools sake and creating ready made customers of the big pharmaceutical industry. Get people to fight over the diminishing table scraps and they become barbarian. The issue is inequity and a resulting despotism.

Now to the core message. I believe that everybody, no matter who they are, has the right to an education and must be afforded the ability to dream of a secure future. I also believe music must be a funding priority, not dismissed as a lightweight afterthought or given to already extended teachers. Music is as good for mental health as exercise. I am prepared to think binary on this one.

Capitalism, and an inherited literalism, have all but guaranteed we worship the past from a far, freak out and lament the advertised scarcity of the future, attaching so many political conditions to everything in society, we can barely make eye contact. Neuroticism incorporated by design, with bedfellow social media, is for open for business 24/7 and has more influence than the burgeoning sugar industry. Much of todays “music” is a tired, bleak reflection of the bet hedging casino capitalist culture. The bar has been set so low, only a worm or insect could limbo under it. So where do you fit into all this complexity? This is precisely the question. The answers, despite community outrage, must be discussed with dignity and civility.

How do you bring enlightenment to a culture that has researched and now teaches the benefits of boredom in tertiary institutions? What music will we be listening to in driverless buses or when an artificially-intelligent robot asks if we would like a foot rub? I hope it is music that not only utilises the wonderful technology we have available today, but revisits and respects the learning of yesterday, to create a sense of space and balance we have chewed up and spat out over the decades. I encourage a lot of genre hopping.

The take away or dine in, is that communities are becoming more localised again with the advent of the Covid-19/20 pandemic. Over the years, a significant amount of farms have been transformed from culture to business and it’s not like the planet has been eating well, working out and drinking heaps of fresh water. This has been coming, no matter how you see it and believe it or not, is a spiritual wake up call to the human species, aided by big tech. In such an uncertain world, with feudalism spewing toxicity omnidirectionally, there has never been a better time to embrace and study great art, such as music and literature. Or we could just sit around and debate what “great” is?

Like much of the arts, music has suffered from a limited allocation of teachers and a lack of effective advocacy. Sorry, make that a lack of funding! I hear countless stories of children that gave up learning for all the right reasons, only to find an empty adult, dreaming of learning again for the meaning it brings to a life. One of the greatest joys of teaching is witnessing students describe the music close to their heart. Eyes light up and an inner child appears for a fleeting moment, until social conditioning reboots adult sensibilities. Profound shifts are now happening in all areas of life, good and bad. We all have choices to make about the kind of life we want to live and more importantly, what we want to leave our children. The arts, especially music, is a vehicle for expressing the real meaning of life. A meaning that transcends words.

So now that the other stuff is sorted, let’s talk about a few pro’s and con’s of music education and studying the piano.

 

The Positives…

  1. The piano is an ideal first instrument for children or adults. It allows us to express both a soft and loud tone.
  2. The piano provides the student with both bass and treble clef study.
  3. The piano offers the student increased hand eye co-ordination and fine motor development.
  4. The piano provides a kinaesthetic style of learning, promotes spatial-temporal reasoning ability and concentration and focus.
  5. The piano champions improvement in stem subjects and overall school performance.
  6. The piano helps kids understand concepts behind science, math and engineering.
  7. The piano is understood through decoding of complex symbolic systems of time and notation. There are algorithms, logarithms and ratios to work out.
  8. The piano fosters appreciation of the arts and music engages everybody in a deeper conversation. This often facilitates a lifetime of music appreciation.
  9. The piano helps develop well rounded personalities with a balance of sports and music.
  10. The piano helps build confidence. The self esteem boost that is attained from mastering pattens and pieces is significant.

 

The Negatives…

  1. Be aware of some music teachers, academies or schools that hire employees who teach to supplement their income.
  2. Not everybody is a suitable teacher for children or adult learners.
  3. A good teacher is a busy teacher and can afford not to take students who are disinterested or do not practice.
  4. A music school can survive easier because they can lower prices and undervalue teachers.
  5. Some good teachers are overlooked for the cheapest option. I have had offers simply because the school wants me to “blow parents away with my playing.”
  6. Often, the music program in a school is at the mercy of core subjects. With low funds, the program suffers and short cuts are taken. This impacts the student.
  7. One of the issues today is sustainable long term goal orientation. Parents and teachers have a crucial role informing kids how to hang in long enough to benefit from a skill.
  8. Lack of communication with your child can result in undefinable outcomes. Know what you are both going to do prior to contacting a music teacher.
  9. Experience cannot be taught. Teachers must have a realistic, age appropriate grasp of the curriculum.
  10. Many teachers did not reach an elite level of musicianship and may not be able to pass on some of the more unknown tricks of the trade.

 

I. FORMING THE PROPER CONCEPTION OF A PIECE

It is a seemingly impossible task to define the number of attributes of really excellent pianoforte playing. By selecting ten important characteristics, however, and considering them carefully one at a time, the student may learn much that will give him food for thought. After all, one can never tell in print what can be communicated by the living teacher. In undertaking the study of a new composition it is highly important to gain a conception of the work as a whole. One must comprehend the main design of the composer.

Naturally, there are technical difficulties which must be worked out, measure by measure, but unless the student can form some idea of the work in its larger proportion his finished performance may resemble a kind of musical patchwork. Behind every composition is the architectural plan of the composer. The student should endeavour, first of all, to discover this plan, and then he should build in the manner in which the composer would have had him build.

You ask me how can the student form the proper conception of the work as a whole? Doubtless the best way is to hear it performed by some pianist whose authority as an interpreter cannot be questioned.

However, many students are so situated that this course is impossible. It is also often quite impossible for the teacher, who is busy teaching from morning to night, to give a rendering of the work that would be absolutely perfect in all of its details. However, one can gain something from the teacher who can, by his genius, give the pupil an idea of the artistic demands of the piece.

If the student has the advantage of hearing neither the virtuoso nor the teacher he need not despair, if he has talent. Talent! Ah, that is the great thing in all musical work. If he has talent he will see with the eyes of talent that wonderful force which penetrates all artistic mysteries and reveals the truths as nothing else possibly can. Then he grasps, as if by intuition, the composers intentions in writing the work, and like the true interpreter, communicates these thoughts to his audience in their proper form.

II. TECHNICAL PROFICIENCY

It goes without saying, that technical proficiency should be one of the first acquisitions of the student who would become a fine pianist. It is impossible to conceive of fine playing that is not marked by clean, fluent distinct, elastic technique. The technical ability of the performer should be of such a nature that it can be applied immediately to all the artistic demands of the composition to be interpreted. Of course, there may be individual passages which require some special technical study, but, generally speaking, technique is worthless unless the hands and the mind of the player are so trained that they can encompass the principal difficulties found in modern compositions.

In the music schools of Russia great stress is laid upon technique. Possibly this may be one of the reasons why some of the Russian pianists have been so favourably received in recent years. The work in the leading Russian conservatories is almost entirely under supervision of the Imperial Music Society. The system is elastic in that, although all students are obliged to go through the same course, special attention is given to individual cases.

Technique, however, is at first made a matter of paramount importance. All students must become technically proficient. None are excused. It may be interesting for the readers of THE ETUDE to know something of the general plan followed in the Imperial music schools of Russia. The course is five years in duration.

During the first five years the student gets most of his technical instruction from a book of studies by Hanon, which is used extensively in the conservatories. In fact, this is practically the only book of strictly technical studies employed. All of the studies are in the key of C. They include scales, arpeggios, and other forms of exercises in special technical designs. At the end of the fifth year an examination takes place.

This examination is twofold. The pupil is examined first for proficiency in technique, and later for proficiency in artistic playing – pieces, studies, etc. However, if the pupil fails to pass the technical examination he is not permitted to go ahead. He knows the exercises in the book of studies by Hanon so well that he knows each study by number, and the examiner may ask him, for instance, to play study 17 or 28 or 32 etc. The student at once sits at the keyboard and plays.

Although the original studies are all in the key of C, he may be requested to play them in any other key. He has studied them so thoroughly that he should be able to play them in any key desired. A metronomic test is also applied. The student knows that he will be expected to play the studies at certain rates of speed. The examiner states the speed and the metronome is started. The pupil is required, for instance, to play the E-flat major scale with the metronome at 120, eight notes to the beat. If he is successful in doing this, he is
marked accordingly, and other tests are given. Personally, I believe this matter of insisting upon a thorough technical knowledge is a very vital one. The mere ability to play a few pieces does not constitute musical proficiency. It is like those music boxes which possess only a few tunes. The students technical grasp should be all embracing.

Later the student in given advanced technical exercises, like those of Tausig. Czerny is also very deservedly popular. Less is heard of the studies of Henselt, however, notwithstanding his long service in Russia. Henselts studies are so beautiful that they should rather be classed with pieces like the studies of Chopin.

III. PROPER PHRASING

An artistic interpretation is not possible if the student does not know the laws underlying the very important subject of phrasing. Unfortunately many editions of good music are found wanting in proper phrase markings. Some of the phrase signs are erroneously applied. Consequently the only safe way is for the student to make a special study of this important branch of musical art.

In the olden days phrase signs were little used. Bach used them very sparingly. It was not necessary to mark them in those times, for every musician who counted himself a musician could determine the phrases as he played. But knowledge of the means of defining phrases in a composition is by no means all-sufficient. Skill in executing the phrases is quite as important. The real musical feeling must exist in the mind of the composer or all the knowledge of correct phrasing he may possess will be worthless.

IV. REGULATING THE TEMPO

If a fine musical feeling, or sensitiveness, must control the execution of the phrases, the regulation of the tempo demands a kind of musical ability no less exacting. Although in
most cases the tempo of a given composition is now indicated by means of the metronomic markings, the judgment of the player must be brought frequently into requisition. He cannot follow the tempo marks blindly, although it is usually unsafe for him to stray very far from these all-important musical sign-posts.

The metronome itself must not be used with closed eyes, as we should say it in Russia. The player must use discretion. I do not approve of continual practice with the metronome. The metronome is designed to set the time, and if not abused is a very faithful servant. However, it should only be used for this purpose. The most mechanical playing imaginable can proceed from those who make themselves slaves to this little musical clock, which was never intended to stand like a ruler over every minute of the students practice time.

V. CHARACTER IN PLAYING

Too few students realise that there is continual and marvellous opportunity for contrast in playing. Every piece is a piece unto itself. It should, therefore, have its own peculiar interpretation. There are performers whose playing seems all alike. It is like the meals served in some hotels. Everything brought to the table has the same taste. Of course, a successful performer must have a strong individuality, and all of his interpretations must bear the mark of this individuality, but at the same time he should seek variety constantly.

A Chopin Ballade must have quite a different interpretation from a Scarlatti Capriccio. There is really very little in common between a Beethoven Sonata and a Liszt Rhapsody. Consequently, the student must seek to give each piece a different character. Each piece must stand apart as possessing an individual conception and if the player fails to convey this impression to his audience, he is little better than some mechanical instrument. Josef Hofmann has the ability of investing each composition with an individual and characteristic charm that has always been very delightful to me.

VI. THE SIGNIFICANCE OF THE PEDAL

The pedal has been called the soul of the piano. I never realised what this meant until I heard Anton Rubinstein, whose playing seemed so marvellous to me that it beggars description. His mastery of the pedal was nothing short of phenomenal. In the last movement of the B-flat minor Sonata of Chopin he produced pedal effects that can never be described, but for any one who remembers them they will always be treasured as one of the greatest of musical joys.

The pedal is the study of a lifetime. It is the most difficult branch of higher pianoforte study. Of course, one may make rules for its use and the student should carefully study all these rules, but, at the same time, these rules may often be skilfully broken in order to produce some very charming effects. The rules represent a few known principles that are within the grasp of our musical intelligence. They may be compared with the planet upon which we live, and about which we know so much. Beyond the rules, however, is the great universe, the celestial system which only the telescopic artistic sight of the great musician can penetrate. This, Rubinstein, and some others, have done, bringing to our mundane vision undreamt of beauties which they alone
could perceive.

VII. THE SIGNIFICANCE OF CONVENTION

While we must respect the traditions of the past, which for the most part are very intangible to us because they only to be found in books, we must, nevertheless, not be bound down by convention. Iconoclasm is the law of artistic progress. All great composers and performers have built upon the ruins of conventions that they themselves have destroyed. It is infinitely better to create than to imitate.

Before we can create, however, it is well to make ourselves familiar with the best that has preceded us. This applies not only to composition, but to pianoforte playing as well. The master pianists, Rubinstein and Liszt, were both marvellously broad in the scope of their knowledge. They knew the literature of the pianoforte in all its possible branches. They made themselves familiar with every possible phase of musical advancement. This is the reason for their gigantic musical prominence. Their greatness was not the hollow shell of acquired technique. They knew. Oh, for more students in these days with the genuine thirst for real musical knowledge and not merely with the desire to make a superficial exhibition at the keyboard!

VIII. REAL MUSICAL UNDERSTANDING

I am told that some teachers lay a great deal of stress upon the necessity for the pupil learning the source of the composers inspiration. This is interesting, of course and may help to stimulate a dull imagination. However, I am convinced that it would be far better for the student to depend more upon his or her real musical understanding.

It is a mistake to suppose that the knowledge of the fact that Schubert was inspired by a certain poem, or that Chopin was inspired by a certain legend, could ever make up for a lack of the real essentials leading to good pianoforte playing. The student must see, first of all, the main points of musical relationship in a composition. He must understand what it is that gives the work unity, cohesion, force, or grace, and must know how to bring out these elements. There is a tendency with some teachers to magnify the importance of auxiliary studies and minimise the importance of essentials. This course is wrong, and must lead to erroneous results.

IX. PLAYING TO EDUCATE THE PUBLIC

The virtuoso must have some far greater motive than that of playing for gain. He has a mission, and that mission is to educate the public. It is quite as necessary for the sincere student in the home to carry on this educational work. For this reason it is to his advantage to direct his efforts toward pieces which he feels will be of musical educational advantage to his friends. In this he must use judgment and not overstep their intelligence too far.

With the virtuoso it is somewhat different. He expects, and even demands, from his audience a certain grade of musical taste, a certain degree of musical education. Otherwise he would work in vain. If the public would enjoy the greatest in music they must listen to good music until these beauties become evident.

The virtuoso is expected to give his best and he should not be criticised by audiences that have not the mental capacity to appreciate his work. The virtuosos look to the students of the world to do their share in the education of the great musical public. Do not waste your time with music that is trite or ignoble. Life is too short to spend it wandering in the barren Saharas of musical trash.

X. THE VITAL SPARK

In all good pianoforte playing there is a vital spark that seems to make each interpretation of a masterpiece is a living thing. It exists only for the moment, and cannot be explained. For instance, two pianists of equal technical ability may play the same composition. With one the playing is dull, lifeless and sapless, with the other there is something that is indescribably wonderful. His playing seems fairly to quiver with life. It commands interest and inspires the audience. What is this vital spark that brings life to mere notes?

In one way it may be called the intense artistic interest of the player. It is that astonishing thing known as inspiration. When the composition was originally written the composer was unquestionably inspired; when the performer finds the same joy that the composer found at the moment the composition came into existence, then something new and different enters his playing. It seems to be stimulated and invigorated in a manner altogether marvellous. The audience realises this instantly, and will event sometimes forgive technical imperfections if the performance is inspired.

Anton Rubinstein was technically marvellous and yet he admitted making mistakes. Nevertheless, for every possible mistake he may have made, he gave, in return, ideas and musical tone pictures that would have made up for a million mistakes. When Rubinstein was over-exact his playing lost something of its wonderful charm. I remember that upon one occasion he was playing Balakirevʼs Islamey at a concert.

Something distracted his attention and he apparently forgot the composition entirely but he kept on improvising in the style of the piece, and after about four minutes the remainder of the composition came back to him and he played it to the end correctly. This annoyed him greatly and he played the next number upon the program with the greatest exactness, but, strange to say, it lost the wonderful charm of the interpretation of the piece in which his memory had failed him.

Rubinstein was really incomparable, even more so perhaps because he was full of human impulse and his playing very far removed from mechanical perfection. While, of course, the student must play the notes, and all of the notes, in the manner and in the time in which the composer intended that they should be played, his efforts should by no means stop with notes. Every individual note in a composition is important, but there is something quite as important as the notes, and that is the soul. After all, the vital spark is the soul. The soul is the source of that higher expression in music which cannot be represented in dynamic marks.

The soul feels the need for the CRESCENDO and DIMINUENDOS intuitively. The mere matter of the duration of a pause upon a note depends upon its significance, and the soul of the artist dictates to him just how long such a pause should be held. If the student resorts to mechanical rules and depends upon them absolutely, his playing will be soulless. Fine playing requires much deep thought away from the keyboard. The student should not feel that when the notes have been played his task is done. It is, in fact, only begun. He must make the piece a part of himself. Every note must awaken in him a kind of musical consciousness of his real artistic mission.

The West Australian – 20th June 2018, written by Neville Cohn.

Pauline O’Connor/Belviso. Born: Perth, 1936. Died: Perth, 2018 aged 82.

In late 1961, in Cape Town’s City Hall, I attended a recital by famed Italian pianist Arturo Benedetti Michelangeli. Afterwards, I went backstage in the hope of obtaining an autograph. Also in the dressing room was Michelangeli’s retinue which included though I didn’t know this at the time, a young Pauline O’Connor (later Belviso), whose remarkable pianistic gifts I was to write about years later in Perth.

Pauline, then 25, was responsible, inter alia, for looking after “la borsa” (Michelangeli’s bag of cash). In her memoirs, we’re told that at night she slept with the bag under her pillow. In early 1952, Pauline, aged just 15, left West Perth and the Sacred Heart College in Highgate and, accompanied by an aunt, travelled by train to the Sydney Conservatorium of Music High School. Four years later, she graduated with honours.

Her teachers at the conservatorium included Sir Eugene Goossens and Alex Sverjensky. Pauline later recalled how she treasured every moment of her studies in Sydney. In 1957, at a time when migrants were moving south to Australia, Pauline travelled north by ship to Italy; it took 45 days, stopping at Sydney, Ceylon, Bombay, the Suez Canal and Malta, before finally reaching Italy. She did not return to Australia for seven years.

Her lessons from Michelangeli caused Pauline to blossom in musical terms. One of her room mates was the then unknown Martha Argerich, soon to reach stratospheric heights as a pianist. Pauline soon learnt to cope with Michelangeli’s idiosyncratic, always demanding teaching method.

During the Italian years, Pauline gave innumerable recitals across Italy as well as surrounding countries, whether in tiny village venues, opera houses, medieval churches. An experience that profoundly enhanced the depth of her musical insights. For much of the 1960s, Pauline was based in Tuscany. In late 1963, she won an international piano competition held in Bologna, Italy, to mark the 100,000th piano produced by Czech company Petrof. She later did a concert tour of Czechoslovakia and visited the Petrof factory where she gave a recital specially for the workers. The first prize was a Petrof grand piano, an instrument that the family still possesses.

Jean Roberts, Pauline’s colleague at the WA Academy of Performing Arts, and now back in the US, recalled: “She seemed to be everything at once, a mother, a sister, a friend, a colleague. She was larger than life. Pauline is at the very centre of our fondest memories. She had a unique sense of humour too and oh my, could she tell a story!

“At the conservatorium, we were a group of people from many nations, Hungary, Czechoslovakia, South Africa, England, the US and Pauline’s willingness to embrace a potpourri of expatriates moulded us into a cohesive group. It was an extraordinary achievement,” Roberts says.

Cellist Suzie Wijsman (now based at UWA) recalls that Pauline “learned the art of home style cooking and provided many memorable feasts for us. And after arriving in Italy, she learned
elementary Italian from reading, inter alia, Donald Duck comic books in Italian. “It is testimony to her exceptionally quick ear and intelligence that she went on to speak the language absolutely fluently. “She was the wisest and most astute person I have ever known.”

Wijsman recalled a recital given by Pauline with violinist Pal Eder. “In lesser hands, these short pieces by Kreisler could sound shallow and mundane. But played by these two friends, the music came across as masterful and stylish with a compelling, old world charm.” Wijsman recalled, too, the elegance, beautiful voicing and naturally flexable tempi that made Pauline’s playing such a meaningful listening experience.

Pauline had been one of an elite group of students of Michelangeli and the influence of this most eminent pianist was profound. Michelangeli had high regard for Pauline’s abilities at the keyboard. “In my view,” he wrote, “Pauline O’Connor is a pianist of the highest order, evident both in her brilliant career and in her innate ability to communicate.”

Pauline met husband Paolo when sailing on the Galileo Galilei en route to Australia in 1966 when he was working as a senior engineer for the Lloyd Triestino line. They married in mid 1967. It was a small gathering in the Tuscan town where Pauline lived, worked in and loved so much, Arezzo. Paolo’s mother, sister and brother and a few mutual friends were present. The honeymoon consisted of one night at Florence’s Grand Hotel (all that the budget could bear at the time) and a few days in Verona. In Arezzo, Pauline lived and taught the piano full time, as well as keeping up her performing career.

In 1971, with Paolo and two young sons, she returned to WA where she presented a number of concerts for the Festival of Perth and began decades of teaching in Perth. At 81, she was still teaching at the University of WA before succumbing to cancer on April 2. Pauline is survived by her husband, five sons and their families.

I first met my lifelong friend, mentor and music teacher, Pauline Belviso at Santa Maria college when I was seven years old. I vividly remember being intimidated by her calmness and talking at 75 words per minute. I also remember her not being intimidated by my lack of calmness and talking at 5 words per minute. This encapsulates our entire relationship.

Fast forward a few years, and she would be sitting on the audition panel at the WA Conservatorium of Music, next to Richard Gill and would become an invaluable mentor from that day forward. I was more like her prodigal son. Coming and going in my mind, trying to decide what art and music was for me, amidst a reservoir of creative ideas and childhood trauma. It was often a love hate relationship but the tension of opposites was productive.

When it was time to record my albums, she was a rock. Instrumental in guiding me through the emotional complexities of preparation and calling me out when I would slip into musical unconsciousness.

It is impossible to put into words the depth of the bond between teacher and student. Pauline once told me, “we all look and we think we see and what I learnt in Italy was to look at the detail.” This was her essence and she taught it to me unwaveringly. She was entirely faithful to the nobility and calling of a teacher, commanding respect and in turn, giving me further respect for myself.

I recall a conversation with her over tea and biscuits, speaking about a diminishing musical culture in the modern era. Somehow, the idea of marketing slogans came up and she smugly suggested that her slogan should be “keeping the bastards honest.” We smiled wickedly and laughed wholeheartedly.

The day before her 77th birthday, upon wishing her many happy returns for the day and reminding her that my Mother’s birthday was just a few days away, she informed me sternly, “they don’t make ’em like us anymore!” She was absolutely right.

It would be remiss not to mention the self deprecating humility without affectation. She was not one for false grace or gushing praise. “You should have entered the Sydney International Piano Competition darling,” was her way of delivering a compliment. But perhaps the most touching, was after I had completed my second album. I was sitting nonchalantly, sipping a tea, chatting about family life in her music area, when suddenly, she surged into action. “Come, sit down at the table.” She made her way slowly over to the CD player, fumbled with it for a minute and then sat quietly.

Pauline was a student and personal secretary of the renowned pianist, Arturo Benedetti Michelangeli. Over the years, she had shared all of his recordings with me and this was to be another hidden treasure. As I settled in to listen, she gave me an all knowing look, poised, all ears and ready for superlatives. It was another of our favourites. Rachmaninov’s last Prelude in D flat. We had worked together on it several months earlier.

About a minute into it, amidst a look of delight, things started to seem eerily familiar. Praise began echoing off the walls, as she commended choice of tempo and clarity of the line. Just as I had begun to think, “geez, this guy is good,” it hit me like a lightning bolt. I suddenly, quite embarrassingly realised it was my recording. I tentatively kept listening, checking reactions and looking like my body has gone into a state of sclerosis. Her joy was obvious and infectious. Within a few seconds of the final blustering chord and rapturous applause from Pauline, we got up and strolled back to the lounge. “We worked on that piece recently and I got a lot out of it.” I recounted. “Yes darling,” she replied, still glowing from the listening experience. I never told her that it was me.

The second last time we worked together, I spoke to her by phone shortly after our lesson and she asked me solemnly if she had been of any help to me. My jaw dropped. “Of course,” I responded sternly. “Are you kidding?” It was a window into her failing health. As we age, we don’t have the same energy as we once did, but the trade off is that we can see more. She had just walked me through yet another score I thought I knew well and had shown me more of what was there. What a blessing. She was still working at UWA at this time and continued until her health faded.

A week before she passed, I brought her flowers and we spent the morning in conversation. I performed Rachmaninov’s Prelude in G Sharp for her on her prize winning Petrof grand piano, as she requested. We both exclaimed joy over the marvellous music! I gave her the worlds biggest hug and we made a time to catch up the following week. As I got in the car, started the engine and pulled out of the driveway, I started to shake and burst into tears. I just knew. I would be at her funeral several weeks later.

Pauline had a devout, spiritual message that took me considerable time to unravel. She suffered no fools and was unfailingly honest in her appraisal. Something I grew to to appreciate and love, as it helped me to face my own deficiencies and grow as a person first, then a musician. I always respected her insights and especially fifty years of marriage.

We shared so many things. We were human beings first and musicians second. Family stories, updates on how the children were going and news about her beautiful sons and husband. When my Mother passed away, Pauline was there. Compassion and kindness were her mandate. She was immensely supportive during that time and I will never forget the comfort she gave to me.

Pauline will be sorely missed and nothing can replace her. I will remember the wisdom she generously passed on to me as much as possible. It would be remiss not to. I celebrate her extraordinary life everyday at the piano and often catch myself repeating one of her phrases, hearing her voice in my mind telling me off or giving me glowing insight into the music in front of me. Our shared love of music gave so much meaning to my life.

I recall her response to an email I sent, thanking her for her support over the years…

 

Hi Pauline,

One of the greatest gifts in life is music, but also the lifelong friendships that evolve around the love of music and the exchanging of ideas.

I just wanted to let you know how much I value our friendship and your mentoring over the years and also the work you did with me at WAAPA/WA Conservatorium. Your honesty and integrity I admire greatly.

As a teacher, you have inspired me continuously to deepen the process of learning and get to know every score that little bit better than the previous. Thank you so much for your encouragement, suggestions and attention to detail. Without a doubt, I am a better pianist today because of your guidance. 

Have attached the score Mum had of Rach 3, next to her LP of Emil Gilels. It’s hard to believe I have been playing this since I was a young teenager. It mostly ran on adrenaline then, but it is still in the hands quite well. I have fond memories of playing it at UWA in the early 90’s and I recently heard from somebody that turned pages for my Mother, when she performed it. 

Wishing you and all of your family a Merry Christmas. God Bless you and have a Happy New Year! 🙂

Warm Regards,

Justin.

 

Pauline responded…

 

“I will get a swollen head if I read your kind words and believe them!”

“Hope, pray and don’t worry.” Padre Pio (recited regularly by Pauline)

An excerpt from My Conversations with the Mystic. An interview with Sadhguru by Shekhar Kapur.

Shekhar Kapur: When my daughter was four or five she asked me, “Daddy, am I living a dream or is this reality?” And I said, “you tell me.” She said, “It’s both. It’s my imagination and it’s reality.” And in life, this question persists. “Am I living a dream or is this reality?” But I am afraid that as she grows, with the way she is being educated, these questions will be taken from her. So, let’s talk about childhood and education and what you are trying to do with the Isha Foundation.

Sadhguru: Essentially, education is about enlarging the horizons of human perception. But unfortunately today, education has slowly shifted into a mode where people believe it is about enforcing heaps of information. Information is useful in a certain way, but it is not going to make your life. It will earn your living. So here at Isha, education is about enlarging a child’s horizons, not about giving ready-made answers, but about nurturing an active intelligence which constantly searches and seeks and looks at everything in every possible way. And above all, it is for a child to know the joy of wondering about life.

Shekhar Kapur: Are you saying that these children will come out non-competitive? Or will they have such awareness that their ability to deal with this world will be more precise?

Sadhguru: Suppose you are in competition with me and the two of us are walking together. If you walk a little faster than me, you will think you have reached the peak of your life. If you fall behind me, you will feel depressed that you cannot walk as fast as me. But if you are not in competition with me, you would explore the possibility of what you could do and maybe you could fly. But you will miss out on the possibility of flying because you are in competition with me and all you want to do is take a few steps more than me.

Human potential is distorted because people are in competition. Right now, people believe that they will not reach their full potential unless they are in competition, which is a very false idea. Actually, only when a human being is in extended periods of joyfulness and blissfulness will he stretch himself to the limits and do what he can do to the fullest. When he is in competition, when he is in fear of failure, he will only do a little better than somebody else. So human genius is completely missing today. People are destroying human genius through the process of education, by teaching competition. It is all about getting two marks higher than the person who is sitting next to you. And in this mode of competition, only one can win. All others are losers. It is a horrible way to create a society.

What I am saying is, the gardener in this school is as important for us as the headmistress. That is what the children are constantly perceiving. We do not say these things as philosophies, but that is the atmosphere that is set. The one who cooks and the one who cleans is as important as the one who teaches science or the one who runs the school, or me, who visits once in a while to give the children a different perspective. Once you put one above the other, you are not going to know anything in this world. Your whole perspective is distorted. That is the basis of competition, trying to put one above the other. Once you make one thing bigger than the other, one thing high, one thing low, one thing divine, another thing filthy, then you miss the whole point of existence.

So the essence of education is to enhance your perception in such a way that you are able to perceive a blade of grass as being as important as a coconut tree. It is not less important, it is different, that’s all. Everything that is different in the world has been made it into a discriminatory process. That is why you are suffering a prejudice world. Every difference, whether between races and nations or languages and cultures, and even gender, has been made into a discriminatory process. And that has also been the mode of education, unfortunately.

Here, the most important part of education is not taught, it is a constant demonstration. All the teachers are dedicated people. They are volunteering full-time to make this happen for the children and they are hugely educated. So the key element of the school is the way everybody moves, the way everybody sits and stands and eats and does everything. We are following the ICSE system, but the most important thing is the atmosphere, the ambience, the way it is. One thing you will see is the strength of the children. The mental strength of the child here is phenomenal. Today, that is one thing that is missing in urban schools. They are becoming flaky. Competition will make them determined and focused in one way and at the same time, make them fearful of failure, fearful of being less than somebody else. Here, you will see the children don’t have that at all in them. Every one of them is a king by himself.

Shekhar Kapur: I noticed that. I’ve seen the children and what surprises me mostly is that there is a certain sense of alertness in them. When I go back to urban areas, anywhere in the world, I see children walking to school and there’s that sense of lack of purpose. But when I see children from the Isha, they seem to be going from one place to the other with a sense of doing and with a lot of happiness.

Sadhguru: For any human being, getting to know something, moving into a new area of life, learning, is always a joyful process. But unfortunately, schooling is not a joyful process for most children.

When I was just in my sixth standard, the President of India died. So the school announced that it was a holiday and it would be closed for two days. Then my friends and I met and we said, “Wow! The President died, this means we get two days off. Suppose the Prime Minister dies, how many days do we get? And if the Chief Minister dies, how many days?” In our minds, we just started killing the whole cabinet one by one.

Shekhar Kapur: Why is school such a horrible place? Learning is always a joyful experience for any human being.

Sadhguru: It is actually. When you get to know something new, there is a certain invigoration of energy within you. But that is not happening in schools simply because of the way it is delivered. That is the reason I started this school, I wanted people to be excited about learning. You won’t believe it. At 11:00 at night, some children can’t sleep. They will say to one of the teachers, “Akka, please open the library! I just want to see this one thing. I won’t be five minutes, I just want to see something.” The child wants to know something before he goes to bed, he can’t go to bed without knowing that one thing. To keep that enthusiasm up, to keep that inquisitiveness up, that longing to know, that is the job of the teacher, knowing is the child’s job. So here, the teacher is working to keep that up, the longing to know.

Rachmaninoff is now 45 years of age. He was born on the 20th of March, 1873, on the estate of his mother called “Oneig” in the province of Novgorod. That is to say, in the heart of the real Russia, where he spent his childhood, until he reached his ninth year. Thus Rachmaninoff comes exactly from the same part of Russia as Rimsky-Korsakoff and one can say with certainty that in his case, as in that of the older master, the fact that he spent his childhood in the seclusion of country life, in the midst of the typical Russian landscape, with its simple but irresistible charm, has given the formation of the composer’s character its decisive direction.
A Significant Ancestry
The son of rich parents, belonging to the stock of the old Russian nobility, Rachmaninoff was at first destined to enter into the most aristocratic school of Russia. But fate decided differently. The financial conditions of his parents took a sudden turn for the worse and it became necessary to give up the idea to place the child in this very expensive, aristocratic school. As it was, this turned out to the boy’s advantage, because he already showed with absolute certainty very unusual musical gifts. This musical talent was not a surprise to his family, because his grandfather, a Russian nobleman of the grand style, had been a great lover of music, more than that, a remarkable pianist. He had been a pupil of Field and through all his life he had made very serious musical studies. Though the prevailing customs in the time of the grandfather prevented him from taking up music professionally he had often appeared in various charity concerts.
About the playing of Rachmaninoff’s grandfather we have the testimony of Rachmaninoff’s cousin, A. I. Siloti, the famous pianist, one of Liszt’s favourite pupils and a prominent figure in the present-day musical life of Russia. According to this authoritative witness, Rachmaninoff’s grandfather played the piano better than either Siloti or Rachmaninoff could ever dream of playing. Of course this expression should be taken “cum grano salis” but it shows the profound impression Siloti had received from his grand-uncle. Thanks to the musical traditions already existing in his family by the example of this grandfather, Rachmaninoff did not have to overcome many obstacles in order to follow his vocation.
To Anna Ornadtskaia, a pupil of the Petrograd conservatory, belongs the honour of having been the first teacher of the boy Rachmaninoff. She was so successful in her efforts that when he, at the age of 9 years, entered the Petrograd conservatory he immediately drew upon him universal attention and became at once the pride and hope of that institution. Special attention was paid to his piano tuition, which he received from Prof. Vladimir Demiánsky, a well-known and highly respected teacher, and later, for a short period from Cross.
Not a Prodigy
His own musical faculties, his excellent teachers, and above all, the general love and admiration which surrounded the lad might have easily turned him into a child-prodigy. Fortunately, however, his healthy and richly gifted nature prevented such a development and the career of the boy, then called “the pride and adornment of the conservatory,” took its normal way towards the heights of art.
In 1885, Siloti who had just finished his musical education under Lizst visited Petrograd. When he heard his young cousin play, he advised him to develop his musical talents still further and for this reason to take up residence in Moscow, in order to study with Nicolai Sergéievitch Zvieriev, professor of the Moscow Conservatory. Rachmaninoff took this advice and was invited by his new master to live with him in his own house.
Later on, during the season of 1885-86, Siloti recommended his cousin to Liszt, who consented to accept young Rachmaninoff among his pupils from the beginning of the autumn of 1886. This plan, however, came to naught, since Liszt died during the summer of that year and Rachmaninoff went on with his studies with Zvieriev. In 1887, Siloti received a call as professor of the Moscow Conservatory, Rachmaninoff entered his master class and under his cousin, finished his studies with brilliant success in the spring of 1891. His pianistic accomplishments however, did not satisfy the young musician, who possessed, besides unusual talents as reproductive virtuoso, rich sources of creative force. For this reason, while working on his pianistic development, he made serious studies in musical theory with S. I. Tanéieff and A. Arensky.
Having graduated from the conservatory as a pianist, young Rachmaninoff remained there for one year more and delivered there for the final examination his opera Aleko, which was successfully performed in April, 1893 on the stage of the Grand theatre of Moscow.
This success gave wings to the young composer, who now devoted himself passionately to composition. During the summer of 1893, in the quiet seclusion of country life, he finished many compositions; six songs, the first Suite for two pianos, a violin-piece and an orchestral phantasy, The Rock, also a choral work for church, called, The Prayers of the Ever Watchful Mother of God. This latter composition has never been published, although it has been performed in Moscow. All the other before-mentioned works enjoy a well-merited and widespread reputation.
Tchaikovsky’s Death
In the fall of 1893, Rachmaninoff received a very auspicious engagement to conduct his opera Aleko in Kieff, when unexpectedly on the 20th of October the tragically sudden death of P. I. Tchaikovsky occurred. This was a heavy blow for all musical Russia, and especially to our young composer, for Tchaikovsky represented to him not only the national pride and ideal, but was personally dear and near to him. Ever since young Rachmaninoff’s arrival in Moscow, Tchaikovsky had been exceedingly interested in the boy’s growing talent and had followed his development with ardent sympathy.
Especially touching was this interest of Tchaikovsky in regard to Rachmaninoff’s operatic first attempt, Aleko, the stage rehearsals of which he attended, together with the young composer, helping in every possible way by his advice to contribute to its success at its first performance. It was his special desire to have his one-act opera, Iolanthe, which he was then just finishing, performed together with Aleko on the same evening.
Under the immediate impression of the heavy bereavement, both artistic and personal through the death of Tchaikovsky, Rachmaninoff composed his Trio Élégiaque, which was successfully performed in January, 1894. The creative power of Rachmaninoff continued to assert itself, and the above-mentioned compositions were followed by a series of piano-pieces of 10, and an orchestra capriccio on gypsy-themes of 12, which received considerable approval from N. A. Rimsky- Korsakoff.
In the summer of 1895 his first symphony was composed and was performed in January 1896, at one of the Russian Symphony concerts given under the auspices of the publisher Belaieff. Unfortunately, owing to its unskilful rendition, this first large symphonic work of the young composer did not meet with pronounced success and what was worse, it seemed to the young author that it had been an actual failure. This mishap produced a strong impression upon the sensitive spiritual organisation of the composer, who in respect of hypersensitiveness and lack of confidence in his own powers, resembled two other great predecessors, Glinka and Tchaikovsky. It is known that Glinka spoke of himself as of a “mimosa,” which closes her leaves at every touch, such was the temperament of Tchaikovsky and such is Rachmaninoff’s too. After having shown so many promising signs of creative genius, there came now a pause of almost three years, during the course of which his physical forces failed him to such extent that the young composer was forced to have recourse to medical help.
Conducting Opera
Of course, in spite of the interruption of his creative period, his artistic life was very much occupied, either he appeared as pianist in concerts or, still more often, he conducted orchestral concerts, an activity for which he also appeared to be singularly gifted. In this direction Rachmaninoff, as did many other leading Russian musicians, received considerable help and push from the well-known Moscow Maecénas, S. V. Mámontoff, who at that time (1896) supported his own opera company in Moscow. Rachmaninoff was engaged by him for the post of third conductor and in this position he acquired the routine so indispensable for even the most highly gifted musicians. Besides this, Rachmaninoff found here the important chance to become closely acquainted with the small group of highly talented artists of different types, whom Mámontoff used to assemble around him, especially with Th. I. Shaliapine, who at the time was only beginning his career.
Rachmaninoff, who, of course, as a musician was incomparably superior to Shaliapine, became so much interested and charmed by the brilliant dazzling talent of the young singer, that he gave freely of his time and interest in order to further Shaliapine’s musical development. After finishing his operatic season with Mámontoff, Rachmaninoff went to London (1897), where he appeared successfully in all his capacities: as pianist, composer and conductor, performing his orchestral fantasy, The Rock.
With the beginning of the twentieth century, the wounds received by Rachmaninoff through the failure of his first symphony, began to heal and he gradually set to work again on compositions. In 1901 he wrote his well-known song, Fate (included in op. 26 and published 1906), his second piano-concerto op. 18, and the second suite for two pianos, op. 17. In 1902 there followed the cello-sonata, op. 20, the choral cantata, Springtime, op. 21, twelve songs op. 22 and piano variations on a theme of Chopin. Finally, in 1903, he wrote the universally known Ten Preludes for Piano.
Operatic Works
In the autumn of 1903, Rachmaninoff, who always had a special fondness for the genius of Pushkin, created, in the course of three or four weeks, his opera, The Miser Knight (after a dramatic scene of Pushkin’s) in 1904 followed another opera, Francesca da Rimini, which like the afore-mentioned, shows a splendid combination of his mature style and rare mastership. Both these operas were performed in 1905, first in Moscow and later in Petrograd and met with considerable success, not as much, however, as they might have deserved.
Another short interruption of his creative activity should be chronicled. It occurred during the season of 1904-05, when he was invited to become first conductor of the Moscow Imperial Grand Opera. This position gave him an opportunity to lead the masterworks of many composers.
In 1906, Rachmaninoff took up his residence in Dresden, devoting most of his time to pianistic concert activities, in which domain he gradually attained a world-wide reputation. In the same time Rachmaninoff made many European appearances as a composer. Especially should be mentioned a performance in Paris, of his Springtime, a Cantata with Shaliapine as soloist, under the leadership of Chevillard (1906).
During the season of 1906-07 Rachmaninoff wrote his Second Symphony, op. 27 and his first Piano- Sonata, op. 28 and during 1907-1908 the Symphonic Poem, “The Island of Death,” op. 29. These three works belong to the best known among his compositions.
The season of 1908-09 finds Rachmaninoff again in Russia, where he was offered the post of vice-president of the Imperial Russian Music Society. Thanks to this position, which he occupied for three years, he had to work considerably on the question of developing the general musical education in Russia. The obligations of this position, together with his manifold activities, absorbed so much of his time that for a certain length of time we find again an interruption of his productivity.
During the summer of 1909 his third Piano-Concerto was composed and in 1911 a series of songs, op. 32. In 1912 Rachmaninoff succeeded in tearing himself away from his activities and devoting himself again to the larger forms of composition. It was then that the third Symphony, op. 35, appeared. This Symphony, which bears the subtitle “The Bells” (after Edgar Allan Poe, translated by Balmont), shows the fullest development of his orchestral style in large dimensions. In the same year the second Piano-Sonata was composed.
Rachmaninoff made several concert tours in these and the following years. In 1909, he visited the United States. In 1911, Holland, and in the beginning of 1914 he made a general tour through Europe. Between times Rachmaninoff was conductor of the Moscow Symphony concerts (1912-1913). When the big war started, Rachmaninoff made a prolonged tournée through all Russia, giving concerts for the wounded soldiers and victims of the war. In 1915 he undertook another concert tournée through Russia, but this time for another reason, the untimely death of his intimate friend Scriabine, impelled Rachmaninoff thus to honour his memory by performing and spreading the knowledge of his work all over Russia.
As to Rachmaninoff’s creative activities during these last years, we must mention “Vesper-Service,” performed many times with extraordinary success by the Moscow Synodal Choir and finally in 1916, a complete revision of his First Piano Concerto, (written during his younger years), a new set of songs and etudes for piano.
The tragical events, which happened in Russia in 1917, forced the composer to leave his native land in December, 1917 and take up his residence in the Scandinavian countries. As a real Russian and a great-hearted man, Rachmaninoff feels deeply the woes and misfortunes that have befallen his homeland. But if there is sadness in his exile during these times of stress, there is also a hopeful side to it. Rachmaninoff is at the present moment one of the first, if not the very first representatives of Russian musical art and owing to the particularly rich organisation of his talent, he embodies within him all the possibilities of musical manifestation as an original composer, as a virtuoso of the first rank, and as a remarkable conductor.
Exiled as he is by the force of circumstances from Russia, where he had reached his fullest artistic development, Rachmaninoff must be considered at the present moment as a plenipotentiary ambassador extraordinary from Russian musical art to the civilised world, with a mission to remind the world what it owes to a humbled and at present, unhappy Russia. He is the veritable high-priest of Russian musical art.
To all that we have said about the quality of Rachmaninoff as a composer, let us add that he is the prototype of the conscientious artist who puts the highest demands upon himself, and that he is able to combine the deep emotionalism of his creative thought with the filigree delicacy and the finishing touch of the most minute detail-work.
Rachmaninoff has never been a child-prodigy, but all the more certain, all the more direct, has been his development. To every one who will take the trouble to analyse the content and the technique of his compositions it will be clear beyond doubt that he is now in the full bloom of his creative forces, and that he has still many precious works to give to a world which needs them so much. We can also feel assured that the diversity of his gifts will not interfere with the development of the particular branches of his activity, although it almost seems impossible to say how he could still further develop as a pianist.

Ideally, as parents, we would prefer to trust our instincts. However from time to time, we might pay a brisk visit to google and search for an edge, some information that will tick all the right boxes and put our minds at ease. Is that what actually happens? Or do we get lost in all the ideas and opinions, forgetting why we came?

The semi-sad reality is that the most clicked on words/phrases from google searches are: “how to” or “free” and no search would be complete without “tips,” “why,” “best” and “tricks.” The quadrillion dollar question you may be asking yourself is, how does this help me as a parent and more importantly my child? Go with the gut.

Information is only half the battle or perhaps a battle in itself. Synthesising it into a simple life is the gold. So what do our kids need from us as parents? Love, of course. The dedication to keep growing, would be up there. Our trust within the context of their age, another. Do they need us to possess some sort of googability? Actually, I’m not so sure. It’s an important question and the answer cannot be static, it will continue to evolve as they do. A bit like the algorithms on google.

Firstly, I believe they need us not to panic or if we are to panic, do it profusely in another room somewhere quiet. Secondly, they need us to listen. To take them seriously where they are, even if they don’t take you anything. We must strive to be laid back. To be quietly confident, setting a consistent example and clear boundaries, yet with the flexibility to allow them to create enjoyment for themselves and enough freedom for them to grow. If you cannot manage this, use the power of the force. If you don’t have kids and this is putting you off, er, warning, this blog entry may be an effective contraceptive.

About ten years ago, it was all about work life balance. In today’s oligarchy, it’s all about work, no life, imbalance. How do we “sell” this over extension to our kids? We used to go on picnics, now the traffic jam is our picnic! (Saw this on Peppa Pig) Hmm, smell those possible carcinogens.

As a parent, teacher and part time comedian, I’m really pro active about providing a realistic balance between physical and mental activity for kids. This foundation will enable them to develop both their fine and gross motor skills and critical thinking skills in a holistic way. I believe music needs sport and to some degree, sport needs music. This relationship must be nurtured and appreciated if we are to raise kids with the potential to be greats and let’s be clear, we need all the help we can get these days.

Music is a great gift to share with your children. Once autonomous, it’s a gift that keeps on giving. Handy at family gatherings too! It’s a language and a skill that can be used throughout a lifetime. If I had a dollar for the amount of times I heard somebody say, ‘I wish I didn’t give up piano,” I could retire to the Caribbean and divert some funds to the Cayman Islands. Happily, most of the students I take on, leave many years later with a love of music that won’t leave them.

If you’re still wondering where to begin with your toddler, it’s prudent to break things into rhythm and melody at such a formative age. By keeping it simple, you can engage children and teach them through mirrored enjoyment. The physical aspects of music are particularly important early on, for example, marching or clapping in common time (1,2,3,4), dancing, jumping, listening and even additional singing if it’s a good day for you! This is a great way to start.

What I believe makes good parents and teachers is the ability to observe and listen. Ironically, all the things that also make really good kids.

You don’t need to be in a musical profession or be a musician to involve your children in music. There are amazing interactive toys on the market along with many instruments specifically designed for kids. Next time you’re shopping, check out the toy section. Like you haven’t been dragged their kicking and screaming before. Or if heading to the shops isn’t on your list of things to do, you can always check out a music app online.

The benefits of music lessons for children assist physical and mental development in so many ways. Not only are they developing and improving their hand-eye coordination, but they will also improve their concentration and develop a lot of self confidence. The positives are far reaching and go beyond music education.

The study of music engages both hemispheres of the brain and this skill is carried into adulthood. It also enhances spatial temporal reasoning ability which can assist in grasping concepts behind maths, science and engineering. Not to mention, it’s amazing to be able to play or sing a favourite song. You’ll get invited to a truckload of parties!

rnr-lesson

Hi Y’all!

I am a classical and contemporary musician, dedicated music teacher, performer, recording artist and music producer with over twenty years experience in the entertainment industry.

As a teacher, providing music lessons, I am passionate about the arts and education and care very deeply about the student, seeking to holistically engage their passion for the arts and music.

Trained in classical piano, a music scholarship student of Perth Modern School and WAAPA, I have released two albums with a third on the way, simply titled “Piano V.1, V.2 and V.3.” These volumes contain some of my favourite repertoire from the late romantic and early twentieth century piano literature.

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As a contemporary keyboard player, you could describe my “sound” as a tasteful rhythm and blues based pop, however I am also well versed in jazz and have performed in this genre regularly. I have been fortunate to be engaged by many of the biggest companies to perform and entertain in various musical capacities.

My forte as a music producer is being able to take an average song arrangement and get it ready for the market. I have helped to design and shape the music and audio image of many artists, entertainers and media organisations. I also enjoy mentoring and working with vocal and instrumental talent which hopefully helps to inspire them in some way. I was fortunate to have several great mentors that inspired me to continue the journey, such as my dear friend Martin Clarke, an inductee of the WAM Hall of Fame in 2005. Meeting and working with artists is never dull and incredibly rewarding, in any capacity from music lessons to musical arranging/producing.

Music lessons are also available online! Enjoy your stay!

According to scientists, dinosaurs became extinct around sixty seven million years ago. The general consensus was that an astroid hit the earth causing living conditions to deteriorate. It is completely the opposite of recording studios. Somehow, they still exist, but once large, the size of a brachiosaurus, they were hit with the introduction of new technologies.

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The recording studio, whilst smaller, still managed to survive and in many cases thrive, able to function with all, if not more ingenuity, than the past. The only threat to these once monolithic, now room size structures dying out, is not with larger studio spaces, but with a diminished capacity to appreciate art. Capturing audio can be done by anybody, anytime at any place, legally permitting. Just ask Apple. The game has changed.

We believe that the way forward is to find out who you are, build your niche and in turn, value each and every creative relationship, treating it with the utmost care and consideration.

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It would be very easy to be cynical with literally thousands of people vying for business, but in our studio environment, we are very passionate about educating the consumer. We prefer to sensitise, rather than desensitise.

As both trained professional musicians, the “music producer, audio engineer” combo is irresistible, in terms of sonic results. We can create a sound from any musical era or design an original audio signature to suit your overall image.

If you are a singer, songwriter, play a musical instrument or can rap hip hop, then we wholeheartedly believe the first studio you should contact, is ours.

The reason for this confidence is our grounding and unique skill set and above all else, our ears. We foster a totally creative environment and believe that you will leave us, having exceeded expectations, inspired, with a product that is totally top shelf.

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Our recording studio, located south of Perth, in Western Australia is designed for the contemporary musician and the small business technologist.

Primarily, our role is to listen, share your vision and guide you in the direction you wish to go. We will assess your musical language and offer constructive feedback and abundant solutions, enabling you to explore with creative freedom.

We are a recording studio with a varied list of satisfied clients. Aside from albums, EP’s and singles, we are also able to record or track soloists and groups in real time, analogue or digital. Take original DAW session files in Logic Pro or Pro Tools and work with an artist to create magic. Archive collections of vinyl or tapes to disc for prosperity. Provide backing tracks for stage shows. Track additional parts for album projects elsewhere. Record and mix voice overs and commercials. Provide station branding/imaging for radio or podcasting. Create stunning, magical wedding memories. Add fat musical arrangements to your songs. Lay down live sets for DJ’s and provide live brainstorming sessions for vocalists and musicians to reference.

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We also offer a range of corporate audio and video solutions and will match any competitor for quality and affordability.

By the time you are ready to master your music, create and press the disc, upload for digital download or go live, we would have completed the picture for you, allowing you peace of mind, to simply be the artist or content creator.

Today, the only thing that really separates us, is the technology. The idea is still the same and is just as exciting. We want to bring heart back into business. The sort of creativity that inspires, gives goosebumps or makes the spine tingle.

Seeing an artists dreams realised is a fantastic feeling. It is such a great privilege to work with talent in helping them establish a sound or take the next step in their careers. We have over thirty years combined experience and know how to create great content for musicians that want to be noticed.

Our recording studio, located south of Perth, is a culmination of this experience. We are able to recognise the vast difference between average and professional and your final result will speak for itself.

To begin, call us on 0438 382 048 or email justinjamespiano@gmail.com

My journey as a musical arranger and producer began in the lounge room of our family home. My Mother was a contracted broadcaster for ABC radio and was a regular on the concert circuit. This inspired me to begin learning the piano and percussion.

It wasn’t long before I found an effective way of capturing my own musical performances during practice, initially using an analogue reel to reel tape machine, then morphing to a cassette recorder. Once I knew a bit more, it was time to use multi track tape, move to digital audio recorder and eventually, the various DAW’s available on computer such as Logic Pro or Pro Tools, but still with that an original blueprint for warm analogue sound.

It is really hard to encapsulate a career that spans several decades. I have done just about everything there is to do within the music industry. I have performed, recorded, consulted, managed, presented and produced media programs/content and most of all, had a great time.

For a decade, inside all the other activity, I was busy writing, recording and submitting songs to publishers. Slowly, over time, there was an accumulation of gear and a studio appeared. I began working with songwriters, instrumentalists, d-jays, rappers and just about every kind of artist. Several albums and EP’s later, the studio continues to grow thanks to the quality of work and the relaxed, professional environment we provide for clients.

Seeing an artists dreams realised is a fantastic feeling. It is such a privilege to share in their vision and work with talent in helping them establish a sound or take the next step in their careers. Sometimes, it is just that one piece of advice or one new approach that can spawn incredible growth for an artist.

My trained musical ear has been utilised in helping bands form a core sound, recording artists and entertainers, presenting award winning radio programs, researching and interviewing musical celebrities and creating commercials or shaping the sound of a commercial radio brand.

I even worked at the famous, Jingles Australia with the late Gordon Inglis. I got to do everything from making tea, to performing, arranging and directing a voice over or vocal take. Gordon had acquired the first Fairlight CMI in the state. There were nights I worked so late, it was time for breakfast and I remember the smell, sleeping on one of those fine studded leather sofas.

I have won awards for both presentation and production, but believe that awards are not as important as the client. Ultimately, it is the people that make the experience.

Some of the types of work I have done over the years includes archiving a gentleman’s amazing collection of vinyl to a digital format. Recording/tracking vocals for an album that was to be mixed and mastered elsewhere. Working on original EP’s for artists. Adding musical arrangements to already established songs. Assisting those with limited musical arranging skills or production skills in making their DAW sessions come to life. Recording the voice over for a documentary presentation. Providing backing tracks for a live performer’s stage show. Recording a singer songwriter and capturing their unique live performance. Preparing songs for weddings and special occasions. Assembling a backing tape for shopping centres. Capturing a live set for a local d-jay and running a brainstorming session for a singer to take away and write from. This is just a small portion of the work.

We use gear that is at the top of the audio tree. From Avalon to Empirical Labs to Manly. We deliver great results at the most affordable price in Perth. Put us to the test and find out for yourself.

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