music   movement   education

Richard Gill OAM - 2002

"Tonight I will tell you a story. This is the story of a teacher. What kind of teacher you ask? It is difficult to pigeonhole this teacher. I wouldn't introduce the teacher as a choral or instrumental teacher, a secondary, primary, early childhood music teacher. The teacher has taught all of these groups and more - such as professional musicians and non-musicians and music teachers. The teacher is a teacher of music, of music of unquestioned quality and helps students to engage in the magical and spiritual experience of music as well as informing their knowledge of the more mundane and technical aspects.

Those who have been learners from this teacher have had their lives enriched in a way that defies explanation. The learning outcomes are more than the sum of the teaching parts - knowledge of technical aspects, scales and intervals. The learning experience transcends the theoretical and uplifts the spirit regardless of whether the learners are small children, large children, adults, professional musicians and aspiring musicians, conductors, arrangers, or composers.

Describe this teacher and the teaching to us, you demand. Imagine a piece of music as a pool of water - deep unfathomable, with qualities beyond our experience. Standing beside the pool is the teacher with an unquenchable thirst for total understanding. The process is simple. It begins with total immersion into the pool - into the musical experience - to absorb it, be moved by it, be covered and be a part of it, explore it, deconstruct it, and reconstruct it. The teacher emerges from the pool and compels the learners to enter. The experience surrounds us, totally involves us - our senses are on high alert. It is terrifying for us, but there is a lifeline if we need it. That lifeline is the teacher's confidence in us and in the power of the music. We emerge from the pool refreshed and empowered. Such is the impact of teaching.

Tell us more about the teacher. Is the teacher a good musician, the product of good training, what instruments were studied, what degrees and experience contributed to the knowledge base of the teacher, you ask?

The teacher is of course a brilliant musician even though there was no opportunity for learning to play until the age of 14 when an elderly aunt left the family a Pianola. After obtaining the leaving certificate at just 16 and becoming a buyer for Walton’s department store the teacher approached the director of music for the state - Terrence Hunt and asked what one needed to do to get into a music course. Mr Hunt said that if a Grade 5 piano and Grade 6 theory result could be achieved by the end of the year the teacher would be let into a music course. Both qualifications were achieved by the end of the year, and the teacher entered tertiary study, the first opportunity for formal qualifications. The teaching career began at Marsden High school and some of the students from those classes like - Kim Williams, Alan Suthers, etc. still talk about learning from the teacher. Interestingly many from those classes have all gone on to do something interesting in the Arts.

In 1970 teacher went to London to do a degree at a London university and after a few weeks of frustration, the Dean of the course was approached asked, 'What are your intended course outcomes? The Dean listed a number of skills like, - transpose at sight, do 12 part harmony - blah blah blah - The teacher went away and completed these tasks over a weekend - took them to the Dean and said - there - I can do these already - and then went off to teach in the East End.

The teacher studied in Salzburg in 1970/71 and went back to teach there every summer - in German - from 1978 for several years.
From 1974-83 the teacher taught at the Sydney Con - and again people still talk about what they learned. Subjects taught included Aural, History, Harmony (Kirsten William's - our associate concert master and Richard Tognetti claimed they would not have passed without the superb teaching). The teacher also founded the Con singers (Cathy Aggett being one) - went from Lecturer to Senior Lecturer. 1984 - was invited to teach for 6 months at the University of California Chico Campus, Sacramento.

Although the teacher was asked to stay on, the opportunity to set up the Con in Perth was too good a challenge.

Richard Gill OAM 1984 - was invited to teach for 6 months at the University of California Chico Campus, Sacramento.

1985-1990 - the teacher founded the WA Conservatorium and was Dean - many of the SSO players came from WA and speak of the positive impact on them during this time.

1990 - 95 - directed the Australian Opera Chorus Director.

The teacher has been freelancing since then in such jobs as Artistic Director of the Sydney Symphony Ed Program, Artistic Director Musica Viva Ed Program, OZOpera. In 2002 the teacher takes up the Artistic Directorship of the Canberra Symphony. Additionally, the teacher will be Artistic Director from 2003 of the OZ Opera.

Yes, the teacher is a fine musician and a fine conductor as evidenced by the wealth of guest conducting invitations received. They include conducting world premieres of Australian Operas - 'The Ghost Wife', 'The 8th Wonder', and in 2001 'Lindy' (based on the story of Lindy Chamberlain).
The teacher's extraordinary teaching qualities are recognised by the teaching profession and those who are Orff practitioners. The teacher has been invited to teach at many Orff conferences and courses in America, in Salzburg, and around the world. In all - he touches people in a very unique and special way. Among the teacher's many amazing skills are the ability to remember names, speak
languages, distil the essence in a piece of music, and communicate that to the learners, boundless energy, enthusiasm and a deep and abiding commitment to music education of the highest quality for everyone.

On behalf of the Orff Movement in Australia, I have the pleasure of presenting the ANCOS Award of Honour to a person who is truly one of our living treasures. A scholar, a musician, a conductor, a composer, an arranger, a mentor, and an inspiration but first and foremost - an outstanding teacher in the field of music, Richard Gill."

- Carol Richards

Conference Dinner at the Twelfth Conference of the Australian National Council of Orff Schulwerk in Brisbane January 2002.

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