2019 Australasian Piano Pedagogy Conference, University of Queensland, Brisbane
by Josie Thomas, President, VMTA
The 2019 biennial Australasian Piano Pedagogy Conference, held in Brisbane from 8-12 July 2019, was once more full of ideas and information to improve our teaching. In addition, we were treated to several very fine concerts. The campus is like a magnificent spacious botanical park and the new auditorium in the Advanced Engineering Building was a superb space to hear the keynote speakers and most of the concerts. All with the background of a lakeside view behind the stage.
The Conference opened with a concert given by Max Olding AM and his wife Pamela Page to celebrate Max’s 90th birthday. The legendary pair were supported by other musicians including some of Max and Pamela’s students and their son Dene Olding, first violin of the Goldner String Quartet and Concertmaster Emeritus of the Sydney Symphony Orchestra. A most moving opening to an exciting week.
Keynote speakers included Joanna MacGregor, Emeritus Professor David Lockett, Phillip Keveren, John Bloomfield, Professor Neal Peres da Costa, Dr Erin Helyard, Tim Topham, Dr Liam Viney and Dr Anna Grinberg.
Each keynote speaker had much insightful information and experience to offer. From arranging standard repertoire with one’s own stamp, to learning that Nina Simone originally had wanted to be a classical pianist and was a composer but was denied entry to the Curtis Institute of Music despite a well received audition and coming from Juillard! A key message throughout many keynote sessions was the importance of the individual’s expression and creativity.
The conference was filled with many wonderful presentations that provided teachers with refreshing ideas like Jo Kotchie’s Colour Learning, Nick Paterson’s ideas on how to teach Improvisation, Karen North’s Fun and Games book and Thembi Shears’ presentation on how to deal with dyslexia and ADHD better. Angela Turner gave us a thorough look into the Exploring Series. Mira Jakopanetz and Irina Cherkasski presented an overview of the pedagogical music of Peskonov, Cobb and Sam Wedgewood.
The AMEB new syllabus and publications team, led by David Lockett, gave valuable insight on why they arrived at their decisions and how they envisioned it would lead to results that are more musical.
There were many more presentations of course, each having something useful to offer.
The evening recitals were major highlights. The piano duo of Viney-Grinberg gave us exhilarating performances of Stravinsky, Grainger and a World Premiere by Kate Neal. Joanna McGregor’s concert was a most memorable performance of a superb mix of composers including an innovative use of the piano imitating an oud by plucking the strings while simultaneously playing the keys. Black Earth by Fazil Say.
The exchange of ideas at these conferences, the high level of performances and the inevitable comradery built in this environment makes them most worthwhile, enhancing our teaching at all levels and professionalism in so many ways.