Forty Plus Membership Reflections 2019

Celebrating Forty Years of Membership in 2019

Every year, the VMTA acknowledges members who have reached their membership milestone of forty years. 

We would like to congratulate the following members who achieved this milestone in 2019: Margaret Baker, John Briggs, Rhonda Dawn Gale, Judith Formosa, Michael Smith, Rita Shallies, Veronica Rutowicz, Gloria Jordan. 

Here are some reflections from three of our new Forty Plus members: Gloria Jordan, Rhonda Dawn Gale and Michael Smith.

Gloria Jordan

Music Through the Generations

Thank you VMTA for inviting me, after 40 years of membership, to share some highlights of my life as a music teacher.

I was born in Bendigo where my great grandparents and great uncles had been professional musicians and band leaders during the Gold Rush era. This love of music and talent passed down to my mother, who played and taught piano until she was 88 years young! My brother Rob was also a professional musician.

I had the opportunity to study piano, ballet and tap dancing from a young age and performed in many competitions at Bendigo, South Street Ballarat, Tasmania and Melbourne. Highlights of my dancing were being chosen to dance Clara in the Nutcracker ballet with soloists from the Victorian Ballet, and playing Wendy in the pantomime Peter Pan - both at the Princess Theatre.

After my marriage I continued on with the joy of piano teaching and I decided to study Suzuki piano at Burwood State College under the expert direction of Noela Hogg. Later I was invited to be on the faculty of the inaugural Australian Suzuki Piano Summer School in Melbourne.

My daughter Lucille Chambers, (now McArthur) commenced Suzuki violin at the age of 6 and was leader of the McCubbin Orchestra in Heidelberg at 8. She has played in numerous orchestras since then and gained her BMus. She now lives in Queensland, with a successful violin studio, and is an examiner for the AMEB. Many of her students win prizes and scholarships. Luci and Adrian’s children are continuing on with the family tradition of music, with a passion for piano, strings, brass and singing.

Observing me teach piano at home, my younger daughter Rebecca Chambers insisted I teach her Suzuki Piano when she was only 2 and a half! She went on to win many scholarships and awards, High Distinction for AMEB Licentiate, and performed as concerto soloist with many ABC and other orchestras, culminating in winning the ABC National Young Performers Awards for piano. She later gained her Master of Music in New York performing as a soloist with many orchestras in the USA and other countries, including Mozart piano soloist at the Lincoln Centre in New York. She was awarded Young Australian of the Year in 1996.

On her return from New York she performed the Tchaikowsky Piano Concerto No 1 at the Sidney Myer Music Bowl as soloist with the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra to a record crowd of 21,000 people! She is now Director of Chambers Music and Kidko in Albert Park with her professional singer husband Greg McMaster, and their 10-year-old son Fox is an actor, pianist and musical theatre singer. Fox and Rebecca recently played the roles of the young Geoffrey Tozer and his mother in the film 'The Eulogy'.

It has been a joy to watch the love of music pass down through the generations. I feel that my extra qualification as Clinical Counsellor has helped me immensely with my teaching profession, and also my dancing training as a ballet, tap dancer and choreographer, which has helped me, through the expression of movement, with the education of my music students over the years.

My second husband Peter and I are Directors of our Melbourne music school, and we also perform Fred and Ginger routines, which I choreograph, on the stage as duo performers - tap dancing and ballroom. I acted as Polly in a four-women play about life issues. Again I feel all of these life experiences have contributed to my teaching skills. I still enjoy adult ballet classes at the Australian Ballet.

Peter and I have acted and danced in many movies and TV series, and I was recently selected for the leading acting role in a comedy skit of ABC’s 'Mad as Hell'. We have travelled overseas extensively, and, having been to the birthplaces of so many composers and observed their cultures, I feel this has also enhanced my teaching approach.

I enjoy composing and one of my compositions 'White Tuxedo Rag' was performed by one of my students for AMEB 7th grade exam last year. There are many more compositions in the pipeline!!!

I am grateful to the VMTA for the amazing Summer Schools over the years and fabulous workshops.
My students are enjoying playing piano at VMTA student concerts, which provide confidence in performing. And the VMTA end- of- year get together with colleagues is always a joy!!










Rhonda Dawn Gale

My teaching career began in 1964. I was a piano student in a small country town of Hopetoun. My first teacher helped me through to the level of AMusA which I failed. Three children later, back to the piano practice and had a positive result this time.

Other than private students, I had opportunities to teach class music in many Mallee schools. I delighted in putting school bands together, singing groups and often coached students in Drama. Hopetoun Secondary College allowed me to teach year levels 7 to the early days of VCE. Many students went on to enjoy music into their adulthood. 

I would take my advanced piano students to the city where they would have an inspiring lesson with Mack Jost, May Clifford and Graham Bartle. I used AMEB as my exam system. The community allowed me many opportunity to accompany and arrange community concerts.

The VMTA Summer School held in January in the city was a great opportunity to gain new innovative ideas and meet with other teachers. PDs and workshops were vital. I’m forever grateful for these experiences that opened doors in a later life to come.

I relocated to the Eastern suburbs of Melbourne and worked in schools for other music companies. I felt restricted and often disagreed with their approach but I gained multiple experiences not only in teaching small groups but also learning how to function within the education system. 

By this time, I felt the past approach of teaching had to change. The modern student was involved in multiple after school activities. The method of music teaching had to become smarter and wiser to achieve a quicker result for the student who “just wanted to learn”. Space prevents me from elaborating but my teaching methods gained results. 

However, I was at my happiest and best when developing my skills to teach in many different ways to achieve a happy result for students. Finding methods for children with Down Syndrome, Spectrum disorders and those with low self esteem and anxiety were as varied as the individual. Understanding how each individual student processed information was of great interest to me.

Studying and reading about the subject still fascinates me today. I have retired from teaching in schools but teaching goes on. The most successful way for me was to build a mobile music business and teach in the student’s own home, on their instrument. I knew what I was dealing with and I knew that I was going to show up. The rare, dedicated student was an exception and I was able to revert to a more traditional approach.

The VMTA was my "go to" for lectures and workshops that kept me motivated and inspired to continue on as a piano teacher. Thank you to Mrs Aileen Hofmaier of Hopetoun, Miss Pearl Newell of Warracknabeal and Wendy Weight for their support. Thank you to the many students who continue to inspire and teach me new skills every week.








Michael Smith

BEd.Mus, AMusA (Piano),  MIMT,  MVMTA, Examiner ANZCA

I would like to thank the VMTA for all their support during my teaching career over the years. I can still remember teaching my very first student which was in 1978! The little boy received Honours grading for his AMEB preliminary exam!  For this I must thank my wonderful teacher, the late Miss Margriet Pendavingh of North Dandenong, who was a VMTA Member for many years and taught me so many wonderful things!

Thanks to the VMTA, I called and spoke to Patricia Bainbridge and she recommended to take lessons with Margriet, as she had a Diploma of Music from the Amsterdam Conservatorium of Music and she was an absolutely amazing teacher! Prior to studying with her I had lessons with another VMTA Member, Miss Betty Whiteside who was most helpful in getting this keen boy, who taught himself to play the Chopin Revolutionary Etude from memory, to become more disciplined with his learning.

After only 4 years with Margriet I had passed my AMusA Diploma examination in piano. She made me work very hard, so to speak! Of course I DID work very hard and I know this is so important if one wants to do well. What an amazing teacher – I will be forever grateful to the day I called the VMTA and was recommended to study with this great lady! 

A year or so after I completed the Associate, I got a call from Mr Mack Jost, who was a senior lecturer in piano at the University Of Melbourne Faculty Of Music.  He was keen to teach me, and I had voiced a desire to study with this great teacher after seeing him in concert at Melba Hall on a few occasions. So began another important chapter in my career.

Mack was a most incredible teacher who had the gift of making everything I learnt easy. He developed great relaxation skills and interpretation ideas. He was wonderful with fingering difficult passages and also cutting out some “unnecessary” notes! (Cutting one or two note trills in both hands in the Variations movement of Beethoven’s E Major Sonata Opus 109, and the cadenza of the Grieg Piano Concerto!)

Mr. Jost arranged for me to study music theory with VMTA Member Mr Graham Bartle and he was a wonderful theory teacher – he could pick out all my hidden consecutive fifths and octaves at the blink of an eye! I also had an opportunity to study at the conservatorium in 1980 completing the Higher Training for Music Teachers with Ms May Clifford. I received the qualification MIMT. From 1981 to 1984 I studied for the Bachelor of Education (Music Major) at Melbourne College of Advanced Education (which is now part of the University of Melbourne). My piano studies continued with Mack Jost at the Conservatorium.

During my studies I continued to teach piano students, and I would often call the VMTA for assistance and ideas about how to build student numbers and what I should charge. Their workshops and recitals were most helpful for both teachers and students.

It was a priority for me at the time to qualify myself as best I could, so I could offer only the best tuition to my students. The importance of the VMTA in having a recommended fee for “qualified” teachers was very helpful.

After graduation I worked as a classroom music teacher in various secondary schools, becoming Head of Instrumental Music Teaching at Bacchus Marsh Grammar between 1998 and 2004. I taught groups of students keyboard and guitar in many primary schools for Excel Music. Teaching classroom music was an experience I can tell you! (Dear Margriet told me years ago it was a “dreadful” job.) After 4 years I left the classroom and concentrated on individual teaching. Over the years I have taught many hundreds of students and most of them achieved high gradings for their examinations. You see, I learned from my teachers to be STRICT but friendly and to work WITH the students at their own level and not to be aloof! (Mack Jost taught me to be very humble, as I still am). It has always been my goal to teach as best I could and to train students in the best and correct methods in order to develop their potential.

Over the last 10 or so years have been involved with the Friends of the Team of Pianists, and took lessons with the previous VMTA President Mr Darryl Coote. Another wonderful teacher and a great man! During my involvement with the Team, I had opportunities to perform in master classes with Mr Max Cooke.

My last teaching position was at Caroline Springs School of Music where I was Head of Piano Studies. It was a pleasure to work with Brendan and Natalie Hains and I was most pleased to sponsor Brendan to become a member of the VMTA after he gained the prestigious award of the Fellowship Diploma of Music – F.Dip.A. (ANZCA) 

During the period 1995 – 2018 I had a large teaching practice in Melton West. During this time I began using the ANZCA syllabus and achieved much success using their syllabus in my teaching practice. I was accepted into the position of examiner with ANZCA in 2007, and I am grateful for the opportunity to work with this wonderful organisation. I have now retired from teaching, but still travel to many locations examining for ANZCA Music Examinations.

During the years it has been my pleasure to recommend and sponsor other teachers to become members of the VMTA. Some have been students and others colleagues. As can be seen above, the VMTA has been an important part of my career as a performer and teacher and I am most grateful for the opportunity. It is my sincere belief that all qualified teachers should be a member of a professional organisation such as VMTA.

I thank the staff of the VMTA for offering me the prestigious 40th year award and for the opportunity to write about my career.

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