Forty Plus Membership Reflections

Celebrating Forty Years of Membership

Every year, the VMTA acknowledges members who have reached their membership milestone of forty years. Here are some reflections from two of our members, Maxine Shell and Patricia West.

Maxine Shell

My love of music firstly came from being a child performer at 4 years old on stage having lessons in basic tap and ballet, and attending eisteddfods and concerts.  My mother, the late Irene McDonald (also a VMTA Member) was a piano teacher in Yarraville at the time.  She told me I kept pestering her to learn piano and she began teaching me at the age of 10 years.

After a short period she moved me on to a local teacher. Apparently I would not take instruction easily, or she did not have the time. During my secondary school years I attended lessons from Muriel Shepherd in the old Suttons Building in the city. This involved travelling by train every Saturday morning to the city for lessons and I would have only been 12 at the time. London Guild had rooms in that building and also did their examinations there. I was able to go through all my Practical and Theoretical Grades with Mrs Shepherd.  At the age of 18, I gained my ALCM with London Guild.

My mother took me under her wing so to speak, by beginning to teach me to teach at our Yarraville home.  My first students were at a charge of 30 cents a lesson.  Lessons were taught from my piano in my bedroom - my how things have changed! Marriage followed and still more studies; our family came along and the studies continued.  

Another teacher was needed and Geoff McFerran was my choice. I had had students examined by Geoff in AMEB Examinations. I studied with Geoff at rooms in the Athenaeum Theatre for many years and gained my Licentiate with the Guild. It was around this time that I became a VMTA Member.

The AMEB was growing in Melbourne and I had begun to enter a selection of students with the body and achieved some good results. Whilst employed at Paul Hayward keyboards, I was involved in the setting up of a youth group known then as the Young Organist Association of Australia. Some 40 years on, this group still operates under my direction. Their activities involve charity performances for elderly people and support for young performers meeting in each other’s homes monthly to perform. I have found this invaluable for my students to be involved in and for preparation for AMEB examinations.

My career to date includes being engaged as a music awareness instructor at Avondale Heights Kindergarten for over 20 years and at present teaching piano and recorder private and group lessons at Avondale Primary School since 1978.

In addition to this I have many private students at my studio ranging from beginners to advanced AMusA , keeping me occupied during 6 days of the week. I see myself continuing in what I love hopefully for some years to come.

Patricia West

My father was a pianist in a local band in my hometown of Hobart, so my music journey started when I was born. The piano was always in action as I grew up to the sounds of swing, Fats Waller being one of the favourites. So as soon as I could reach the keys, Dad started teaching me melody and chords (tenths were a bit beyond my stretch).

Classical piano lessons began when I was eight and continued until secondary school when I reverted back to the popular music of the time.  At 15 I was playing in a social room during a school trip to NSW when a guitar playing boy from Melbourne asked to borrow some sheet music. It was a novel pick up line – we married 6 years later. My classical studies resumed when I was sixteen and culminated in an AMusA (Performing). Marriage saw me move to Melbourne and commence my piano teaching career – interrupted by work related moves to and from Sydney and Hobart.

Piano teaching has been a thoroughly rewarding and often challenging (‘Mum’s car ran over my music’) profession. It has been a joy to be able to pass on a knowledge of music to young children and see them grow over the years into young adults with well-rounded personalities. There has been laughter and tears (students and teacher!) but overall a great sense of achievement. VMTA Summer Schools and regular meetings with other local piano teachers have been of benefit – swapping stories and gaining knowledge – and realising that you’re not alone with problems and difficulties. Accompanying choirs, playing at life events, and being one of the regular pianist/organists at St Mark’s Templestowe has kept me in touch with performance.

So music and teaching has provided me with a profession which I’ve been able to run successfully from a home studio, an income…….and a husband! 

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