I undertook my studies at the University of Melbourne Conservatorium of Music where, at the end of my first year of study, I was awarded the Ormond Exhibition (for performance and academic excellence) and the Florence Bradford Scholarship. I studied violin with Nathan Gutman, John Glickman and, after John went to England to take up the position of concertmaster of the Yehudi Menuhin Orchestra, I had the good fortune to learn from Christopher Martin. During my studies, I developed an enduring love of chamber music and undertook study in this area with Chris Martin and the world-renowned cellist, John Kennedy - father of the flamboyant, highly entertaining violinist, Nigel Kennedy.
After graduating, I joined the State Orchestra of Victoria but, because I wanted to travel and broaden my musical horizons, I moved on to working as a freelance orchestral violinist, touring with such musicians as Rick Wakeman, Gene Pitney, Burt Bacharach and John Farnham.
As family commitments increased, I became more involved in teaching, establishing my home studio in the eastern suburbs of Melbourne and working part-time at various private schools. I taught at Ruyton Girls’ School, Lauriston Girls’ School, Firbank Grammar School, Penleigh P.L.C., Eltham College and Caulfield Grammar School. Some of my teaching duties included:
- group and individual tuition in violin and viola
- the implementation and ongoing development of strings programs, usually at Grade 2 or 3 level
- orchestral conducting at junior and senior levels
- tutoring small ensembles to advanced levels
- violin, viola and cello workshops
- presenting student concerts for both solo and ensemble performances
I encourage my students to investigate as many different styles of music as possible in order to broaden their experience and knowledge bases and optimise their enjoyment of music-making.
I place a high priority on having my students understand the importance of:
- adopting natural hand, arm, shoulder and back shapes as much as possible
- correct posture when playing and, equally importantly, how poor posture impacts on mental and physical performance in all our day-to-day activities
- the mechanics involved in playing the violin and viola, thereby enabling them to maximise, in the short- and long-term, what is achieved in practice sessions
I stress the importance and encourage (not pressure!) my students to perform as often as possible in a variety of different situations. This provides them with a means of developing not only their music performance skills but also their confidence and competence in other areas of formal presentation, such as class discussions and presentations, debating, job interviews and general assertive interaction with their peers and colleagues.
I encourage parents to be actively involved in their children’s music education by attending several lessons each term so that they can productively participate in home practice sessions. In a social environment that is becoming geared more and more towards instant gratification, learning a musical instrument can be a daunting experience for many children once they—and their parents! - realise that a commitment to daily practice is necessary in order to progress. Practising for even half an hour can be very isolating and can seem interminable to a small - and even not-so-small - child. So, even if parents have had no previous music experience, their interest and involvement are very important factors in determining whether their children will continue with their instrumental studies. No matter how good the teacher is, if there is little or no parental involvement, the child’s interest and enthusiasm will very soon dwindle.
I have discovered over the last few years that the commonly-held belief that adults do not learn as fast or as well as children is a myth…and research supports my observations! My adult students never cease to surprise me in how quickly, enthusiastically and soundly they develop new and challenging skills. I have found that, with their extensive life experience, they have a greater capacity for relating new skills to those they already have in other areas.
Many of my adult students report secondary benefits in learning violin or viola: I have several students who, despite their hectic lifestyles, always make time for their practice and lessons due to the calming influence of music in their chaotic environment. Another of my students discovered that, on arriving home from his very stressful and demanding job, rather than making a bee-line for his cigarettes - as was his habit – instead, he found himself winding down with his violin practice. He has not only made very impressive progress in playing the violin but he has also, quite accidentally, achieved his long-term goal of giving up smoking!
So, if you’ve always wanted to play the violin or viola but life’s demands kept getting in the way, take heart...
It’s NEVER too late to start!