It is becoming more and more interesting for me to see how my early experiences, hopes and dreams are coming full circle. I began my own music tuition aged 3, at a Yamaha Music School, where I learnt to read and write music before I could read. I have little memory of this time, but its effects continue to play out in my life.
I have been happily teaching music privately since I was in my teens, and I cherish the close relationships that I have with many students, developed during piano, singing or trombone lessons. However, my happiest and most enjoyable teaching and musical experiences have involved groups. Whether it is organising a jazz quartet or instrumental ensemble for a special occasion, putting together a children’s choir, or conducting a musical, I love the dynamics of a group.
Recently some of my overseas trips have involved volunteering, and this has opened up more amazing musical opportunities. It was during a month on the Galapagos Islands in Ecuador that I gained wonderful experiences teaching keyboard, assisting with the school choir and sitting in on high school music classes, then running them when the teacher was absent. Then in Colombia, I had arrived completely burnt out due to all my music work and subsequent illness of 2010. Healing came in the form of a family friend of my hosts, who was a nationally recognised mandolin player. We jammed for hours; him on mandolin, me on keys, and every other member of the family playing various percussion instruments as we sang and played dozens of Colombian folksongs.
The following week I was in Cartagena to meet my sponsor child. I don’t know if she was always musical, but in the three years since I have been supporting her and we have been corresponding, she has decided that she wants to be a music teacher. I believe strongly in the power of mentoring and encouragement, and am so excited and honoured that I may have been a motivating factor in her decision.
It was that week, while snorkelling off Pirate Island in the Caribbean, that I was pondering my professional future. My happiest teaching times were the years I spent teaching keyboard classes at a local music school. The germ of the idea was born, and this year has been spent in preparations to open my own school, which will offer quality small group lessons covering the instrument of choice, combined with a well-rounded complete musical education.
And now, five years on, Stellar Music School is going strong. We have a group of amazing talented and passionate teachers, and over eighty students who come each week to learn singing, piano, violin, guitar, clarinet, saxophone, trumpet and euphonium.
We make regular donations to KidsXpress, a Sydney-based charity which uses music, art and drama therapy to help children to deal with trauma.
We have also partnered with Mansek School of Music in Ghana, and I was lucky enough to visit them in 2014, taking with me donations of musical instruments, music and supplies. I was also able to give lessons while there, as well as help the music teachers already there.
Going into our next five years, it is my hope that we continue to inspire and motivate more young people to learn to love music.
Stellar Music School Director