NECOM students and local music teachers had the rare opportunity to learn from one of Australia’s most esteemed conductors, Richard Gill AO, who was in Armidale with the Sydney Chamber Choir.
Mr Gill has conducted all the major Australian opera companies and orchestras, and has directed orchestras and opera companies.
He is also a passionate advocate for music education, which he believes should be mandatory from preschool to Year 6.
“Music is in our DNA,” Mr Gill said. “It's fundamental to the human spirit, and civilisations from way back have always used music as an integral part of life through dancing, singing, ritual, rites of passage. We've lost this community singing effect, and we've lost the idea of kids singing at school.
“What I'm trying to do is reinstate music into schools so that every child in the state schools in particular has access to a properly trained music teacher, because it has such a profound impact on their hearts, their minds, their souls, their spirits, their imagination, and it's good for its own sake.”
Mr Gill began as a teacher in western Sydney, and still loves working with children.
“I find the mind of a child immediately fascinating,” he said. “You have to instill in children a love of learning. And they will only love learning if they actually learn. And doing it hands-on is essential, in my view.”
Mr Gill held a workshop on Wednesday afternoon for around 30 Year 7 to 12 students – members of NECOM choirs, including the New England Singers and the New England Chamber Choir – focusing on choral and rehearsal techniques.
“The students at NECOM are already so fortunate to work weekly with musicians and teachers of a high calibre,” NECOM’s director Russell Bauer said, “but to then have a workshop with someone who's esteemed worldwide really is one of those once in a lifetime opportunities.
“There are so few Richard Gills, certainly in Australia, so the students, I would expect, will still be talking about this visit next year and beyond. He made that big an impact.”
About 15 primary music teachers came from as far afield as Walcha and Inverell for a masterclass on Thursday morning. The participants included both NECOM staff, and regional studio music teachers supported by NECOM’s Music Educator Members program.
NECOM has already invited Mr Gill back next October for a composition conference with some of Australia’s leading and international composers.