If there’s a musical performance in Armidale, ten to one Robyn Bradley is involved.
Fitting, then, that she should be awarded an OAM for her service to music through community ensembles.
For more than 20 years, the piano teacher has accompanied Armidale Drama and Musical Society productions, Armidale Choral Society performances, and the annual Armidale Music Foundation weekend.
She has helped NECOM and UNE students rehearse for Eisteddfod or exams. She is also a member of the Fiori Musicali Chamber Choir and the Armidale Symphony Orchestra.
“I feel very honoured,” she said. “It’s nice to be recognised for many years of going out in cold nights, but I feel that there are many other people who worked just as hard, and gave of their time. I’m just one of many people who do things for the arts community in Armidale.”
Just as Robin sees herself as part of that community, so her own attitude to music is social.
“For a large country town, Armidale is amazingly full of music,” she said. “It’s a fantastic community, and I’m very privileged to be part of that group.”
“I enjoy making music with other people,” she explained. “It’s a means of socialising. It’s incredibly bonding; you develop life-long friendships.”
Music has always been part of Robyn Bradley’s life.
“As a child,” she said, “I used to go to sleep every night to the sound of my mother playing Mozart – she would say, very badly played Mozart!”
Robyn studied piano at school, and sang in harmony with her sisters.
To her surprise, she did something very different when she went to university: veterinary science.
After graduating, she married a mining engineer working at Hillgrove, and returned to Armidale.
Robyn couldn’t find work with the local vets because of the early ‘80s drought. They were shooting cattle, and not taking on any new graduates.
Robyn got her three-year Masters in Rural Science, and then had two children.
“It wouldn't have been possible for me with a husband with a very demanding job out at Hillgrove to cart kids around the middle of the night to calvings!” Robyn said.
“I was at home, and thought now is the time to pick up the piano again.”
She took lessons from local teacher Robin Driscoll, and went on to do a music degree.
She became involved with the Eisteddfod because her kids needed accompaniment. Her five-year-old daughter wanted to be Gretel in the ADMS’ Sound of Music; Robyn played for her audition, and the society was delighted to find an accompanist.
The highlight of her musical involvement in Armidale has been Opera New England, which gave post-graduate voice students from around Australia the chance to appear in fully-staged opera in a small country town.
“It was a wonderful achievement because the standard was very professional,” Robyn said, “and it was a wonderful opportunity for these kids to have a proper role. It was a life-changing experience for a lot of those kids, and I'm very proud we did that.”