End of Year Director’s Report

‘twas three weeks before Christmas and something was wrong,
Not a fiddler was fiddling, no choirs in song.
No flute tutors tuting, no orchestral sound,
Our NECOM musicians were not to be found.

The echoes from concerts were no longer ringing,
And soon we were missing the playing and singing.
But a month after Christmas it all falls in line
With students returning on Jan 29…

…and, on that note, I might leave the poetry to the artistes who call themselves poets. I would repeat, however, that the silence in the NECOM hallways is almost tangible. While the relative peace is conducive to report writing, it has no place in one of NSW’s most vibrant and successful Conservatoriums! Roll on January 29, I say!

The first half of 2017 saw the departure of Susanne James as Director of NECOM, and the sheer number of congratulatory messages to Susanne was a testament to her accomplishments in six years at the helm of NECOM. We again publicly acknowledge the outstanding work carried out by Susanne in cementing NECOM’s place at the top of music education in the state.

We also farewelled Rachael Edmonds from her position as Administration Officer and invited Nicky Price to move into the seat in a full-time capacity from the middle of the year. Nicky has proven herself to be an excellent first point of contact for parents, students and the general public.

While only six months in the role as new Director, I often catch myself literally shaking my head in near-disbelief of the quality of work being carried out here in the Armidale Conservatorium. From the largest orchestras down to the solo Foundation concerts, the standard of musical output is something of which this city should be extremely proud. Several parents have commented that NECOM continually “punches above its weight”, and as a fan of sporting parlance, I find this to be an apt description of our track record which goes back more than a decade.

There’s a formula as to why this organisation operates like a well-oiled machine, but it is an equation that has numerous variables. Central to everything we do and all decisions that we make (and the one constant that can never change) is music education. Building and maintaining strong links to Armidale schools is paramount for NECOM, and we look forward to continuing our work with the Armidale Music Teachers Association and the dozens of other educators connected through our Music Educators Membership.

I would like to publicly honour the amazing team of teachers who inspire and mentor our young musicians on a daily basis. There is some truly remarkable work being carried out in the string studios, continuing a decades-long tradition of excellence in this area   –   thank you to Joanna Fairs-Wu, Robert Jackson, Laura Curotta, April Kelson, Arlene Fletcher and Camilla Tafra for your tireless commitment to string pedagogy. So too, the growth and expansion of the woodwind and brass families has been incredible, with the combined efforts of Paul Marshall, Louisa Sindel-Marshall and Kristal Spreadborough ensuring that NECOM ensembles will have the benefits of this training for several years to come.

On a recent visit to NECOM, the Department of Education’s Conservatorium Officer, Mr Edward Mafi, remarked that there was “no other Regional Conservatorium in NSW with a choral program” like the one he witnessed here at the Christmas Choral Concert. This is due in no small part to the dedication and drive of conductors like Leanne Roobol, Bekk Baumgartner, Connie Dunham, Cathy Welsford, Phil Oxley and Rowena Teege.

These peerless teachers are backed up by a team of accompanists who are all outstanding performers in their own right, and we look forward to having the continued musical support of Robyn Bradley, Warwick Dunham, Nicole Mackson and Kees Grenyer in 2018. Not only are they on call for the many choral performances that take place annually, but they also work closely with students during AMEB exams, HSC periods and the local Eisteddfod.

Other programs that help keep NECOM at the forefront of musical education in NSW are the ‘Chamber Music In Schools’ program developed by the irrepressible Deidre Rickards, one of this region’s most revered educators. Equally popular is our Mini Minstrels classes catering to some of our very youngest music lovers. Thank you to Peta Bale and April Kelson for the fun and enjoyment these classes bring to so many families. Out in Inverell, Wendy Chatterton has transformed classroom music in a very short time, and we’re excited that Wendy is now able to add even more classes to her school circuit.

As one of the only Regional Conservatoriums to include Music Therapy in its programming, we were sad to see Hannah Rowland resign to pursue further academic study. Hannah has been an excellent practitioner in this important field of therapeutic care for several years now. We were delighted to announce recently that Fumie Takahashi, a graduate of the University of Western Sydney’s Master of Music Therapy course, will join NECOM from the end of January next year. You can find out more about Fumie in a report within this newsletter.

Finally, it is to the young men and women of NECOM that I would like to pass my heartiest congratulations   –   you are simply amazing! Collectively you approach music with enthusiasm, determination and (most importantly) respect for the art form. It is not empty sentiment when I say that there are simply too many highlights of 2017 to report on them in my Director’s Report. Instead, I invite you to browse through the archived newsletters of our newly-updated website and remind yourself of the high standard of events that have been produced through (and in affiliation with) our Conservatorium. At the time of writing, 2018 is only 600 hours away, and we have so many great plans for NECOM next calendar year, one of which is the development of a percussion program.

Again, to our teachers, thank you for a job extremely well done, and for the love you have for your profession. To our NECOM Admin team of Corinne, Kate, Sophie and Nicky, congratulations on the way you fulfil your individual roles with such professionalism, always going above-and-beyond to ensure the best possible outcomes. To the NECOM Board and Greg Moin as Chair, thanks for your support of all that we are trying to achieve. To the parents, none of this would be possible without your enduring support, both financially and in terms of time…and to the students of NECOM, more power to your music-making abilities. We can’t wait to have you back here in 2018 filling our vacant rooms with sound once again.

Happy and safe holidays,
Mr Russell Bauer