Introducing NECOM’s New Director – Russell Bauer

Russ Bauer (2017)

It’s a brave Queenslander who takes up a new position in NSW just three days before the 2nd State of Origin match in Sydney… if it’s any consolation, I’m a Test Cricket tragic, not a league fan. Parents and students of New England, I’m very excited to be moving my family to Armidale to begin a new career as Director of NECOM. My name is Russ Bauer, and I’m originally from a rural background, having been born and raised in Kingaroy, the peanut capital of Australia.

My earliest musical experiences were as a six-year-old playing country songs (by ear) on my Grandma’s old mostly-in-tune German piano. As soon as I had a repertoire of around 10 songs, she would drive me up the hill to the local retirement home and let me play for the elderly, with an empty shoebox tied beneath my right sandal so that I could reach the sustain pedal. Piano would prove to be my closest associate for the next decade of my life, and it was in my early teens that my love and admiration for Beethoven took hold.

My Tertiary years were spent at USQ in Toowoomba where I developed a passion for composing and arranging. As an undergraduate, I formed a song-writing partnership with the Head of Drama, Mr Robert Ketton, and together we produced six original children’s musicals. Entering University as a piano major, I soon became envious of my friends and colleagues heading off to orchestra rehearsals twice a week, so after pleading with the Professor of Music (the late Peter Rorke OAM), I entered the orchestral fold as a tuba-player, having never touched one before in my life. This kick-started a desire to become, if not fluent, certainly ‘conversational’ in as many different instruments as I could manage. There was a practical reason for doing this; learning scales and simple pieces on many different instruments teaches you the inherent difficulties of each family (woodwind, brass, percussion and strings) and subsequently makes you a much more versatile composer and arranger.

From my University days until now, I have (at various times) been an Instrumental teacher for 12 years back in my hometown of Kingaroy, a USQ Lecturer in Music, and Head / Director of Music at several leading schools in South-East Queensland.  I have continued my interest in composing for the theatre, with an original musical about Harry Houdini (with lyrics by the acclaimed poet, Bruce Dawe) being selected as part of the Sydney Writer’s Festival in 2010.

As Director of NECOM from June 2017, it is my wish that I might continue the outstanding work of Susanne James and help to keep this incredible regional Conservatorium as one of the jewels in the crown of the beautiful New England region. One of my key areas of interest lies in the early years of music training, introducing young musicians to as many musical experiences as possible, and encouraging them to experiment with sound in the same way that a young artist splashes colour onto a canvas with exuberance. Almost every adult who still makes music after the age of 30 or 40 does so because they had one or more teachers modelling best practice and a sheer love of their art form. My former Professor of Music, Peter Rorke, continues to inspire me on a weekly basis, even 20 years after his passing. At the other end of the age spectrum, I am also fascinated by the use of music to awaken dormant memories in the elderly,  and I look forward to immersing myself in some of the excellent aged-care programs already established through NECOM.

The phrase “Conservatorium without walls” is a wonderful way to approach music education and performance, and I’m excited about the possibilities of expanding the social media ‘footprint’ at NECOM. This will mean working closely with the excellent marketing team to explore avenues for demolishing even more virtual walls so that the entire country can enjoy the fruits of the music-making happening in New England.

Finally, I will be very keen to share my work in memory-training, something that has completely changed how I approach learning and study over the past 20 years.

I bring with me my wife Janine and 13-year-old son, Toby. He is sometimes known as the “oven kid”, but I am happy to explain that on another occasion. Our two daughters are adults with their own careers; our eldest daughter, Sarah, lives in the heart of Brisbane and works in the finance sector, while our middle child, Jessica, may be known to fans of youtube as one-half of the ‘Jess & Gabe’ channel.

I thank you all, in advance, for the warm welcome I know we will receive on becoming residents of beautiful Armidale, and yes, we have packed our coats, scarves, beanies and ugg-boots. I look forward to meeting as many of you as I can in my first few months at NECOM.