24 March 2013


In the to-us-new culture of 1980s New Zealand - new after eight years in Yap, and after eight years during which, by all accounts, New Zealand's own culture had changed radically - we felt overwhelmed by the flood of possibilities for recreation for our children.  Our new friends pressed on us sport, dance, riding, groups of the Scout and Guides type - and music.  We had four children, limited money, limited time.  After some initial experiments with sport - I think Eddie did cricket for a while, Johnny soccer - we decided to concentrate on music.

My mother had been an accomplished pianist.  I wish I knew more about her musical background.  Her ability was very impressive to me.  She made, one way and another, musicians of her children.

We had no television set in Bakersfield.  When we moved to Oroville, in 1954, at some time after that - perhaps by 1956? - my father built a television receiver.  Nevertheless, watching tv in the evening was not, for us, what I think it sometimes is - even was, then - for some families.  Instead, we played music.

My mother bought small ensemble arrangements of popular 1940s and '50s music - Lerner and Loew, Hoagy Carmichael, that sort of thing - and we played: she on the piano, I on the cornet, Peter on the clarinet, Robin on the saxophone - and, I think, at times, my father on percussion.  I have said elsewhere that from primary school on I played the cornet.  In high school I took up the horn as well.  When, after two years of University, I had no longer had a horn to play, I took up (in a small way) classical guitar.  Music was so much a part of me that I seriously considered, when starting University, majoring in horn rather than astronomy (though I was never so committed as my sister, who is a professional musician today; and nor, at the time, as my brother, who paid part of his University costs playing in a band).

So when, sometime during, I think, 1985, we heard (from Aileen Darby and Janette Bagrie) about the music schools that are run out of school hours in primary and intermediate schools - and, specifically, about the Papakura Music School - I decided that what we should do is to concentrate.  I had experience in music.  The kids would enjoy the social side of it, and, I hoped, the musical as well.  Susan and the children attended an open day in late 1985.  At the beginning of the school year, in February, 1986, Johnny, Helen, and Eddie began recorder lessons (Adele, three and a half at the time, had to wait until the next year to start).

My mother's music had lifelong effects on her children.  At least, I still play the horn (in the Manukau Symphony.  My sister spent much of her life as a professional musician, and still plays professionally when she can.  I think my brother does not play any longer.

Of our children, Johnny has not remained a performer - though he played clarinet keenly and well until about the time he had finished high school.  Eddie played the violin through his school days (the music school starts them on recorder as an easy first instrument).  He is now a serious and accomplished electric guitarist - performs for money occasionally.

Both Helen and Adele have done considerably more:

  • Helen - played the flute from about age nine.  She completed Trinity School of Music grade eight in piano and flute - and her BMus (Hons) from the University of Auckland and Victoria University (Wellington).
  • Adele - who started the Papakura Music School before she was five - finished grade eight (trumpet), seven (piano).
Both girls were section leaders from the beginning in the Manukau Symphony, and played solo concerti.  Adele isn't actively playing at the moment, but, I am sure, will again.  Helen has been teaching until this year, and, again, will probably do so again.

Shows that you never know when you start something where it will lead.

That is true also about employment.  By the time we started with the Music School, I was no longer working at IAL.

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