My life in music
Hi. I thought I'd tell you something of my tromboning history. I started playing trombone at the age of 12 when I joined the Mornington Citizens Band to which I was taken by my father who had become drum major, and was given a peashooter trombone. Tuition was in the beginners group where we were all told about blowing raspberries and what the valves and slides were for. The band played for municipal functions, Anzac Day marches, concerts in the Park, opening of the Yacht Club seasons, and in the Moomba Festival marches in Melbourne. Every Anzac Day we marched one mile (1.6km) from the RSL to the Monument and back again, playing much of the way. It was a great way to develop your chops!
I had some lessons from Alex Henderson at Balcombe Army School of Music as a private pupil and, later on, some lessons with Ray Huntley in Mt Waverley. I was a pretty rudimentary player - totally outclassed in an eisteddfod at Mornington by Mike Butcher when he came out from England to the Balcombe School. I played traditional jazz for two years with the Southern City Jazz Band in Melbourne from 1960, playing for dances and at the Australian Jazz Convention in Kew. I worked at and studied civil engineering but loved music. When I'd just turned 25 I went to England where I intended to find work in a music shop and play trombone wherever I could. I took the wrong advice and got an engineering job! But I studied with Denis Wick (principal trombone in the LSO) in London for 3 months in 1965, having lessons in his small house in inner London. He was excellent, but I had no idea how great he would become. I was sponsored to do a year of engineering studies at London University's Imperial College in 1968 and formed a small jazz group with other students, arranging some music for it. In 1968-1969 I played in a rehearsal band at Morley College, London, under Gordon Rose, playing compositions by Bill Russo, Richard Rodney Bennett and Richard Peaslee.
I returned to Melbourne in 1970 and spent the next five years lecturing in engineering, followed by a couple of years building half a house and being involved in the music program at my kids' primary school. I attended two ten-day summer schools in Orff-Schulwerk at the University of New England in Armidale, NSW, and was founder member and vice-president of the Victorian Orff-Schulwerk Association from 1977 to 1979. I then attended Melbourne State College for a year to do a Diploma of Education and got involved with music there, playing 1st trombone in the Symphonic Wind Ensemble and Brass Choir at Melbourne State College in 1979. This included a public performance of “Unvelopment” by Edward Diemente with the Symphonic Wind Ensemble conducted by George Logie-Smith with American Bertram Turetzky as double bass soloist. Brass choir performances included: “Fanfare to La Peri” by Dukas; “Shapes and Forms” by Giovannini; “Suite for Double Brass Choir” by Hassler; and “Mutations from Bach” by Barber. I was also part of a brass quintet formed with other music students.
In 1978 James Fulkerson came to the Victorian College of the Arts as artist-in-residence. His solo concerts blew me away. He took me on as a private pupil at the VCA during 1978 and 1979, where I found that not only could I do things on the trombone that I hadn't thought I could do, but that I had no idea were even possible! My relationship with Jim as a teacher was like no other I've experienced. I had total confidence in him and if he said "Don, I want you to do this ...", then I did it. Apart from not sticking to my guns when I first got to London in 1965, my other biggest life mistake was not following Jim back to England when he returned to Dartington Hall, and immersing myself in contemporary music as well as the wonderful jazz scene there, epitomised by people like Mike Westbrook and John Surman.
I was Associate Leader in music, dance and drama activities at the Augustine Centre for Drama and Growth in Hawthorn in 1977. I ran an introductory course in Orff-Schulwerk of two hours per week for second-year B. Mus. Ed. Students in the Faculty of Music, University of Melbourne, in 1978, and I taught class music in the Junior School of Kingswood College, Box Hill, in 1979 and brass-playing to students from Grade 3 to Form 6 in 1979 and part of 1980.
I played 3rd trombone with Greg Flood's Odyssey Big Band which undertook a tour of Victoria's Western District in February 1980 and a major concert at Camberwell Civic Centre in July 1980; 2nd trombone with the Barry Veith Big Band, playing challenging modern jazz charts by Stan Kenton, Howie Smith and others; and 1st trombone in the orchestras of the ARC Theater Company (MD Conrad Helfrisch) and Dandenong Light Opera Company (MD Jeff Currie) playing the musicals “Lil' Abner”, “Kismet” and “The Pyjama Game”.
I formed the Windjammer Brass Quintet with orchestral and studio musicians Tim Fettis, John McCulloch, David O'Meara and Phillip (Pip) Avent, playing a wide-ranging repertoire which included Andre Previn's “Four Outings for Brass”., and I started a small jazz group at home - my first foray into jazz group leadership.
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