“[In an ideal world, people would] sing and make music together as part of everyday life and not as an isolated event now and then.” – Richard Gill (AO)
Richard Gill is one of Australia’s most admired, pre-eminent conductors specialising in opera, musical theatre and vocal and choral training. In addition, he is internationally recognised and respected as a music educator especially for his work with developing young musicians. His ongoing relationship with ANAM stretches back many years and this year Richard’s involvement with ANAM extends to a variety of elements: he continues to direct the ANAM choir, is integral to ANAM’s 2016 Community Engagement program and is mentoring many of our musicians and Fellows.
Richard recently took the time to share with us, his opinions on music education in Australia and the importance of singing.
How important do you think places like ANAM are for music in Australia? Or music education in general?
ANAM is really the only place of its kind in Australia. Learning music and all that goes with it is essentially about craft. Learning to play an instrument is about practicing the instrument, and students need hours and hours of dedicated time each day to do just this in an institution which recognises this and provides circumstances for them to do just that.
How has music education, or the way music is taught, changed across the time of your career in the industry?
We are in a very serious condition with Australian education at the moment because of the unnatural and exceedingly strange way in which education authorities perceive literacy and numeracy. Literacy and numeracy are conditions or states one achieves as a result of education. Literacy and numeracy are not subjects although many teachers think they are. While many aspects of music education have changed for the better we have a long road ahead of us. We need music to be mandatory in every primary school in the country, taught by a qualified teacher who actually knows something about music. The latest move in Victoria to allow anyone who can play an instrument to teach that instrument is a step back into last century and beyond.
What did you want to be when you were a child and who has influenced you most in forging a career in music?
I wanted to be, in this order, a dancer, a singer, a pianist and a teacher. The two conductors whose work I have admired most in this country have been Carlo Felice Cillario at the then Australian Opera and Georg Tintner.
As director of the ANAM choir, how important do you think it is for instrumentalists to participate in singing?
I see choir as a type of all-purpose class in which we use singing as the basis of music history, harmony, stylistic aspects of music and context socially. Everyone should sing and the ANAM musicians are no different in this sense from anyone else. I think they enjoy being together and singing together.
What are important traits for a musical leader to have?
Compassion, understanding, commitment, humility and a knowledge that he/she is working with other humans without whom his/her work cannot be achieved.
Find out more about Richard Gill at anam.com.au