1. What inspired you to become a teacher?

Specifically, I was inspired to become a music teacher as early as primary school. Our music teacher at Indooroopilly State School was an inspiration to me. I was in awe of her and spent every lunchtime in the music room mucking around on the xylophones and loved singing in the choir, playing fife and also the bass drum! In Year 7, I performed in the role of “Dave” (!) on the Brisbane City Hall stage in a musical production of Henry Lawson’s “The Loaded Dog”. This combined with learning piano, singing and ballet and presenting impromptu performances of music theatre songs on the front verandah at home for the unsuspecting passing pedestrian traffic set me on track very early in the piece.

2. Tell us about your involvement with the St Hilda’s music department (inc. how long you have worked here). How have your experiences shaped or altered your outlook on teaching?

I began teaching at St Hilda’s in 2004 as Head of Music. During the last 14 years in collaboration with a great team of music teachers both past and present, we have set about creating a vibrant music department that links together the three essential aspects of our music activities – the curricular program (music as a classroom subject from PP-12), the co-curricular program (choirs, string ensembles, bands and musical productions) and the extra-curricular program (tuition in a variety of instruments).

Music as a curricular subject right through to Year 12 (and including Music Extension in Year 12) has provided St Hilda’s students with the knowledge to fly as musicians. It is the students that take on the challenges of music as an academic subject right through to the possibility of tertiary entrance who become the backbone of music activities in the School. They are the glue in all our musical adventures and lead the way for the others who just dabble on the side in the many co-curricular activities St Hilda’s offers. These musicians are the “pilot musicians”, the ones whose knowledge and confidence can lead and create that exciting live performance.

The School’s music ensembles have also evolved, as structures, such as the move of Year 7 from primary to secondary schooling, changed. I really enjoyed my first years of teaching at St Hilda’s conducting what was then the Years 5-7 Choir, as I was able to connect with a whole range of ages, as this complemented my classroom teaching in the Middle and Senior School.

3. Compared to previous schools that you’ve taught at, what makes St Hilda’s unique?

I have had the privilege of teaching at all girls’ schools for all but one year of my teaching career. St Hilda’s (and The Glennie School in Toowoomba where I also taught) are unique in an obvious way – in that the student cohort is all girls. Many don’t realise how amazing this all girls environment actually is – girls alone are fearless and will accept and conquer the many and varied challenges on offer without hesitation. This makes St Hilda’s one of a few unique educational environments which enables our students to thrive.

4. As Head of Music, you have influence over a large portion of the girls who come through the school. What do you hope to achieve as a mentor and as an educator?

My main aim is to create a music community across all year levels where students get to interact with those from other age groups. Music is a pursuit where this is easy to achieve and annual events like our Gala Music Concert achieve this in spades. Our musicians have the opportunity to play, sing and perform with other musicians in year levels adjacent but also the chance for Junior musicians get to perform with Senior musicians – they learn so much from each other in this environment and inspire each other.

5. How has St Hilda’s changed during your time at the school?

Music has become a lot more “fashionable” amongst the student cohort with many more willing to be proud to be musicians. This was particularly evident during the 2021 soapbox event with students willing to speak out about the importance of music in our community.

6. How many creative productions have you been involved in during your time? What has been your favourite aspect of your involvement in these productions? What is your favourite aspect of working at St Hilda’s? Is there a moment that stands out as particularly memorable?

Being part of School musical productions has been a regular highlight of my entire teaching career with St Hilda’s productions of The Wizard of Oz (twice), Annie, Anne of Green Gables, Return to the Forbidden Planet, Once Upon a Mattress and Matilda clocking in my school musicals No. 21-27. These productions provided me with the opportunity to not only musically direct, as I had done many times in the past, but also to conduct our own student orchestras in a professional theatre setting with our traditionally exceptionally large cast and crew. Working with students on these epic combinations of music and drama has really been a delight. A delight in seeing our performers shine in lead roles, as enthused and energised chorus members or as quick thinking adaptable and skilful pit musicians and crew.

The collaboration, self-discipline and focus for students is not the only by-product of these events. The fantastic opportunity to work with the consummate creative professionals that are my fellow teaching staff in both the music and drama departments has also been a highlight. It is this teamwork between both staff and students that is inspirational. I think the absolute pinnacle of this was our 2021 production of Matilda. It is an inspirational music theatre work to start with and our cast, musicians and crew did us proud.

7. Where/ who do you look to for inspiration?

I find inspiration from many sources in the world around me – students, fellow staff members, viewing theatre, reading from a variety of media and a variety of topics not just with a teaching or arts focus. I have also been an active member of the Australian Society for Music Education Qld Chapter for nearly 30 years. Working alongside like-minded people in a voluntary capacity always creates opportunity for deep thought and self-reflection.

8. What is your vision/goal for the future of the St Hilda’s music department?

The obvious one is to see the imminent purpose built music/drama facility come to fruition. St Hilda’s musicians have been producing amazing work for many years and to see and hear that in a building where we have the time and space to expand will be really exciting.

I will also be continually working, alongside our fellow arts staff, to promote music and other arts subjects to become more mainstream choices of study in the senior years of schooling. Music is not only for those who intend to make it their profession. It is for all to develop their creativity, ability to work as a team, amp up their cognitive development and make them better human beings with the skills to use as active participants in the community activities right through to old age.

This article was produced from St Hilda's Spirit Magazine 2022.