A master of piano, John has dedicated his life to teaching and playing music. His piano, and CanCare volunteers Paul and Neil, have been by his side during John’s recent treatment for diffuse B-cell non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
How long have you been teaching music?
I started teaching piano when I was 17. That means I’ve been teaching music for 55 years!
I also play and can teach violin and viola.
I ran a music studio in Caringbah for ten years. We had four different studio rooms where we taught piano, violin, guitar and singing. I had to close the studio in 2020 just as Covid began. Now I only teach online and have nine students.
What do you enjoy most about teaching?
I have published several books of my piano methods. I love trying to find different approaches from the various traditional methods. I’ve spent all my life doing this, and I still work on my books every day.
Do you come from a musical family?
Yes my father used to play and we had a grand piano in the house. I started playing when I was about five and I just picked it up by ear. I started lessons at age 12 but had already worked out a lot.
Where did you grow up?
I was born in Newcastle but our family moved from Sydney’s northern suburbs when I was five. We came to Bundeena at the edge of the Royal National Park to run a local shop. The national park was my backyard. I used to ride horses with my sisters Eleanor and Lorraine when we were teenagers. That’s how I spent my time growing up – playing piano, riding my horse and exploring in the bush.
My father passed away at an early age when I was only 14, however my mother stayed in the same house in Bundeena until she died ten years ago aged 95.
My mother was a wonderful botanical artist and introduced me to all the native orchids in the area when I was a young boy. Many years later, I connected with my future partner Anthony Bishop over these same plants as he was writing a field guide to the native orchids of southeastern Australia and photographing every species.
I learned later that my mother also played piano, but I had never seen her play until after we kids had all left home. Then she bought another grand piano so she had two!
Did you always want to pursue music as a career?
My father was an Engineer and I had planned to study Engineering; however, it didn’t feel like the right choice. Instead, I graduated with Bachelor of Science and a Diploma of Education from Sydney University. While I didn’t have a lot of confidence teaching in schools, I did enjoy teaching kids piano, and also playing band and piano bar gigs around Sydney. I spent one year at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music at age 21, and later won a scholarship competition to study overseas. At 26, I set off for the United States with my first partner Philip. We had such an adventure. I returned to Australia a couple of years later with a Master of Music degree in piano performance from Indiana University.