Male Voices: Stories of Boys Learning Through Making Music; Scott D Harrison (ed); ACER Press, 2009

Finally, a book has culminated as a synthesis of his work and that of 12 others, all of whom arel working in similar spheres. The co-contributors represent some of the finest music educators working with boys, such as Clare Hall, Anne Lierse, Paul Holley and Robert Smith.

It is one of the most important additions to the literature in boys’ education and if only part of its recommendations and solutions are adopted by educators in decision-making roles, then Australian music-making, as well as male culture will be the beneficiary. As a teacher, the awareness that this book can bring to one’s teaching of boys will be valuable.

Concepts it covers well are cultural norms, stereotypes, adolescence, cognitive and emotional development of boys, identity through music making, the role and importance of singing as a natural experience for boys, special needs of indigenous boys, technological issues, rural communities, and experiencing singing in ensemble situations.

Its scope is sociological and philosophical, as well as musical.

The question could be posed: “What are the discoveries for the studio teacher?” Here are just some key points:

  • Boys are not great talkers but they learn a lot from ‘doing’.
  • Boys need a ‘reason’ to learn.
  • Boys like to ‘create’ music.
  • Boys respond to a high level of teacher involvement and interaction.
  • Music is not a ‘manly’ thing to do. (This statement is an all too common perception. This book addresses this stereotyping very well.)
  • Music education needs to start early in life.
  • Boys’ fine motor skills develop later than girls.
  • Music activities can sometimes be stressful for boys in co-educational contexts.
  • Parents need to support boys in their musical activities.

This is essential reading for all those involved in teaching boys (whether that be in schools – co-ed or single-sex, or in the studio setting).

Don Bradman: The Music He Loved. ABC 532 2945

He was our greatest cricketer, known by all Australians, but few realised that Sir Donald Bradman (1908-2001) was also a keen musician. In a world first, ABC Classics have joined forces with the Bradman family to release a 2 CD set of tracks drawn largely from the great icon’s private collection and sheet music.

In what are illuminating and deeply personal liner notes, his son John Bradman has said “We had many musical evenings … One I recall well was with Larry Adler, the great harmonica player. This quicksilver little man and his music were mesmerising. At dinner, Larry produced a fine little harmonica for each of us and intermittently during the meal and afterwards, serenaded us.”

Not only a personal insight into this cricketing legend, the CD set also showcases him as a composer with his song Every Day is a Rainbow Day for Me (with words by Jack Lumsdaine), here sung by his grand-daughter Greta.

There are fine orchestral recordings of masterworks such as Brahms’ Symphony No 3 (3rd movement), Mendelssohn’s Octet (Scherzo), Elgar’s Violin Concerto in B minor (2nd movement), Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No 5 (Valse), Ravel’s Trio in A minor (Pantoum) and Dvorak’s Symphony No 9 (Largo).

His great love was the piano and the music of Chopin, of which we hear Piano Sonata No 3 (Largo) and Nocturne in B flat minor, along with other major piano works, such as Mozart’s Piano Concerto in C, KV 467 (Andante), Beethoven’s Piano Sonata “Pathetique” (Adagio cantabile), Schubert’s Impromptu in G flat, Franck’s Symphonic Variations, Debussy’s Claire de lune and Rachmaninov’s Piano Concerto no 2 (1st movement). Clearly, Bradman had a sophisticated knowledge of pianists and repertoire, as seen by his collection which included recordings by Artur Schnabel, Roger Woodward, Eileen Joyce, Dinu Lipatti and Wilhelm Kempff. As well as being a more than competent pianist himself, Sir Donald could also sight-read many works at the piano.

The second disc is predominantly lighter music (mostly songs): Let Me Call You Sweetheart, Ol’ Man River, When You were Sweet Sixteen, If I Ruled the World, Golden Days, The Last Rose of Summer and The Holy City. There are also some fine gems in the more serious vocal repertoire too: An die Musik (Schubert), Come scoglio (Mozart’s Cosi fan tutte) and Troppo mi spiace and Non mi dir (Mozart’s Don Giovanni).

So when looking for something for the cricket-lover who has everything, surprise him or her with this wonderful anthology of the Don’s favourite music.

Richard Gill: The young person’s guide to the orchestra … is lacking

If you are interested in reading more about the national curriculum and the music education debate, click onto Richard Gill’s article in The Sydney Morning Herald (Sept 2009):