My primary school was small, where participating in school activities was an expected part of daily life. Being a catholic primary school, I was part of the choir, singing and playing tenor recorder as accompaniment to performances at annual school recitals, church, local shopping centres at Christmas and at old people’s homes.
Alongside this my mother was very interested in fostering my interest in learning the piano and I had private lessons for a number of years.
Playing different instruments gave me the opportunity to examine what music sounded like, exploring the characteristic differences between wind and percussive instruments. Doing private lessons on the piano was greatly beneficial to me as it taught me much about music theory that I believe I missed in my classroom education. I remember my music education being quite prescriptive, where we played quite often for the sake of performances co-ordinated by my music teacher, but rarely for our own enjoyment and exploration, a problem known as the showcase approach (Dinham, 2017b, p. 47).
I believe that I had been stifled by the lack of opportunity to explore and play music that was relevant to me. Even in private lessons I was limited to playing classical music, which while technically difficult did not resonate with me and I changed teachers a couple of times. As an adult, this need for musical exploration led me back to re-learning how to play the piano on my own. I bought sheet music that was relevant to myself and learned how to play them to my own satisfaction.
Playing instruments gave me the confidence to learn the ukulele in recent years, culminating with me playing the instrument at my wedding with my wife who sings in a choir. It allows me to express myself, playing a range of blues, jazz and popular music for fun, and is something I hope to pass on to my one year-old son. I recently purchased an acoustic guitar, which I hope to add to my repertoire soon.
Video: George and Alison singing New Years Day.
Visual Arts and Drama
I remember doing a lot of drawing and winning the school competition a few years in a row, which was judged by newspaper cartoonist, Geoff Hook, which was a thrill as a primary student. I also performed in the school play, and while I didn’t take further part in acting, it did give me, quite a shy child, the confidence to be on stage and be someone who spoke on stage or on screen. Part of my career is as a science communicator, and it has given me the confidence to give public presentations, interview world-renowned science writers and audition for science television shows.
Reflection: I believe my experiences with The Arts were positive in that they gave me the confidence to know that I could play an instrument in front of an audience, or stand on a stage talking about science in front of hundreds of people. My experience of the limited range of music I had to play, has highlighted to me the importance of getting students to listen to music that is relevant to them, whether it being contemporary or culturally relevant. However, I think what I feel is most relevant to me is to make music part of everyday classroom life, not only listening to music, but playing music regularly, whether it is clapping, singing, or body percussion.
Of course, all The Arts can be manifested on a daily basis, whether it is an examination of paintings between other subjects, watching dance on Youtube while students eat their food before recess, or unpacking the ideas behind rap music. In the end, I believe The Arts is food for the soul, and we are not necessarily creating artists, dancers, musicians or actors, but fully formed human beings that benefit from being part of everything The Arts has to offer.
Video: George and Alison singing New Years Day – Bloopers.