“Learning, playing, singing, teaching and listening to music fills my days and I am happy,” says Bellingen’s Liz Scott, much loved local music teacher. “This is what led me to share my happiness with small children.” Liz (seen here with fellow Raleigh Ramblers Terry Walker on left and Tom Munnelly), has been the the music teacher at both Bellingen Public School and Chrysalis Steiner School for the past 16 years. “Both schools encourage music education and the learning environments and atmosphere in these schools are vibrant,” says Liz.
Liz’s affiliation with music started young. “I grew up in Tamworth and my family owned a large farm. We grew wheat, sorghum, sheep for wool and fat lambs and cattle. My Mum was an exquisite gardener and my Dad the kindest man I know. The encouragement they gave their three children to learn instruments came from their own love of music. Dad would say “Paying for music lessons is an investment in your future!” and how right was he!!”
Liz “ploughed away at grades” on her violin from an early age with the Nuns at the Dominican Convent, until she was introduced to the ‘Suzuki Teaching Method’. “This method of teaching embraced ‘listening’ to the music to be learnt as well as reading the notes. Suddenly violin involved learning in groups, workshops in Sydney and fun, in addition to weekly lessons.” The Suzuki Method is an internationally known music curriculum and teaching philosophy created by Japanese violinist and pedagogue Shinichi Suzuki. “Suzuki realised that listening to music awakens the brain and that even very young infants were able to pick up their ‘mother tongue’ from their parents,” explains Liz. “What a combination! Encouraging parents, ‘listening’ to engage our cleverest teachers (our ears!) and no fear of repetition to consolidate skills and develop the talent. This is my teaching philosophy and when it is teamed with the belief that every child has extreme potential, it becomes very powerful.” Liz was lucky enough to spend two months in Japan between Yrs 11 and 12 learning to teach violin from Dr Shinichi Suzuki himself. “He was in his 80’s back then and loved to hear my stories about chickens! He imparted quality instruction about posture and producing a wonderful tone from my instrument.”
Liz moved from Armidale to Bellingen in 2001 with then partner Annie Phelan. “We tried our hand at organic farming. Dreamy days on the farm with the divine elevated outlook to the mountains didn’t pay the bills and we had a secret desire to bring our successful music program from the Presbyterian Ladies College Armidale, to Bellingen.” And so a music revolution began in Bellingen.
“As a Primary Music Specialist, my job was to inspire and train young children and Annie continued their education through the High School years. When children begin their music education at a very young age, their instrument and singing skills can be of a high standard by the time they reach their teen years. Ann has the drive and expertise to offer many ensembles to cater for each child’s level of skill attainment,” says Liz. “Mind you, we have not produced such results and happy children in isolation! This town is filled with so many musicians and teachers. We have been fortunate to work with so many highly skilled teachers in all instrument realms and together we have a pumping music scene in our fabulous little town.”
Liz acknowledges that the musical standard of the Bellingen students today is extremely high. “At Bellingen Public School I coordinate 10 extra peripatetic music staff that come to the school to teach every instrument imaginable. There are top music teachers at Raleigh, Repton, Urunga, St Mary’s and Orama as well, so as previously acknowledged, the budding primary musicians of Bellingen feed to the high school from all directions.
Liz’s students in Sydney
“As the community builds in musical prowess, more families, students, teachers and Music Organisations are attracted to our town. Very recently The Australian Chamber Orchestra workshopped with our Senior String Players and the Youth Orchestra. The Acacia Quartet also ran an excellent orchestral project with the combined Junior String players from all the local schools as part of the Bellingen Fine Music Festival. Camp Creative offer continued support, providing funding for Music Scholarships. This allows players and tutors from as far away as Sydney to come to Bellingen to play in the Bellingen Youth Orchestra concert. I know of two families who have moved to Bellingen, specifically to immerse their children in the music education we provide,” says Liz. What an extraordinary success story for such a small region!
One thing is for sure, Liz loves her work! “Music teaching is very rewarding but very exhausting, as there is no quiet time where children “read on to the end of the chapter”! For choir work, a teacher must be over-prepared, know every word, prepare the harmonies as the children wait with anticipation for entertainment and the stories that songs tell. Every string player requires the same level of motivation and encouragement that you gave your first pupil of the day and Kinder Music means you change the activity every few minutes!!! But I wouldn’t change a thing. However, I am so glad there are divine beaches to walk on, gardens to tend, families to love and precious old parents to care for,” says Liz.
Liz has no doubt about the benefits of music and early music tuition. “Research affirms the ‘brain frenzie’ that occurs when playing or listening to music. Personally, the endorphins that kick in after a joyful singing session or a wicked work-out on the fingerboard are grand.
Dave and Will Henderson (aged 5 and 3) off to a violin workshop
I’ve been luck enough to observe my own children. David loves his engineering study and Esther and Will Henderson have chosen music as their careers. They are committed musicians, can meld to any genre, music period or culture, are generous and full of fun! I am glad that I too believed in investing in their future through music. The years of lessons, workshops, concerts and hundreds of hours of home practice have all been worth it. It is also fantastic to follow students in our town and beyond Bellingen. My very first student, (when I was 16 and teaching in Tamworth), now teaches music at Nambucca Heads and her daughter plays clarinet in the Bellingen Youth Orchestra!
To quote Dr Shinichi Suzuki: “Where love runs deep, much can be accomplished.” That just about sums me up!”