RADIO SERIES: New music for the HSC

In 2016 I produced and presented my second series of “New Australian Music for the HSC” for Fine Music 102.5. This series represents Australian works suitable for performance in the HSC, and includes an interview with HSC teacher and marker, Lindy Montgomery (in episode one). Here, I discuss the inspiration behind the first series recorded in 2015.

As a performer specialising in new music, and an educator, I feel I have a relatively good grasp of what is out there in terms of  new Australian clarinet music. Yet when a Year 11 student inevitably turns up with the comment: “My classroom teacher told me to choose an Australian piece for the core HSC topic”, I still find myself deliberating for some time over what repertoire to choose, so I wondered if there was anything to make the process easier. 

I tend to direct students to the Australian Music Centre to look for material, but  there is a lot to sift through, a difficult task for a student.  Otherwise, one tends to have a couple of good tried and tested pieces that have been successful in the past. Yet each student has a different skill set, or sometimes has strong opinions of what they do or don’t like. Given the music 2 topic is “music of the last 25 years : Australian Focus”, a lot of the staple repertoire has also fallen outside this period.  Music 1 candidates can also choose Australian music, yet I wonder how many do?

Good friend and colleague, the general manager of Fine Music 102.5, David Sidebottom, asked myself and other colleagues if we were interested in doing a new program on Fine Music. New Music Network President, Jim Nightingale took up the challenge and now does a weekly Sunday evening spot - it's well worth checking out. Just after the axing of New Music Up Late on ABC Classic FM, I thought this could be of interest to me too, but what to do a program on? Combining both my performing and teaching skills, I put two and two together and came up with “New Australian Music for the H.S.C”.  I was also keen to do a program that could be accessed by anyone across the state, as sometimes those in the country get the short straw with access to these types of opportunities. 

With a bit of broadcast training and patience from the incredibly knowledgable Maureen Meers at the Fine Music studio, my initial pilot series has now been recorded –proving that teachers too have opportunities to learn. The series will air in February in a three-part series, broadcast on digital FM, and later on demand.

So, what's in it? I wanted to make a program for teachers, HSC students undertaking the Music 2 but also Music 1 course, and to have a dedicated program with only Australian music for the general public.  I also wanted to capture the diverse landscape of Australian music, and add another platform for younger Australian composers to get their work heard.

This initial three-part series focuses on: 1) wind and brass, 2) piano and percussion, 3) strings, for which i've selected ten to twelve pieces per program.  Later in the year, I hope to offer half-hour and one-hour programs for each instrument, potentially giving students recordings of ten works of varying standards and styles. These later programs will include discussions with experienced H.S.C teachers and markers on how to choose a good piece for the exam, and what the markers might be looking for.  A program on Australian Jazz music and discussing the composition component for the H.S.C are also on my radar.

What I really wanted to get away from was the repetition of the same pieces presented for the H.S.C. I wonder how many candidates perform Elena Kats Chernin’s Russian Rag or Ross Edwards’ Ulpirra in any one year? Of course, these are fine pieces, but I am sure at the very least, H.S.C markers would approve of and even appreciate, some new repertoire to hear. 

LISTEN TO the second series of “New Music for the HSC” here