Vale Richard Gill AO

It was with great sadness that I read of Richard’s passing last Sunday from cancer, aged 76. By now, everyone in the music education world (certainly in Australia) will know this week’s sad news. From where I’m standing, 76 is too young to die!
It is especially so when he was such a driving force for change in making everyone from parents, teachers to politicians, aware of the need for a good quality music education for every child. Music is not just about musical outcomes but about how music enhances learning across the curriculum and about how it enhances life itself.

One person, amid all the very many posts on social media, asked who would replace Richard Gill? Well the answer, of course, is that no one could possibly do so. His shoes were too big to fill. That doesn’t mean it’s all over. It doesn’t matter whether you are in Australia or anywhere else in the world. It is up to everyone to carry on Richard’s mission of ensuring that music is never an optional extra but available daily to everyone, especially children.

Richard advocated for having music specialists in every school. This is not the case at the moment in Australia where more than half of our public schools do not have music specialists. Until such time as every school in the world provides music
to every child through music specialists, there is a lot that the class teacher (and the parent) can do. I would argue that even where a school has a music specialist, one hour per week of quality music teaching is nowhere near enough. School bands, choirs, dance classes, private lessons – with all the practice that these entail – are the way to go. Children often clamour to join sporting teams. Why not music groups?

Not every child will want to play sport but how would they know if they’d never played? In the same way, not every child will wish to play an instrument, dance or join a choir but they should have access to music nonetheless to see whether it is something they may wish to pursue. At the very least, everyone can enjoy music passively in the same way that millions enjoy watching sport. The fact is that music actually changes the brain and our thought patterns and the way we learn in a most delightful and positive way. For this reason alone, it should be obvious that all children need music daily.

This is where the class teacher, in particular, comes in. Music is valid in any form and you don’t have to have the skills of the music specialist to ensure the children in your midst have a quality music program every day. If you don’t have
confidence about your singing voice – a comment I hear often – then don’t be hard on yourself. The children won’t be that judgemental. If you really don’t think you are up to it then get a few CDs of appropriate music (of course, I am advocating those in kidz-fiz-biz but there are plenty of others available). You can have your children singing, dancing, playing percussion, role-playing and doing the actions to action songs. They will be getting fundamental musical skills which are not only fun but will make the music teacher’s life easier because of their regular exposure to good music. Class teachers tell me they don’t have time for a music session every day. Of course they don’t, with the current way the day is organised.
Instead, in order to squeeze it in, reduce the other ‘busy work’ that the children do and achieve the same outcomes but through music and movement. Just a thought!

So, carry on the excellent work of Richard Gill, even if you didn’t know about him and his legacy before now. Every child is worth it, wherever they are. There is so much more I could say about the importance of music but this is about Richard Gill, and paying tribute to him and his tireless work in inspiring others. Don’t let his legacy wither. It is wonderful to see what is happening in Victoria (Australia) in this regard in lobbying the government to continue the funding. All states (and all countries) should be doing likewise.

Here is an extract from an obituary posted by Rachael Beesley & Nicole van Bruggen of the Australian Romantic and Classical Orchestra and written by Charles MacInnes, Marketing & Communications Manager, Australian Romantic & Classical Orchestra – ‘He explains in a TEDx talk that music “doesn’t mean anything outside itself. Music does not describe. Music does not narrate. Music does not tell stories. Music evokes. Music suggests, music implies.” When a child explained that to him
the orchestra playing Peer Gynt sounded like “a biscuit,” Richard unflinchingly and earnestly answered “correct.” This is the abstraction that music does so well, and according to Richard, it is this essence that provides children with
the opportunity to inhabit a truly unique way of thinking.’

From the website –

About Kidz-Fiz-Biz

Marlene Rattigan is teacher in Early Childhood & of English as a Second Language & from 1987-2000 was an accredited fitness leader.
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