|ABC TV records the Sydney Symphony Orchestra in the 1960s|
But my musical education was also assisted by generosity on all sides, which was a great boon to Dad, with eight mouths to feed. Lessons at Newcastle Conservatorium were much more expensive than Mrs Walton's fifty cents per week: even I charged $2 per lesson, when I began teaching in 1969.
But after my first term with Miss Keeley, I applied for and received a City of Newcastle music scholarship, which paid all of my fees for the rest of my lessons while I was in high school. Miss Keeley would give me extra lessons in her home when AMEB music exams drew close, and wouldn't hear of taking any money for them.
Our school received a small number of complimentary tickets to the ABC concert series, held in the Newcastle Civic Centre, and I eagerly snapped them up. There were seven concerts in the season: the Sydney Symphony Orchestra would perform at the beginning, middle and end of the series, and the rest of the concerts might be of a pianist or two, a violinist and a singer. Not many people attended the vocal concerts, I'm sorry to say, but the piano and orchestra concerts were packed out.
I was fortunate to hear Tamás Vásáry, Vladimir Ashkenazy and John Ogdon performing wonderful piano recitals, and to hear the Sydney Symph many times. I remember once uncharacteristically plucking up the courage to meet conductor Dean Dixon after one orchestral feast.
There was a pretty girl with glasses who used to attend the concerts, who sat a couple of rows in front of me. On one occasion I saw an empty seat beside her, but was too shy to ask Joan if I could sit in that seat.
When Newcastle Con started up a performer's diploma course, I applied and began attending the lectures with Keith Field, principal of our Conservatorium. Sure enough, Joan Sims was there again. One day, when I was a learner driver, I asked Dad if we could give Joan a lift home to her house in Adamstown Heights.
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