Helen is a member of BMCB’s flute section (also percussion!) and has had a long association with the BMCB organisation. As BMCB Administrator she was responsible for planning some hugely popular concerts such as the 2017 “Best of the British” and 2018 “Out of This World” performances at the Springwood Hub. Helen shares her musical journey.
“I grew up in a musical family and learnt piano from the early age of 6. Mum played the organ at church for many many years, like my grandmother before her. A family get-together always involved a sing-along around the piano, with my uncle writing crazy topical lyrics. One of my piano teachers was Phyllis Huthnance, for whom I have great respect as a Blue Mountains-based musician. We often chat about those difficult teenage years when I didn’t want to practise piano but still managed to somehow get good results in my AMEB practical and theory exams (much to her frustration)!
“I started flute in high school and played in school- and Mountains-based orchestras as well as a few folk bands. I selected a tertiary academic path in music and studied at the (Sydney) Conservatorium of Music, but several family and health issues got in the way of me completing my training as a Secondary Music Teacher and I walked away from music for many years.
“I love to sing and in my adult years, decided to do some formal training, gaining my AMEB Grade 7 in Voice with a lot of nerves during the exam. There was always a passion in me to learn the drum kit, so over the past 5 years I have self-taught percussion music reading skills and play drums, timpani and auxiliary percussion, which has helped out the band.
“As a parent, I’ve been involved with Blue Mountains Concert Band since 2005 when my son joined Mountains Youth Band (MYB) playing saxophone. I assisted with administration by organising the MYB National Band Championships tour to Hobart in 2010, then served on the Committee as Secretary, then as Administrator of BMCB. During this time, I started to play with the adult band (about 12 years ago).
“My long working hours get in the way of regular practice, but leading up to a performance or concert, I always put in the extra time to nail tricky bits and work on timing and intonation. Funnily enough, I’ve ended up in the Education sector, not as a teacher but as an administrator. For the last 8 years I have been employed full-time as a Principal’s PA and Administration Manager. In the past, I ran my own IT software training business, taught at TAFE and worked for international software companies.
“For me, what I get out of band is a sense of belonging to a great community organisation and the involvement in ensemble playing. It’s also about challenging your own personal skill set to constantly improve, learning to listen to others and accept the challenges from Garry, our musical director. The commitment to a community organisation is very important to me. It has kept me coming along even when I haven’t felt overly energetic to be honest, and after playing music for a few hours, I always feel better!
“I took on the commitment to be the Administrator for many years. Every group flourishes when it is well organised, and I carried out my role to help oversee rehearsals, musical direction, membership growth, concert planning and preparation (we have done some highly technical concerts combined with other bands!), as well as the business end of any not-for-profit organisation.
“For many years I performed with Blue Mountains Musical Society. I play drums, flute and sing in my church music ministry, and am a member of Penrith City Choir , a traditional 4 part choir with challenging repertoire. I’ve played for many musicals in the pit band which I absolutely love.
“It’s not always easy to fit it into your commitments, but the benefits of playing in an ensemble, improving your skills, learning new repertoire and having a great time with long-term and new friends is really beneficial to who I am and how happy I am. Music is a big part of my life, and as I look towards finishing at work, I know it will only increase.”