rosslyn-mcleod

About

Q&A

Question: Can you tell us a bit about you, and what you are up to these days?

Answer I am now 85 years of age and still do a small amount of piano teaching and Alexander Technique lessons. <br> <br> I found my way to Alexander Technique after experiencing back pain while playing viola with the Canberra Symphony Orchestra one night. During the slow movement of the Mozart Clarinet Concerto my back started to ache and I started to get pins and needles up and down my arm. I found that by miming I was able to stop myself from fainting on stage. <br> <br> I saw a few physios, but no one knew what caused it. It was about a year later I heard from another musician that musicians overseas were using something called ‘the Alexander Technique’. <br> <br> Later, I saw an advertisement that read: ‘Mr Graeme Pearl, qualified Alexander teacher, will give a public talk’. I went to the talk and was just amazed at how he demonstrated and how beautifully he moved – so afterwards I asked him for lessons. Once Graeme showed me how to just stand and sit, let alone play an instrument, I realised I had a lot to learn! I got so keen on this that I started organising workshops for Graeme. I later realised that I wanted to become a teacher of Alexander Technique. <br> <br> In 1976 I went to London and did two years of study of a three-year degree to train as a teacher. I finished off my third year of study in Australia and in the early 1980s I qualified as a teacher. I taught at University of Melbourne and Victorian College of the Arts. <br> <br> In the late 80s and early 90s I researched an area of Frederick Matthias Alexander’s life which hadn’t been focused on: his early years in Australia developing the technique. In 2015, I also finished a <a href="https://www.fmalexanderdoc.com/">documentary film</a> on Alexander. I wrote the script and found the film studio. It’s 70 minutes long and also features modern-day interviews with James Gallway and members of the Kings College Choir from Cambridge, who are all followers of the technique. I have also uploaded a radio interview I did on ABC’s <i>Nightlife</i> onto <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0xRQ_xhwjcY">YouTube</a>. <br> <br> My latest interest is learning Baroque dance!

Question: How or why did you first choose your instrument?

Answer I went to secondary school at Korowa Girls’ School in Glen Iris. I’d learnt the piano for many years, but it looked as though I was going to do music after school, so my mother said, ‘Well you better start a second instrument,’ so I started learning the violin. In those days, school orchestras were nothing like they are now, there was a very small orchestra at Korowa. <br> <br> In November 1953, the headmistress called me into her study and she showed me a brochure about the National Music Camp to be held at Geelong Grammar in January the next year. So 1954 was my first music camp; it was overwhelming and exciting. I was in the back desk of the second violins of the third orchestra, so I literally just scraped into camp! <br> <br> Lloyd Davis was conducting that year. It was the fact of being with all those brilliant young students, people like Carmel Kane, violin, Christopher Kimber, Mary Nemet… you just don’t forget the effect of hearing those people play. I also realised there were many great violin players, but at the camp I think there were only seven or eight viola players for the whole camp. <br> <br> When I got back to school for my final year, I was fortunate that the school happened to own a viola. So I swapped to viola. So at the end of 1955 at my second camp, I was playing viola in the first orchestra. I did the rest of my camps and seasons with the AYO on viola!

Question: What was a highlight of your time in AYO programs?

Answer I remember a couple of moments! In 1962 Sir Bernard Heinze was conducting the first orchestra at National Music Camp at Geelong Grammar. He wasn’t too happy with the first orchestra and how we were practising, so he scheduled an extra rehearsal in the afternoon. <br> <br> It was getting close to 5pm, the time of the cocktail chamber concert. One of the brass players stood up and said, ‘Sir Bernard, I want to go to the concert, I’m going to pack up.’ And there was absolute silence! Sir Bernard couldn’t do anything, and this brass player just walked out! He tried to rehearse the rest of us for about five minutes but he knew there was no point. <br> <br> So we raced over to the music school, because word had got around that the performance would be James Whitehead on cello with Lance Dosser on piano: the Rachmaninov Cello Sonata! I’ve never forgotten the playing, it was magnificent. At the end of the concert there was that silence, and then the whole hall erupted with cheering. I couldn’t believe the wonder of that playing! <br> <br> In 1962 I was also in the Australian Youth Orchestra and Daniel Barenboim was the soloist. I think he was seventeen at that point. I remember at the end of the final rehearsal, a few of us stood around the piano to just chat with him. And as you do as students, you ask, ‘How many hours do you practice a day?’ And he replied, ‘Oh, about three hours… and some of that time I practice away from the instrument with score reading.’ I had been used to doing up to five hours piano practice a day, and I was nowhere near as good as he was! It took me nearly 20 years to understand, it’s not how long you sit at the instrument and what you’re doing, but how.

Question: How did you find the experience of returning to AYO as a guest artist?

Answer It was during a National Music Camp here in Adelaide when Richard Gill was taking the first orchestra. He had been chorusmaster with Opera Australia years previously, when my good friend Jeannie Kelso had been in the chorus. When I heard Richard Gill was coming to Adelaide, I connected with him and told him I taught Alexander Technique. I was invited to do a session in Bonython Hall with the students. It was great!

Question: What skills, musical and otherwise, did you take away from your time at AYO?

Answer I think generally the main thing is the impact. I went to a school with a small orchestra. When you first go to an AYO program, you’ve got all of these musicians from all over Australia, a lot of them better than you, and these wonderful staff members. It’s the socialising, the live-in experience for two weeks! <br> <br> It all comes back to nurturing students at the beginning, with encouragement and the building blocks. I think it’s a tremendous thing.