The new ACT Keyboard Association: Kimberley Steele (vice president) Andrew Rumsey (vice president) and Arnan Wiesel (president). Photo: Katherine Griffiths
The benefits to all lovers of keyboard instruments will be greatly enhanced with the founding of the ACT Keyboard Association.
The association is the brainchild of a group of well-known Canberra musicians who plan to fill the void left by the closure of the Music Teachers' Association ACT and the demise of the performance program at the ANU School of Music.
ACTKA, as the association will be known, with composer, educator and pianist, Larry Sitsky AM, as patron, will be a platform for a variety of collaborations with individual musicians and with other related organisations.
Importantly, ACTKA's aim will be to promote and encourage the study, practice, performance, teaching, knowledge and composition of keyboard music for all ages and all abilities.
One of the professionals who is well aware of the current gap in keyboard opportunities in Canberra and the region, and who is keen to see the association flourish, is the Israel-born pianist and inaugural ACTKA president, Arnan Wiesel.
With an impeccable musical pedigree and as a winner of many national and international prizes, Wiesel has performed in the US, Europe, Asia, New Zealand and Israel. He was a lecturer and head of keyboard at the ANU School of Music until 2012.
''The association will offer a diverse program of styles, whether it's popular music, jazz or classical,'' Wiesel says.
''Our activities will range from performances to workshops, to awards for composition, to young people's music competitions, and will include everything linked to new keyboard technology such as electronic keyboards, piano, and clavichord.''
Wiesel is emphatic that the association is not elitist: ''It's all to do with the community. The association will be inclusive and aims to work with existing groups like the Accompanists' Guild and the Clavier Club for amateur pianists.''
Canberra is well situated geographically to be a centre for the development of keyboard activities that can include regional NSW, the Riverina, Wagga Wagga, Cootamundra and the Southern Highlands.
Encouraging the community to be inspired and to support the association is an imperative. But as is always the case for any arts venture the acquisition of funds will be an ongoing challenge and ACTKA will be seeking government funding, philanthropic support and sponsorship.
The association would also like to find a permanent home which, Wiesel says, ''will need to be fairly big to accommodate a new organisation that wants to stand on its own two feet''.
''Music education will be a big part of the association. At the moment there is no one teaching performance and we have incorporated that opportunity.
''Performance was part of the community performance outreach program at the ANU School of Music until last year and the association plans to re-create this opportunity.''
Others on the committee of 12 include the highly regarded music educator and AMEB federal examiner, Wendy Lorenz, and pianist and teacher Marie Cull.
Classical pianist and ACTKA's vice-president, Kimberley Steele, wants to bring new faces to Canberra.
Steele is an accomplished professional pianist and graduate from the Sydney Conservatorium and ANU School of Music.
''We will have a newsletter and a website that helps to find teachers, [piano] tuners and others in the keyboard services area,'' she says.
''While we are not a professional accreditation body we can support training and development for teachers who are working towards becoming professional. We will ensure that all our activities are very high quality and are run by highly qualified and recognised experts, whether for amateurs or upcoming professionals.''
Learning to play a keyboard is one-on-one and ACTKA's professional development activities will be of benefit to the more than 1000 Canberra and region music teachers.
Steele's love of the keyboard and encouragement of others in the learning process is evident when she says: ''Making music because you enjoy it is a lifelong preoccupation, regardless of how good you are. It's not limited by age or ability. It's just about having the passion and appreciation.''
Andrew Rumsey shares the role of vice-president with Steele.
Rumsey is a recent master's graduate from the ANU School of Music, who with Sydney concert pianist Joshua Creek, is in Israel taking part in the annual Tel-Hai International Piano Master Classes at Ben-Gurion University, an experience he is keen to bring back to Canberra. The duo will also compete in the 21st Tel-Hai International Piano Competition in August.
ACTKA will hold its official launch on August 10 at the Wesley Music Centre from 2pm to 7.30pm with a series of afternoon and evening performances, including a special youth concert and a free improvisation workshop with Joe Chindamo.
Other guest performers in the launch concerts are Sitsky, Wiesel, Steele and Chindamo, as well as Gerard Willems, David Pereira, Louise Page, Wendy and Andrew Lorenz, Phillipa Candy, Aaron Chew, Alexander Kokic-Schmidt and James Huntingford. There is no charge for the concerts and everyone is welcome.
In September ACTKA will offer a special workshop with British-based composer, arranger and music educator Christopher Norton. Norton writes jazz-inspired contemporary music that is popular internationally.
ACT KEYBOARD ASSOCIATION LAUNCH AND CONCERTS
Wesley Music Centre, National Circuit, Forrest
August 10, from 2pm to 7.30pm. Admission free