Vale Richard Gill AO (1941 - 2018)
Refections of John Hibbard,
Co-Founder and Director Of Programs,
Symphony For Life Foundation
So many of us have our Richard Gill stories and contexts. Symphony For Life is the result of a multitude of personal journeys and circumstances, but of one the most significant is our connection to the work and legacy of Richard Gill. Since the Foundation’s launch, Karen Carey too has brought her own insights from Richard into this picture, to great effect. His teaching and advocacy have strongly influenced the guiding principles, core philosophy and teaching approach of Symphony For Life Foundation programs. They are firmly part of the Gill legacy.
Richard was a transformational teacher for so many students, music educators and performers, not forgetting his impacts on members of the public through his music outreach, TED talks, media appearances, advocacy and more. His legacy is deep and far-reaching.
As for me, if it were not for my meeting him and experiencing his musical revelations when I was a 14 year old high school student at a regional NSW music camp, I would not have chosen my career as a music educator.
As an undergrad at Sydney Con and later as a teacher, Richard would challenge me to my limit but always give me joy, hope and a sense of purpose as a music educator through his extraordinary experiences in music. The dynamism of his personality and the richness and demands of his teaching and conducting engendered in me a powerful sense of mission and possibility as a music educator and of music education itself.
Richard Gill has been a constant throughout my career. Like so many others, I was blessed with his counsel and mentorship on numerous occasions, right up to the time his illness took hold. Richard was part of our direct connection as teachers to Carl Orff. Significantly, Orff Schulwerk has been core to my practice as a music educator for over forty years. Richard is the man who lit that fire and sustained the inspiration throughout my career.
The reason I teach and the way I teach are largely due to Richard Gill, notwithstanding the wonderful and indispensable contributions of so many others.
When I stood before the children in Orchestra the day following Richard's passing, I was moved to realise that they too are now part of the Richard Gill legacy. Joyfully and with great intent the children are saying, singing, moving, playing and creating in learning experiences using the Orff approach. They are learning how music works. Rigorous Orff training is essential for teachers of Symphony For Life Foundation orchestras and so the Teaching Artists are now contributing to the Richard Gill legacy too!
At home, in my professional circle, for some of our teaching artists and amongst my former students who are now teaching, there is frequent pause for reflection and grieving for Richard. The impact of his passing is profound.
Even so, I can still hear Richard saying, as he often did in the most difficult of times, “well, we should just get on with it”. And get on with it, we will. “