A Tribute to Jerry Nowak by Garry Clark

images-1In 2014, former ABODA NSW President Garry Clark gave a tribute speech acknowledging Professor Nowak’s contribution to Australian Music Education over the last thirty years. Below is a transcript of this speech published as a tribute to a great man recently departed. Vale Jerry Nowak.

Good evening Ladies & Gentlemen

My name is Garry Clark, and I have been involved with the Jerry Nowak Conducting Course, and ABODA since I attended my first ANBOC Conference in Sydney in 1990.

We are here tonight to recognise and celebrate Professor Jerry Nowak’s outstanding contribution to the Australian Music Industry over the past 30 years, and the majority of us here tonight have taken part in this journey.

I first met Jerry, I believe, when he came to visit one of the Australian Wind Orchestra camps with Russell Hammond on Milson Island, Sydney in either 1992 or ‘93. He had already been lecturing in Australia for a number of years.

Not long after, ABODA NSW invited Jerry to bring his course back to Sydney, and he has remained here for the last 20 years, teaching and inspiring countless young, and not-so young conductors and musicians, both local, and from interstate and even overseas.

That is what I would like everyone to remember tonight, the legacy of 30 years of teaching in Australia.

I certainly owe the majority of my personal conducting style and craft to studying under and observing Jerry work over the last 20 years.

I landed the job of speaking to you tonight, mainly because I have worked so closely with Jerry for so many years. There are certainly others who could not be here tonight, whose dealings with Jerry go back even further.

Frank Rugers is overseas at present and I know he wouldn’t have missed this event if he was able to be here, but Frank first worked with Jerry in 1990 at Army Band Sydney. Frank has also served on the ABODA NSW Committee for over 20 years.

Russell Hammond, arguably the ‘Godfather’ of the Australian Band Movement, again would have dearly loved to have been here tonight. Russell was responsible for bringing Jerry Nowak to Australia in the first place, to be Key Note Speaker at Australia’s first ANBOC Conference in 1985 in Melbourne.

Since this first ANBOC in 1985, Jerry has graced our shores, and enjoyed our hospitality EVERY year.

I first got involved with ABODA when I attended ANBOC in Sydney in 1990 and did my first conducting course in 1991 at Lane Cove P.S. in Sydney with Prof Robert Rosen. I joined the committee soon after and quickly got involved in organising ABODA events in NSW.

In 1993 the ABODA Committee invited Jerry to bring his course back to Sydney, and in January of 1994, I was both a member of the course as well as the Course Manager.

Prior to this Jerry spent two years in Melbourne, three years in Sydney, and three years in Brisbane.

Since returning to Sydney in 1994, the course has run each January in various locations in the Sydney area, including:

  • St. Joseph’s College, Hunters Hill
  • Villa Maria P.S., Hunters Hill
  • UNSW Music Department, Kensington
  • St. Pius X College, Chatswood
  • Rosebank College, Five Dock
  • Burwood, H.S.
  • Sylvania H.S.
  • Kambala, Rose Bay
  • Port Hacking H.S.
  • St. Patrick’s College, Strathfield
  • Army Band Sydney, Paddington
  • And back to Kambala for this year’s course.

Jerry certainly gets around!

A special feature of the course occurred in 1998 when I was contacted by a reporter for ‘Good Morning Australia’, about them coming along and making a current affair item of Jerry & the Course, which then aired during morning prime time television.

The textbook, Conducting the Music, Not the Musicians, started out as the combined experiences of both Jerry & Henry Nowak. As the course in Australia developed, so did the work on the text book, using the experiences and suggestions from course members, and the needs of the course. The course textbook is now fully published by Carl Fischer, with over 450 pages of instruction, examples, Chorales & Etudes.

The Phrasing Book, The Art of Expressive Playing, was introduced to us at St. Pius X College in 2001, and has also since been published by Carl Fischer. Both of these texts have been a driving force in conducting instruction in Sydney for over 20 years.

Almost every year since the course’s inception, Jerry has been hosted as a guest at a Committee member’s home. This was mostly to save the course from the expense of hotel accommodation, but also to provide Jerry with some company, as well as ease of transport.

Since I have been involved Jerry has stayed with Frank Rugers, he stayed with Kelly & myself for a few years, he has stayed with David & Michelle, and for the past six or more years, with Ian and Rhonda. Whilst Jerry has never been a hassle, it takes a lot for these people to take two weeks off from work and family during the course, and to drive Jerry to and from, as well as other social activities, and I sincerely thank them for this.

Most of the wonderful times that we reminisce about involve the wonderful dinners, outings, fine wines & ports shared over the many years. Talking about wine for a moment, and Jerry has certainly become a connoisseur of fine Australian wine, many of the course participants over the years, chipped in for gifts to Jerry and other staff. One year in particular, Jerry was presented with a lovely bottle of Penfolds St. Henri 1998 Shiraz. I promptly took care of that bottle for him explaining that ‘You can’t drink that yet, it has too many good years ahead of it!’

Therefore, I would like to present Jerry with this very special bottle which has been sitting in my cellar ever since, complete with a substantial amount of Clark dust. I must remind you however, that Australian Wine writer, Jeremy Oliver still has this wine listed to peak between 2018 – 2028, so you may like to look after it for a few more years yet!……………….or maybe not?

At the conclusion of every course, Jerry asks the students to give feedback on what elements of the course could be improved or should change. Apart from the development of the textbook already discussed, in 1998 Jerry introduced two Staff Associate Conductors, being myself and Frank Rugers. In this capacity we shared the teaching and tutorial load with Jerry, and provided more focussed and individual attention for the participants.

The Staff Associate Conductors made a big improvement to the course as a whole, as well as to the individual students. Over the years several others have joined the ranks, including Louise Luke, Michelle Coleman, Janet Rennie, Cathy Chan, E-Yang Liu and David Sheppard. My apologies if I have missed anybody. Ian Bown began assisting with the Staff back in 2002, and has assisted Jerry over the past 12 years.

Many people have assisted and contributed to the course over many years. I can’t name them all individually, because I am certain to forget someone, but a few key people sprang to mind apart from those already mentioned.

  • Merrilee McNaught – percussion, provision, transport and organisation
  • Rhonda – catering/administration – for many years taking care of the course’s food requirements, again saving money for the Course and ABODA
  • Michelle Michaels – photocopying, hosting Jerry, taking annual leave to assist

And not to mention the hundreds of local musicians, some not so local, who turn up year after year for some holiday playing, to support the course and student conductors.

There is certainly an extensive list of past students of this Course that make up the current who’s who of the conducting scene around this country and overseas.

Of course, with any profession, many past students have changed vocations, retired, moved away, started families etc., but there is still a considerable list of people working as conductors and educators, that are a testament to the generous spirit, and extensive experience that is Jerry Nowak.

On behalf of ABODA NSW, and personally, I would like to thank my good friends Ian & Rhonda Bown, firstly for organising tonight’s event, but also for the many years of selfless dedication to this Course and to Jerry himself. Sincere thanks Ian & Rhonda.

So, back to where I started………

Tonight is a celebration dedicated to 30 years of hard work and generous sharing given to us by Jerry Nowak. Thankyou Jerry, for all the memories, and for touching so many lives with your positive, musical influence.

I would ask you all to please charge your glass, as I propose a toast, to Jerry Nowak.

Thankyou ladies & gentlemen!

Garry Clark – 2014

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