My Learning Journey Part Four

 School Mate’s Influence.

During this time of intense application of learning piano, I became aware of a school mate from our class who was to have a profound effect on my musical future. Because I was interested in Jazz, Terry Lynch asked me to be part of a trio [ piano, bass and drums.] We found a bassist, Eddie Calleja, who was happy to join, and we had lots of fun rehearsing – sometimes at home when Dad wasn’t on afternoon shift. What a delight it was. Probably crude and rough by my current standards, but we didn’t care as we were having fun.

Terry’s Amazing Improvement

Terry Swings !

After a few months Terry suddenly seemed to be making extremely rapid progress in his playing – almost like he was turbocharged ! This is where his profound effect started. When quizzed as to why he was improving so rapidly he revealed he had been travelling to Melbourne, a round trip of 180 miles, and having lessons from Brian Czempinski one of the leading drum teachers. I was green with envy about his progress and asked him to ask Brian to find me a jazz piano teacher. The rest is history. Brian was working with Chuck Yates who had a wonderful reputation as a player and teacher and Chuck accepted me on a three month trial. “ If you don’t practice and work hard, don’t come back “

Intimidation. ??

Chuck Yates Jazz Master

Chuck was rated highly among the jazz pianists in Melbourne and it was with trepidation I knocked on his door. Even more intimidating was his nine foot long black Wertheim Concert Grand Piano which I bought years later.  He put me at ease rapidly and work began. Lessons were one hour for a cost of one pound [ two dollars ] and the value and knowledge gained was incredible. Our first study piece was “ Blue Moon “ He must have been happy with my progress as our student / teacher relationship went on for three years – I became a practice fanatic, finishing work at 5.00 pm and being home at the piano by 5.20 pm. My average practice time was SIX hours daily with up to ten hours on the weekends except when Terry and I did our five to six hours of travel for our one hour lessons. A once a fortnight learning expedition !

Sweat Shop Blues !

Sweat Shop Blues

Talk about work hard ! I had great callouses on both my fingertips, and where I sat. Chuck’s reaction to the amount of effort I’d put in was to maintain the price but gradually extend the length of the lessons until they lasted for half a day with coffee breaks included, at which time we sat, listened and discussed the records. Many years later I had the most rewarding, and hardest working student of my teaching career. Guess What ? His lessons went from one hour to all afternoon, just like Chuck had done for me.

A Touch of The Classical

The Art of Finger Dexterity

The Vituoso Pianist

Lessons from Chuck concentrated on harmony, improvisation and rhythm. To improve my actual piano technique he sent me to a delightful classical piano teacher who had recently returned from Paris, Miss Robyn Wright. She had taught him years previously. It was back to Chopin Beethoven and Liszt with technique studies from the Czerny School of Velocity and Hanon the Virtuoso Pianist. These studies and practice set me up for life with good posture, and correct technique.

The Coda

Learning Piano is an ongoing process for as long as one plays. Right now after a fifty plus year career, I am still learning by listening to other recorded and live players and by working with accomplished players such as my best mate, bassist Peter McLaughlin who provides me with both rhythmic and harmonic inspiration every time we play.


Thank you to all those who have generously shared their knowledge, friendship and inspiration for all these years, you have my eternal gratitude.

Miss Thirwell
Mrs. Finger.
Mrs. Alice Ross
Mr. Hugh Ross
Mr. Joe Rea
Mr. Steve Hicks
Mr. Dick Winter
Mr. Terry Lynch
Mr. Eddie Calleja
Mr. Brian Czempinski
Mr. Chuck Yates
Miss Robyn Wright
Mr. Peter McLaughlin
PLUS – All the musicians with whom I’ve worked and learned from simply by the act of playing music together.

Yamaha Concert Grand

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