Michelle John & Malcolm John, Cello and Piano

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Date(s) - 14/05/2017
2:30 pm - 3:45 pm

All Saints Anglican Church

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Michelle has music performance degrees from the Victorian College of the Arts and the University of Tasmania. She has studied cello in New York and toured over 23 countries with the Como Quartet.  Recently, Michelle has played at festivals in Paris and the UK with The David Chesworth Ensemble, and has conducted workshops and chamber music concerts in New Zealand. At home, she freelances with The Melbourne Musicians, Orchestra Victoria, Chambermade Opera, The Ragadolls Salon Orchestra and other symphony orchestras.

Michelle is passionate about collaborating in new and unusual ways with other artists and composers. Her world music band Aajinta’s debut CD ‘Harmonic Spheres’ received critical acclaim, and she is currently composing music for an upcoming documentary with this ensemble of cello, didgeridoo, clarinet and harmonic vocals.  She has written and performed music for the dance group ‘Mixed Company’, and has premiered composers such as Michael Nyman’s (The Piano) works.

Michelle has recorded with many artists including Paul Kelly, The John Butler Trio, Max Merrit, The Moovin’ and Groovin’ Orchestra, Naked Raven, True Live and Whitley and has been interviewed and broadcast on ABCFM, Radio National, 3RRR, 3MBS and 3PBS.  She has also recorded improvised solo works for film soundtracks.

She has performed in venues as diverse as BMW Edge, Hamer Hall, in parklands around Mia Mia Gallery, St. Patrick’s and St. Paul’s Cathedrals, and a city car park for the Melbourne International Festival!  Michelle has also appeared with various ensembles on ABC-TV.

Michelle’s commitment to musical excellence combined with her ability to adapt performances to best suit each client’s vision has led to compliments from the Duchess of York and the Ferrari Grand Prix team, amongst other corporate events in Melbourne over the last 15 years.

A lifetime – and a family – born and raised around music is the happy lot of Geelong’s Dr Malcolm John, a composer, musician, teacher, community man, husband, father of four musical children and a grandfather. He has achieved greatly in his chosen field and in life.

Dr John has composed more than 100 pieces since he started playing the piano at age eight and is one of the few Australians to have been accepted into the prestigious Juilliard School in New York.

Malcolm has taught in various schools in Geelong and interstate, has composed music and sung in several choirs and is the founder of the first and only music camp in Geelong. In 2006 he was awarded a Medal of the Order of Australia for his contribution to music in the Geelong region over four decades.

But let’s wind back to the beginning of his musical life and career. Malcolm grew up in Ballarat where his mother encouraged him to play the piano and sing.

“We had a piano in the front room and my mother just said, ‘Go for it’,” Malcolm says.

From there he grew to love the piano and, at age 14, moved to The Geelong College. He spent four years boarding at the campus, where he completed his piano exams up to Piano Grade 7. After high school, and a discussion with his father, James Taylor John, Malcolm decided he would follow through with music even though he had other professions in mind.

“I thought, ‘Everything I like doing is music-related’, so I told my dad and he said ‘It’s about time you made up your mind’,” Malcolm says. “So I completed an entrance exam to get into a Diploma in Music at Melbourne University.”

He spent two years studying for the diploma and three further years completing his Bachelor of Music at Melbourne University, where he would spend six to eight hours a day practising at Ormond College.

“They couldn’t cope with me. They had never had a music student at Ormond College and I made a lot of noise,” Malcolm says with a chuckle.

At the end of his degree, aged 24, he was awarded a scholarship to study at Juilliard. He studied there for two years, training to be a pianist for half a year before changing to a Diploma in Choral Conducting.

“Juilliard is highly regarded and it was a great school. It develops you as a person and trains you very well. It was thorough and very good,” he says. “I was generally very much interested in singing and the choral work so they said I could change. As part of the course we had to learn the four basic languages in music that were French, German, English and Latin. We had to study them pretty thoroughly. There were lots of other aspects – ear training, how to pitch notes and much more.”

On return, Malcolm worked as the director of music at Scotch College in Adelaide for three years. In this time he also married his wife, Alison, who plays the flute and piano. They have four children: Karen (singer), Christopher (violin), Michelle (cello) and Sara (viola).

“Scotch College was my first full-time job running a music department. I started it up and got it going,” he says. “But I was also interested in drama, so I decided to go and study with Wilfrid Mellers (the founding professor and head of the music department) at the brand new music department at University of York.”

Malcolm set off for York at age 32 and completed a PhD on Youth-Music Drama. While there he also worked with year 10 drama students to compose musical theatre works. “To my knowledge I was the first person to graduate from that program with a doctorate.”

On his return to Australia, he gained a lecturing position at Wesley College (then Salisbury College of Advanced Education), where he taught for five years.

At 39, he moved back to Geelong and taught at Geelong Grammar for 23 years, running the music department for 18 years. He retired at 62. “They had a great music department there; it was a school that valued music and the arts,” Malcolm says. “While there, I ran the orchestras and choirs and did country tours to share music with other schools and to network.”

During his teaching years, Malcolm also learnt to play the organ, horn, trombone, double bass and recorder. He can also sing. “Singing is one of the healthiest things you can do. Wherever I go, if there is no choir then I will start one,” the Highton resident says.

Within Geelong, Malcolm has assisted with Highton Rotary Star Search, is a member of Rotary and is on the Geelong Music Teachers’ Association. He is also an examiner for the Australian Music Examinations Board in Australia and Asia. He has composed for and conducted Orchestra Geelong, in which he also plays horn; he is a composer and tenor at The Geelong Chorale and he sings in the Windfire Chamber Choir.