Connecting Queensland musicians and community

A greater sense of community and the sounds of collaboration will be heard emanating from the Queensland Conservatorium Griffith University (QCGU), following the appointment of a new Deputy Director (Performance and Engagement).

Distinguished horn player, teacher and conductor, Peter Luff, will step into the new role this week after more than 12 years at the QCGU, most recently as Co-Chair of Brass.

It’s a department that has perfectly aligned with his life as a musician, which sees him continue to perform weekly with the Queensland Symphony Orchestra as Associate Principal Horn.

Such a well-rounded career as a performer and educator will now put him in good stead to expand the Conservatorium’s focus towards greater community collaboration and engagement with students — both past and present.

“The Conservatorium has a strong reputation for training and producing elite performers — but we also play a significant role in the wider arts culture of the State,” he explains.

“Our graduates are found not just on stages all over the world; they are teachers, composers, academics and prolific local performers as well.

“This experience, combined with the exceptional talent of our emerging musicians, means there is great potential for joining the two and taking the results outside the classroom walls for all to hear.

“In bringing our home grown talent together, we will explore opportunities for new performances for the community, new compositions, new music and new methods of delivery for people living all over Queensland,” he says.

Such a vibrant and inclusive take on education is one Peter strongly believes in and is a key feature of his plan to “inject some oomph” into the more traditional programs taught at the Conservatorium.

“As a performer myself, I’ve seen first-hand, from the stage, how much the audience has changed over the last few years,” he says.

“Music needs to relevant to what people actually want to hear.

“There’s an increasing need for instant gratification through visual presence and new media and a want for something new, outside the boundaries of what we’ve always seen and heard.

“Students too no longer want to wear ties and suits when they perform — they feel constrained by the traditional touches to orchestral performances, and more than ever, they now have the drive to infuse the old with new innovation that better reflects their own personalities,”’ he says.

Peter cites the Youth Orchestra of Bahia as a perfect example of emerging talent tackling the traditional with a new style, and winning over the audience.

“Watching these young musicians dancing and moving while playing and clearly enjoying every minute of it is truly inspiring. It shows the world of possibilities opening up within orchestral music for the next generation,” he says.

Hailing from Western Australia, Peter began his musical life with the trumpet, before studying horn under a man he describes as the “horn grandfather”, Paul Duhig, in high school.

This influence also marked the start of his appreciation for the value of mentorship.

“The right kind of mentorship is one of the most important things for any student,” he says.

“Mentorship is not about the playing of an instrument, it’s about having belief in someone, and them being aware that you have this belief in them.”

Peter credits his teacher at the Elder Conservatorium in Adelaide, “phenomenal musician” Patrick Brislan, with giving him such a belief and instilling a deep love of music and the horn.

He also refers to Hector McDonald as “an amazing soloist, an amazing chamber musician and a fantastic teacher with incredible diagnostic skills” — a man largely responsible for his own development as a musician.

In recognising such significant impacts on his own professional life, Peter will continue to look for ways to offer advice to students and encourage a balanced approach through healthy competition.

Peter says making music interesting and most importantly fun, remains high on his list of priorities, as he recalls the success the Conservatorium’s horn choir enjoyed at last year’s International Horn Symposium ensemble competition in Memphis, Tennessee.

“Would they have won it if they thought they had a chance of winning it? The answer’s probably no, because they would have put unnecessary pressure on themselves,” he explains.

“Without unrealistic or harsh expectations, they just had a ball on stage and I couldn’t have been prouder of them.

“It was a great exercise in how we can adapt our approach to playing – as for me, it’s all about enjoying the experience and the building of a team mentality,” he says.

In addition to his new role as Deputy Director, Peter will also take a lead in the 2nd Brisbane Brass Lower Weekend event to be hosted by the Queensland Conservatorium from 31 October to 2 November, 2014. The event will bring trombone, euphonium and tuba players together with experts from the Conservatorium and the Queensland Symphony Orchestra for three days of concerts, competitions, workshops, lectures and masterclasses.