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AUSTA Awards 2009

Lyndall Hendrickson

AUSTA National Award

Lyndall Hendrickson has had a long association with the Australian Strings? Association. Spanning over nearly a century, her concerts, pedagogical lectures, research in autism, and her contribution to the community, are significant for all Australians.

Lyndall first taught herself to play the violin at the age of six and then became a student of Louise Hakendorf. She attended St. Peter?s Collegiate Girls? School in Adelaide. In her early teens, she became the student of Ludvik Schwab. Over a period of five years of intensive training with Schwab, she had mastered and committed to memory virtually the entire repertoire of the violin.

On the eve of World War II, Lyndall Hendrickson made her debut as a soloist with the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra. Sir Malcolm Sargent described her performance as ?The musical sensation of the season?. This success was followed by concerto performances with Sir Thomas Beecham, Sir Bernard Heinze and every Australian conductor of note until the end of the war. For six years, she toured Australia, giving public recitals through the ABC and Red Cross, as well as performing to thousands of service men and women, in army camps and hospitals. Romantically, at a Sydney recital, a young naval surgeon in the audience fell in love with the young artist and although briefly acquainted, he proposed, and they married in 1946 as the War ended.

During the polio epidemic of the early 1950?s, Lyndall contracted polio from one of her husband?s patients. She suffered a total paralysis in the left side of her body, and was not expected to recover. Despite the poor outlook held by specialists, her husband used his expertise as a doctor to devise ?mind directed? muscle exercises. After a period of three years she slowly learnt to walk again. Today, although Lyndall has post polio syndrome, she dismisses it as ?just an inconvenience?.

During the eight years it took to achieve a recovery from paralysis, Lyndall Hendrickson studied commercial art and began writing and illustrating stories for her son, Hamish. She also struggled to re-master the violin. Using her husband?s ?mind approach?, she designed exercises for the violin, practicing one minute at a time. Whilst confined to bed, she borrowed over 4000 books from the Country Lending Service. Her interests then, had turned to educational psychology and neuro-science, but after the premature death of her husband in 1965 she sought employment, and was signed up as a commercial artist.

By 1968, Lyndall?s violin skills had improved to the extent that she had a successful return to the concert platform, accompanied by her pianist, Clemence Leske. But unfortunately she fractured a finger whilst playing football with her son, Hamish. Rather than give away the music career altogether, Lyndall?s first violin teacher persuaded her to teach. The results were soon evident. Within six months her students were receiving the highest awards in the Australian Music Board Exams. Among those clever students were Jane Peters, Rafaella Acella, Adele Anthony, Lucinda Moon, Paul Wright and Imogen Lidgett.

In the 1970?s, Lyndall Hendrickson was joined by Modbury?s primary school principal, Ron Day, who was also fighting on behalf of academically gifted children. Together they founded in Adelaide the first ?Gifted and Talented Association? in Australia.

Later her teaching expertise was soon sought at tertiary level. She was invited to join the South Australian College of Advanced Education and introduce psychology as a subject in the music curriculum.

In 1976, members of the Australian Communist Party approached six prominent Australians to share their skills in China. Lyndall Hendrickson was chosen to assist with her musical teaching skills. She spent time at the major conservatoriums of music, teaching in such cities as Peking, Beijing, Canton and Shanghai. An invitation was extended the following year asking her to return. This established her as the ?first western violin teacher? to be sanctioned by the Communist Chinese Government. Her elementary teaching method was subsequently published and employed by the country?s conservatorium?s and is still in use today.

In 1988, the University of Adelaide contracted Lyndall Hendrickson as a research supervisor and lecturer in String Methodology. She held these positions until she retired in 2001. In the same year, the Arts Council of Australia awarded her the Don Banks Award of $60,000. This award allowed her to concentrate on her research in autism, which began in 1986.

In 1986, an exhibition of Lyndall Hendrickson?s teaching manuscripts was held at an AUSTA workshop in Adelaide. She was approached by a doctor who was convinced that his eight-year-old autistic son might respond to the Hendrickson teaching approach. Lyndall said that the Doctor was persistent in his requests for her to teach his son ?Trevor Tao?, and that at the time she knew nothing at all about the condition. In agreeing to teach the Doctor?s son, she then set out to begin of a new journey in Autistic research that soon engulfed her life.

Her program for teaching the autistic boy included story writing, problem solving, basic skills and music. In 1989, Trevor Tao aged 11, and Hamish Philpott then 12 years, gave a private recital at the Hartley Concert Room at the University of Adelaide.

The Governor led the standing ovation. In the audience was Brian Whitford, the Director of the South Australian Autism Centre School. He said to Lyndall that what she had achieved with Trevor was a miracle and added that he would like to see her work with ?some really profound autistic children.? Soon after, she was appointed a visiting teacher at the Myrtle Bank Special School to work with six intensely mentally disabled non-verbal boys with autism. She remembers the experience stating, ?I underwent the sharpest learning curve of my life.

In 2004 Lyndall Hendrickson was awarded the Order of Australia for service to music and to children with autism.