Australian Honours for Elizabeth Morgan AM

Australian Honours for Elizabeth Morgan AM
May 12th, 2015 by Brendan Joyce

AUSTA Founding Chair and Patron, Elizabeth Morgan has been recognised in the 2013 Australian Queen’s Birthday Australian Honours List with an AM (Member of the Order of Australia).

Most ‘AUSTA-LIANS’ and others in the string community know Elizabeth Morgan as a highly respected trailblazer in the area of string playing and music education in Australia. In a career spanning half a century, she has also been a performer, conductor, clinician, adjudicator, editor and consultant. Elizabeth’s efforts have been a major influence in advancing musical culture in Australia. Not only has she spearheaded numerous campaigns that have improved the quality of string playing and teaching, but she has gone beyond any conceivable call of duty, working tirelessly at the coal-face of these activities, invariably in an honorary or voluntary capacity.

Appointments

Elizabeth’s studies at Trinity College in London were interrupted when she migrated with a group of students, following violinist and master teacher Jan Sedivka to Australia to become string teachers for the Education Department in Queensland, while continuing their studies with him. She was appointed as Senior Lecturer Positions in Violin and String Pedagogy at the University of Queensland and at the Queensland Conservatorium, the latter position for over 20 years. As a performer she played as recitalist and chamber musician, notably with the Mayne String Trio and Quartet and the University (of Queensland) Sinfonietta and the Queensland Symphony Orchestra.

Founder of Camerata of St John’s

Elizabeth founded both the original group that brought her students together into an ensemble (1987) and the professional ensemble (2005). Under her guidance the original group was referred to in the press as ‘a treasure of an ensemble’. The latest professional version of Camerata, which is developing an outstanding reputation, is a reflection not only of many of her ideas but of her phenomenal commitment to creating a high level ensemble for local professional players, thereby attracting others professional players to Brisbane. She encouraged her graduating students to be core members, and sought many outstanding supporters to form the board of management with which she is actively and artistically involved as a Special Music Advisor and Artistic Committee member. In a generous act of ‘putting her money where her mouth is’, Elizabeth agreed to contribute to the group with a substantial financial commitment by becoming the inaugural member of the Founder’s Circle, which supports the growth of the ensemble for the Australian community.

Teaching in Queensland Schools and Universities

When Elizabeth was AUSTA Q President in 1982, she organised the first ever State Conference on Instrumental Group Teaching in conjunction with the Queensland Department of Education. She created of one of the first group instrumental music instruction programs in Australia at the Church of England Grammar, paving the way for many private school programs that exist today.

She was also was part of a driving force that founded Education Queensland’s Musically Outstanding Scholars Program (MOST), and was a highly valued conductor, tutor and selector of performers for that program for 28 years. From that time onwards she adjudicated and mentored for the Education Queensland’s Fanfare program.

Elizabeth played a pioneering role by establishing the first university level string pedagogy courses in Australia at the University of Queensland in the 1970s and 80s, and substantially developing these over time into a highly detailed and intensive program that ran at Griffith University Queensland Conservatorium of Music.

A Pioneer

Elizabeth’s trailblazing work for the musical community includes citations for service given to an Australian or a musician for the first time.

Elizabeth was the Inaugural Founding (National) President (1975–1985) of AUSTA. AUSTA has not only become the pre-eminent professional association for those involved in musical string instruments in Australia, but it has been a strong advocacy group for music education. She was also the founding president of AUSTA Q, simultaneously holding the posts of National President, Queensland State President and journal editor for 9 years. She served a fourth term as National President in the 90s, adjusting the nomenclature from ‘Australian String Teachers Association’ to ‘Australian Strings Association’, to more accurately reflect the organisation’s original charter. At this time she also brought the membership up from 600 to over 1000 national members. Elizabeth set the style and tone of AUSTA National and State conferences, held every three years since the first one in 1978, establishing the model of bringing keynote speakers and presenters with international reputations from overseas, as well as recognising, advocating for, and presenting local educators.

Elizabeth was invited as a guest presenter for the American String Teacher’s Association National Conference, USA, in 1982 (apparently the first Australian to do so). In 2001 Elizabeth initiated the idea and persuaded ASTA International Workshop’s founder and director Gerald Fischbach to bring the workshops to Australia, the first time that these famous and popular workshops were held in the southern hemisphere.

Other ‘firsts’ include being invited to conduct the all-women’s string orchestra for the 1975 International Year of Women. The performance included Vaughan- Williams’ Fantasia on a Theme of Thomas Tallis and the rendition and Elizabeth’s conducting thereof received a laudatory review in the local press from highly respected musician Dr. William Lovelock. She initiated the Taabinga Spring Music Festivals that ran from 1978-2008, providing inspiration and artistic direction.

Elizabeth introduced the relatively unknown Dalcroze Eurhythmics method of music education to many string players in Australia through advocacy, incorporation into her teaching, and in at least one written article on the subject.

Elizabeth was also part of the ‘think tank’ that led to the formation of the Queensland Youth Orchestra (QYO) and the National Youth Concerto Competition.

AMEB

Elizabeth’s career has included innumerable posts at the AMEB since 1989 as Examiner, Federal Examiner, National and State Advisory Committees for various syllabi and publications, and as Consulting Editor for the Violin Series 7 Handbooks (5th to 7th Grades, 2001/2002).

The Teacher and Mentor

Perhaps the most significant part of Elizabeth’s vocation has been her own private studio. She has been mentor and teacher to countless successful performers, artist-teachers, and educators with just a few of those including Dale Barltrop (Concertmaster of the Vancouver Symphony), Brett Dean, Kathryn Lockwood (violist with the Lark Quartet and Professor at the University of Massachusetts) and Madeline Hagon (Queensland Studies Authority/ Lecturer in Pedagogy at Queensland Conservatorium).

Citations and Honours

Her numerous honours from 1982 onwards recognise her excellence in teaching and come from such organisations as AUSTA, QYO, the University of Queensland and the Australia and NZ branch of the International Viola Society.

Conclusion

Elizabeth passion for and dedication to string playing and education are a gift to Australia. She has carried out her work, activities and efforts with integrity, leading by example, exhibiting the highest ethical standards and with an uncommon sense of collegiality. The community has been blessed to have a person of Elizabeth’s calibre, and one with the imagination, dedication and humanity that are the hallmarks of her style. Most notable of all perhaps is that she has shared these with a level of generosity and altruism that is so substantial as to be immeasurable.

What a different string scene we would have had that boat never arrived!

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