Royal Botanic Gardens – Government House – Afternoon at the Conservatorium

Are we really back at Friday again? My third and penultimate weekend in Sydney is approaching and that means another opportunity to get in some sightseeing. I did go into SLM this morning with the intention of doing some work – particularly planning out my paper for the upcoming Sound Heritage Sydney conference. However, after meeting Neal Peres Da Costa for tea first thing, he invited me to come on a tour of the Conservatorium and to sit in on class in the afternoon.


This was an opportunity to find out what students are up to in Sydney, particularly postgraduate students who are in the midst of their Masters and DMA (Doctor of Musical Arts). In this class they are really challenged to think about how to combine research and performance to produce ‘Creative Works projects’. In this particularly class, the concept of the recital was highlighted as a loaded term with a certain expectation for presentation and students were reminded that what they produce needs to be rooted in research, not just discussing professional practice. I too offered a written account (read by Neal) about my experience as a Masters of Music HIPP student, which stirred an exciting debate and I was pleased that members of class asked pressing questions about when to practice, when to write and workload management in general. The students have a fantastic amount of support and the opportunity to hone practice by research skills but some struggle to see the potential beyond traditional modes of learning typical of a conservatoire. Not too different from Glasgow in that respect!

I also met with Senior Lecturer Helen Mitchell, who is doing fascinating work into ‘audiences’ perceptions and descriptions of performances, through sound alone and through an audio-visual fusion of sensory information’. She told me about her work carried out on the Dowling Project – a joint venture between SLM and the Conservatorium. She also happens to be originally from Glasgow and we actually had a few common contacts!

It was amazing to see the Conservatorium and the students at work and Neal was also kind enough to show me his amazing collection of historical pianos including an original 1869 Errad!

In the in-between of my meetings today, I took the opportunity to explore the Royal Botanic Gardens, which sit in the heart of Sydney city centre. Apart from seeing the skyscrapers in the background, once inside The Gardens you wouldn’t know you were in one of the biggest cities in the world! The Gardens are filled with amazing sculptures, trees, indigenous plants and rock sculptures.

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Within The Gardens, sits Government House (the actual resident of the Governor of Sydney). Walking through the greenery, the Downton Abby style mansion pops into view. This amazing building built in 1845 and was the first resident of Governor George Gipps. It is free admission to the public, but only if they join a tour group. Unfortunately, I didn’t have time to join a tour today, but I will definitely be back when it is open next weekend!



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