Leanne Roobol is the Director of Music at New England Girls’ School. She tells us about NEGS’ philosophy of a quality music education that is accessible by all students.
> How long have you lived in Armidale?
I was born in Armidale and lived here until I completed my HSC. In 1988 I moved to Canberra to study voice at the Canberra School of Music. In Canberra I met my husband, who was studying to be an Army officer. We then lived in a number of places around Australia on different military postings, until we moved back to Armidale nine years ago.
> Tell us about your family?
I am married to Trevor Thatcher, who works at The Armidale School and is now an Army Reserve Officer. We have two children, Sophia (11 years old) and Samuel (10 years old). My parents Bev and Sjaak Roobol live in Armidale and they are one of our reasons for moving back here, as well as education, lifestyle and the many other opportunities Armidale has to offer to families.
> Where did your passion for music come from?
I’ve loved music for as long as I can remember; music was constantly played at home. I was always singing with my younger sister Sharon. We would sing non-stop on long car trips and must have driven our parents mad. I learned piano from a young age and then began singing lessons with the wonderful Claire Keoghan when I was in high school at PLC Armidale.
My parents both sang when they were younger, and my mother used to sing and dance with Peter Allen when she was a student at Armidale High School.
I’m now constantly singing in the car with my daughter (until my son begs us to stop).
> What is your position at NEGS, and how long have you worked there?
I am the Director of Music at NEGS, and this is my third year there. I primarily teach music classes in the Senior School, including Years 7, 8, 11 and 12. I also direct a number of ensembles, including five choirs and I accompany our Junior School choirs.
> What do you enjoy most about teaching music at NEGS?
I enjoy working with the students and overseeing the development of our music program. Every year the number of students learning instruments and becoming involved in ensembles has steadily increased. This has also led to a rise in the number of ensembles we offer. We now have four string ensembles, nine choirs, three wind ensembles and handbells.
> Describe your music program?
Our program is a sequential music program that begins with specialist music lessons in Transition through to elective music classes in Year 12. All students at St. John’s Junior School are taught by our specialist Junior School Music teacher, Mrs Rowena Tall. In Years 7 & 8, students study music as a core subject and then from Years 9-12, music is offered as an elective.
Our teaching program is a Kodály based program inspired by the educational and aesthetic philosophies of the Hungarian composer Zoltan Kodály, who believed that a quality music education should be accessible to all students and affirm each student as being innately musical.
Kodály believed that singing should be the foundation of all music education, and this underpins the NEGS music program T – 12. Rowena Tall and I recently travelled to Queensland to undertake studies in Kodály education and are intending to begin our Masters in Kodály Music education next year.
> Tell us about your team …
Our Head of Junior School Music is Rowena Tall. Rowena and her family moved to Armidale 18 months ago from Sydney, where she taught at Sydney Grammar. Rowena is inspirational and has energised our music program in the Junior School. Her husband Stephen Tall sang with Opera Australia and is now teaching our singing students as a member of our Peripatetic staff.
Phil Oxley, a teacher with many years’ experience, works in the Senior School and is well known in the district for his wonderful singing ability. Many people in Armidale would have seen Phil starring as Ralph in the recent Armidale Musical Society’s production of ‘HMS Pinafore.’
Our Musician in Residence is Nick Negerevich. Nick teaches our woodwind students and directs our woodwind, brass and Jazz ensembles. Nick moved to Armidale in 2007 as the Woodwind Studies Teacher at NECOM. A highly sought after teacher, Nick has had 14 years’ experience as Principal Piccolo/Flute with the opera and ballet orchestra at the Sydney Opera House.
We are assisted by our administration assistant Constance Rolfe, an Old Girl of NEGS, who was the Choral Captain in my first year of teaching at NEGS.
We have 20 Peripatetic teachers who teach specialist instrumental lessons weekly for students at NEGS and St. John’s. They include voice, strings, woodwind, brass and percussion teachers.
> Most memorable accomplishment that involved your students?
Our most recent success was the NEGS Community Choir winning the Open New England Choral Championship at the Armidale Eisteddfod. This choir was conducted by Phil Oxley, and the choir is made up of staff, parents, students and community members.
> What is your position with NECOM?
I conduct two choirs at the New England Conservatorium of Music, Cantilena Folk Singers and New England Singers. I also assist Rowena Tall with Cantilena Singers at their weekly rehearsals.
> Your greatest personal musical accomplishment?
I have had many wonderful performance experiences, singing in many venues as a recitalist. But I am most proud of the work I am doing with my team to establish a strong tradition of music at NEGS.
> Thank you Leanne.