I'm Dion, founder and tutor at Counterpoint Music. "Founder" seems like a very important title, so it's worth explaining why I started this teaching studio in the first place.
I grew up in rural Queensland (no-one likes to mention the word "Gympie") on a 140 acre property full of bush and local native fauna. I would wake up to kangaroos hopping around on dewy grass and the songs of the Butcher birds and Magpies. I had so much to explore outside, and yet I was always drawn to the old dusty piano that sat in our study, rarely played.
Most kids who sat at that piano would bash away on the keys making as much noise as possible. I preferred to play delicately, one note at a time, making up melodies before I could make up sentences. I attended a tiny primary school of around 60 kids total. When I was in grade 3, an elderly keyboard teacher came to our school and started taking lessons with the children that were interested. After a few weeks, she recommended to my family that I take lessons with her own teacher, Alvie Williams.
Mrs. Williams taught me for 9 years and was in her mid 90s when I finished. I learned my fair share of classical repertoire but Mrs. Williams was equally intent of giving me "modern" pieces to learn. I put "modern" in parenthesis due to fact that most of these modern works were at least 70 years old.
When I was around 10 years old, I heard a song on the radio called "Underground" by the band Ben Folds Five. I was gobsmacked. It was a cool, modern rock song with piano as its main instrument. I immediately had a new hero and new goals - to be able to play Ben Folds Five songs. After their next album release, I begged my parents to import a Ben Folds Five sheet music book from the US - it wasn't available in Australia yet. (This was their first internet purchase - very scary indeed.)
Song by song I worked my way through the book, some were technically too hard to play note-for-note, but I learned a huge amount of theory around chords, rhythm, interaction with other instruments and piano and voice co-ordination. I even took that book to Mrs. Williams who was more than happy to have me learn from my new favourite book, even allowing me to perform Ben Folds Five songs in the local Eisteddfod competitions.
I'd also started playing in a band, with my friend and I writing material as well as covering the occasional Jazz standard. Finally, being a piano player was fun. Well, it was always fun, but now I had people dancing while I played and cheering after playing a song rather than clapping politely or sitting in silence for five minutes while I finished a concerto. I was hooked. Playing pop songs at lunchtime while friends sang along was no longer monopolised by the cool guitar players at school.
Since then I've fronted a number of bands, written a vast catalogue of songs, performed on some of the best stages in Australia and I never get sick of performing. It's my all-time favourite thing to do. Hearing a crowd sing the lyrics to a song I've written gives me a bigger rush than when I went skydiving.
I've seen my hero Ben Folds play countless times. I've seen him make massive mistakes, heck, I've even yelled his lyrics to him on stage when he forgot them. Each time I see him or any other band play, I learn. What did they do well? What could be improved on? The great thing about being a musician is that you never stop learning unless you stop listening.
I want to share what I've learned from my years as a student, performer, audience and teacher. I want you to be able to have as much fun as I have when you play your instrument. I want you to be able to perform to a crowd in a social environment, playing songs that you love to play.
How does that sound to you?