Wagga-born teacher Peter Earl, aka The Music Guy, said he was stunned to be a finalist for an ARIA Award.
“I knew that I’d been nominated but I honestly didn’t expect anything would come from it because I knew that a lot of people across Australia would be nominated, so I was in shock,” he said.
The Australian Recording Industry Association’s (ARIA) annual awards are best known as a celebration of the nation’s hottest music acts, but for the past seven years, they have included a category for teachers.
The Telstra ARIA Music Teacher Award highlights the importance of music education and the inspirational role that music teachers play.
“I guess it’s probably where these big-name musicians all started,” said Peter with a laugh.
“They would have had a music teacher at some point in their childhood that inspired them to take on music and to keep going with music, so I think it’s a really appropriate award.”
Peter completed his schooling at Kooringal High and went on to study teaching at CSU in Wagga.
“I got heavily involved in music through school,” he explained.
“In primary school, I was right into classical because that’s what I played on piano, but when I got to high school, there were so many opportunities to explore different genres of music.
“We had blues bands, rock bands, jazz bands, and there was so much on offer with the musicals with Peter Cox.”
The much-loved teacher and director Peter Cox died last month, leaving an impressive legacy.
“He had such a big impact on my life along with so many other people that he influenced,” Peter recalled.
“I did all of the musicals with Peter Cox throughout high school, and then a heap of different shows after school as well, and I just learned and got so much from working with him.
“He was also a friend outside of all of that, so we were all really devastated about the loss.”
Peter followed his friend and mentor into teaching and said he was drawn to primary school where he felt he could share his love of music and sport with the kids.
“I thought I could inject music into a lot of what I did in the classroom and also the physical activity, so that was a big part of my teaching style and philosophy.”
Peter and his family now live in the Blue Mountains, where he runs his own business – The Music Guy – providing fun, inclusive concert band programs for primary school students with limited access to music education.
“At the school that I was in, I had started a band program where I’d have every class come down to my music room for a one-hour music lesson each week,” he explained.
“It really quickly became a big part of the school and it was what we were known for in the Blue Mountains.
“We saw the impact that it was having on the kids individually and on the school as a whole, and I realised that what we had was quite unique.
“So my motivation and my goal I guess in doing this was just to give kids the opportunity to reap those benefits of music in as many schools as I can.”
Peter’s ARIA nomination recognises his efforts in helping establish concert bands in nine public primary schools across the Blue Mountains and western Sydney, and he says there are more in the pipeline.
“All the schools have been really supportive and the kids have just loved being part of the music program and the band programs in the schools,” he said.
“The word seems to keep spreading and it’s just all happened very quickly.”
Peter said he was honoured to be a finalist for the award, which he hoped would help to highlight the work done by music teachers.
“I know there are so many amazing music teachers across Australia that are doing so much for kids, and I’ve worked with a lot of them over the years, so I guess I’m accepting the nomination on behalf of all of those people that have helped me over the years.”
Voting for the Telstra ARIA Music Teacher Award is open now and you can cast your vote here.