Who would have thought that one person could have so much talent? Peter is one of those rare individuals whose natural gift for music speaks all languages.
How much of your love for music derives from your family background?
I was brought up a farm boy, the youngest of 6 kids, from Finnish/Indian background (Findian!) My mum was an artist and my father a bulldozer operator, and I am the only musical one in the immediate family. We are all tennis players (three coaches, and for the first 13 years of my life, I was going to be a tennis playing priest!) My grandparents (whom I did not know) played 50 instruments between them, and I also am related to Slim Dusty, Reg Lindsay and the Blundell family.
How old were you when you first picked up or played a musical instrument? What instrument was it?
I picked the saxophone when I was nearly 13, having my first gig one week later at the opening of World Expo ‘88. I learnt to play harmonies with the echoes of the mountains and performed many of my early concerts to cows and horses.
What professional/educational training in music have you done?
I reached my AMus level at the age of 17 and have been fortunate to have done various studies with the Queensland Conservatorium of Music and UQ over the years, as well as being the principal brass player of the Queensland Youth Orchestra.
An appropriate term to describe you would possibly be ‘musical guru’. Just how many instruments do you play, and give us a few examples …
I can play over 220 instruments, an ‘unofficial world record’. This includes ALL instruments of the orchestra, and many others such as harp, dulcimer, bagpipes, mandolin, Indian flutes, ocarinas, viola da gamba and the list goes on, and on, and on!
What led you to learn so many different kinds of instruments? There must be an almost insatiable thirst for knowledge behind this skill …
After learning the saxophone so quickly, I decided to start experimenting with instruments from the school music store room; before the first year was up, I had 12 instruments under my belt. This has simply continued over the years, gaining momentum. I feel music is a natural language and something that can unite people from all over the globe. I have continuously fallen in love with instruments from all over the world and also with various styles and musical cultures.
You’ve been the Musical Director for the Coffs Harbour Musical Comedy Company for some time now. What’s involved with this role?
Musical directing a theatre show is a great buzz, conducting and playing in the orchestra. Sometimes finding certain musicians can be a hard task. In some shows I have played up to 12 different instruments. Most shows I work with the singers alongside musical soul mate, Maureen Burgess. I love harmonies and musical expression. Bringing out the best in people, finding and nurturing new talent and meeting wonderful new people are definitely some highlights. The last show of Sweet Charity was my 200th performance with the Musical Comedy Company. Though each show usually takes about 300 hours in preparation, it is worth every drop of sweat! Our next production is Beauty and the Beast.
What other groups/societies are you involved with locally … we believe you also teach music?
I have been involved with almost every theatre group in town, both as a musician and on stage. I also conduct the Coffs Harbour City Orchestra, which is growing stronger and stronger. Supporting many charities is also an important part of my schedule. Over the past 6 years, I have started many music programmes in schools and have had the pleasure of teaching over 600 people in Coffs Harbour. I am currently working with public schools: Karangi, Bonville, and Sawtell primary schools, and I’m planning to take students to perform in the Opera House in 2013, with fellow teacher, Mary Pollack.
If you were alone in a room with a musical instrument … or perhaps even sitting next to a stereo … what style of music would you be most likely to play or listen to?
A very hard question! I play and appreciate styles from all around the world. Every day and every mood is different, but today it would be Celtic airs and Hungarian Folk music!
You’ve also just written your first book, which you’re working on getting published at the moment. What’s the book about?
I have just written a book called THE MUSIC SHOP. I have done my own illustrations, and I’m recording a CD of the pieces that are in the story. It’s an inspiring tale of young country girl who has an insatiable desire to play the harp! Which, in time, she does … very successfully.
It is a realist comedy, and I hope it will be inspirational for anyone who has a love for music – or any dream, for that matter! The book is set in Glenreagh and references many local characters and hopefully will help promote some of the beautiful attractions of our local area. The book is currently with the chairman of Scholastic books, who is reading it as we speak!
Future plans? You already have a lot of strings to your bow (pardon the pun!), but what’s on your agenda for the next 12 months or so?
Many plans … recording a few CDs is on the agenda. I do have intentions of auditioning to guest conduct FINLANDIA by Sibelius with the Sydney Symphony in the not too distant future. There are a couple of books also in the works.
I’ve also just opened a hobby antique shop at home in Glenreagh with my life partner, called Seek Love Keep, which will keep us busy on Saturday mornings!
But the intention is to keep creating every day and continue to spread the message of love, through both music and the written word. I am also working on a project that will bring 1000 + singers and musicians together from all over the Mid North Coast.
Interview by Jo Atkins.
This story was published in issue 24 of the Coffs Coast Focus