Garry Clark

Notes on a musical career

2019 UNE Alumni Achievement Award Winner

Teaching, performing and conducting music is the lively score of Garry Clark's life. It reaches rousing crescendos during performances at glamorous venues like the Sydney Opera House, but is just as captivating when the tempo changes and he's guiding novices through their first ensemble rehearsals.

"I get a lot from starting beginners off on their musical journey; seeing them learn properly and enjoy playing," says the talented band director. "Some have been performing with me in school and community bands for years and many former students have gone on to complete musical degrees, become high school music teachers or participate in accomplished orchestras."

Garry orchestrated a similar route himself. He joined the Royal Australian Air Force Air Command Band straight from high school and spent five years performing and touring, before enrolling in a Bachelor of Music and then Bachelor of Teaching at UNE to expand his repertoire.

"I was a professional musician by experience, but as a qualified music teacher I thought I could share that knowledge with others," Garry says. And indeed he has, primarily as the musical director of three primary school band programs in western Sydney, two community bands and the community-based, not-for-profit Hills Music Academy.

"Garry has played a central role in the development of musical talent in Western Sydney for over 30 years," says fellow music teacher Danielle Burns. "His primary school band programs provide students with outstanding tuition and unmatched performance opportunities so that they emerge as skilled, confident musicians who contribute significantly to the cultural life of their communities."

Collaboration and community engagement are two of Garry's guiding principles.  By engaging young people and audiences, he endeavours to provide pathways for aspiring musicians and create cultural cohesion in concert with community pride.

"Our community bands are all-inclusive and draw people of all ages from all backgrounds; we have doctors playing beside retirees and students," Garry says. "In a band, you are part of something that is bigger than you; the emphasis is on teamwork, and every player is just as important as every other. There is a lot of camaraderie and opportunities to make new friends.

"The community bands have a strong social agenda - we play for citizenship, Australia Day, Anzac Day, Remembrance Day ceremonies, and support fundraising for local charities. Performing gives members a sense of worth; a feeling that they have something to contribute to their community. The musical education also extends to developing important life skills like teamwork, professionalism, reliability and communication. Band rehearsals are always on - I never cancel!"

However, Garry's contributions to the music industry reverberate well beyond the Hills district. He serves on many advisory boards and selection panels for musical festivals and eisteddfods (including the Australian School Band and Orchestra Festival and Sydney Eisteddfod), and is regularly engaged as an adjudicator and guest tutor. He has been both the National and NSW President of the Australian Band and Orchestra Directors’ Association (ABODA) and, in 2004, was awarded ABODA’s highest award, the Citation of Excellence. He is also a past member of the World Association of Symphonic Bands and Ensembles, and a board member of the Asia and Pacific Band Director's Association.

When he's not discussing or leading bands, Garry also likes to perform in them, and has played with the Australian Wind Orchestra and Sydney Wind Orchestra, touring Australia and the USA, where he performed in New York's Carnegie Hall. Until recently, Garry led the saxophone section of the Sydney Wind Symphony.

Although the bands he conducts regularly compete successfully in notable competitions and festivals, Garry is not motivated by winning awards.

"A lot of my primary school players, who have grown up through the programs from the age of 8, come back to teach or tutor, which is very pleasing," he says. "It's great to see them become teachers or musicians and then to share their love of music with the next generation. Music is an art form, a language you can speak your whole life."

Congratulations Garry Clark, a 2019 winner of the UNE Alumnus Achievement Award.

For more information about the 2019 Alumni Awards