Cue Applause: Richard Gill, recipient of the 2014 Distinguished Services to Australian Music Award

Wednesday, 03 Sep 2014

Richard Gill is well known in the music and wider community for many reasons. He is a conductor, composer and, most importantly in his opinion, a music educator. 

Richard is also the 2014 recipient of the Distinguished Services to Australian Music Award. Presented by APRA AMCOS and the Australian Music Centre (AMC) on August 26 as part of this year’s Art Music Awards, this accolade honours an individual who has enhanced the musical landscape of Australia. 

With a career spanning more than 50 years (and 55 years as an APRA AMCOS member!), Richard Gill was a popular choice thanks to his tireless work, especially in music education. 

We spoke to Richard just before he received his award. “It was a surprise,” he said. “It feels great. It’s great to be acknowledged by peers. It’s as much an award for music education…recognition of music education is essential. I think my strongest contribution is music education.”


And that’s not just music in classrooms. Richard has taught at an orchestral level with composers, and facilitated collaboration in symphonic and choral environments. It’s easy to tell this is his favourite subject as he explained why he believes music is so important in children’s education.

"Music should be an essential daily part of education."

“Music is fundamental in the curriculum. It should be in all curriculums from the start - not just in high school. It should be an essential daily part of education. It’s the only art form dealing purely in the abstract.”

Over the years Richard has worked with an enormous amount of people on countless musical projects. He explained what he sees as some of the essential parts underpinning successful collaboration. “You have to have an idea of how it’s going to work. Then communicate with the people you’re working with about how it could work. You need to amalgamate strengths to a single outcome.” 

Richard was Artistic Director of the Victorian Opera, a company he co-founded in 2006 and stepped down from six years later. “Opera is all about collaboration. We’re talking about set designers, costume designers …everything here needs to work.” 

Although he conducted many fine productions during his time at the Victorian Opera, the 2009 performance of ‘The Coronation of Poppea’ by Claudio Monteverdi stands out in his memory as a highlight. “The people involved with it, Kate Cherry (director), Jon Buswell (lighting) and Richard Roberts (set design), plus many more made it a great success… and everything came together because of these people.”  

“The most exciting things for me are when students I’ve taught do really well."

Not surprisingly, the most rewarding part of Richard’s career has been witnessing the success of his students, rather than himself. “The most exciting things for me are when students I’ve taught do really well. It’s a great achievement to see young people you’ve taught make their careers from music.”  

For Richard, the desire to slow down is non-existent. After leaving the Victorian Opera he has now taken on a new role as Artistic Director of the Sydney Chamber Choir. It’s very easy to see why someone like Richard Gill was chosen for the 2014 Distinguished Services Award to Music. And, while flattered, it’s clear he’s not planning on slowing down anytime soon. “Please don’t give me this award because you think I’m going to stop. Because I’m not!” It’s very doubtful anyone will mind if Richard Gill continues his incredible work in music and education. 

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