Thursday 19 April 2012

Hansard of the Legislative Council



Mr FINCH (Rosevears) - Madam President, Tasmania has not produced very many great musicians. Peter Sculthorpe would come to mind immediately; a great Australian composer and, of course, still going strong. He grew up in the member for Windermere's electorate, at St Leonards. Perhaps in the future we will think of Ben Austin from my constituency in that context. At this stage he is only 21 years of age. He is studying a Bachelor of Music in Advanced Performance at the Conservatorium of Music at Queensland's Griffith University and he is an outstanding young pianist as you may well remember, Madam President. During my electorate tour in 2006, he came to my home to perform for the members of the Legislative Council. You could not help but be amazed at the maturity that he showed at that age of just 15. I remember when he was 14, the former member for Launceston, Don Wing, Suzie Clark and myself managed to get him and others to Japan for the World Expo in 2005 and the organisers of the expo were so impressed with Ben Austin that they invited him back, all expenses paid, and they gave him a stipend to purchase a new piano, so impressive was he at just 14.

Ben, during that time, also won the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra composition competition. Last year, he was runner-up and I have spoken to him about that. He was runner-up but awarded the people's choice award in what is known as the Lev Vlassenko Piano Competition. That competition featured 62 of the best young pianists in Australasia. He was selected nationally to play at the Australian National Academy of Music Piano Festival in 2010, he has been a soloist with both the Queensland Conservatorium Symphony Orchestra and with the Queensland Symphony Orchestra. He has received masterclasses from the Head of Keyboard at Yale University, Boris Berman, and also from Piers Lane and Oleg Stepanov. People who are interested in piano will understand those names; it is a high accolade to be involved in those masterclasses.

Ben, I might point out, has been playing piano since he was seven years old and it might impress the young people, if they were still here that Ben, from that time, has practised for four hours a day and sometimes he will practise for as many as seven hours a day. Tomorrow night, Ben is going to give a recital in Launceston. He has come home to perform at this concert and he is going to be playing an historic piano, a Collard & Collard boudoir grand piano, manufactured in England in 1897. This piano has a very colourful history. It was brought to Tasmanian on the Eden Holme wool clipper that was wrecked on Hebe Reef at the mouth of the Tamar in 1907. The piano was used in the Launceston music studio of Mary Bowden who, with her husband Alfred Bowden, was a music teacher and a professionally recognised composer.

The piano was donated to Launceston's Queen Victoria Museum and Art Gallery a few years ago by Mrs Bowden's granddaughter, Mrs Shirley Carter. It has been fully restored and will be played tomorrow night for the first time in public since that restoration. Shirley Carter, who is aged in her 90s is going to be at the recital. She is joining us to hear Ben Austin play, among other pieces, a work composed by her grandmother.

The Queen Victoria Museum and Art Gallery at Royal Park has been refurbished and this is the first time that a public performance will take place in the refurbished gallery.

The funds from that will go to help Ben complete his final year at the Queensland Conservatorium of Music. He then hopes to get into professional musical theatre. He is going to move to Melbourne next year when he finishes his degree but he also has dreams of a concert career and he is being encouraged along those lines because of the application and the talent that he has shown whilst in Queensland.

Ben, I might say, Madam President, is an outstanding ambassador for Launceston and Tasmania and, I believe, Australia when he develops this great career that is ahead of him.