This tribute article was written for the final ever The Piano Teacher magazine issue to be edited by Gina Wake, but had to make way for advertising (and probably for a bit of self-consciousness on Gina’s part, too!), so it’s not there for Australian teachers to read. But I’m not one to give up that easily! What’s a blog with a large circulation for, if not for paying tribute to those who truly do deserve it?
Whether you know it or not the Australian piano teaching landscape is about to experience big change. It’s the kind of change that happens not when something is added to the mix, but rather when something is taken away.
Gina Wake has been working at Hal Leonard Australia pretty much since the start of the 21st century, and her role at Hal (as the company is affectionately referred to by those who work there) has developed during those nearly 15 years to the point where it’s hard to know quite where to start in listing Gina’s contributions.
But I’d like to pick out some – just a few, out of many – highlights.
The first is the Champagne Launch concept for the “Getting to…” series. In 2003, the idea of a graded repertoire series published by an Australian publisher (other than the AMEB) was almost unthinkable. I’d pitched the idea in 2002, and in May 2003 the green light was given to the project. By October the books had come back from the printers and I was touring the country introducing teachers to three fresh publications – Gina’s first piano product launch that wasn’t connected to books created in the US.
“Let’s serve champagne!” Gina had enthused down the phone line at me, telling me all about the launch plans. “I want teachers to be as excited as I am! This is going to be GREAT!”
And it was! It was great, and then some!
Around the country the “Getting to…” series launch events saw teachers congregating in spaces organised by the local print music retailer, listening to me talk about Getting to Preliminary from 9.30 til 10.30 and then being served a glass of champagne. I’d never seen such happy piano teachers! Even the teachers who chose orange juice or sparkling mineral water (like me!) loved the vibe of the thing! And we (kind of) managed to maintain some focus for the Grade One and Two books in the hour and half after champagne had been served!
A second highlight is the invention of the Australian Piano Teachers’ Music Hub on Facebook. Long before piano teacher groups were a ‘thing’ Gina had the idea to create a page for local piano teachers – even though Gina wasn’t all that keen on being on Facebook herself for the first few years! That page still sets the bar for music publishers everywhere in terms of engagement and connection with piano teachers in the community. Fantastic forward thinking on Gina’s part.
But probably the biggest, brightest highlight of all is the creation of this magazine this tribute was written to be a part of, The Piano Teacher.
Way back in 2002 Gina would produce newsletter-type booklets that went out with articles on various specific teaching points coming out of the HLSPL piano method, and updates about things of interest to piano teachers generally, including other new publications. The newsletter would include details of workshops that might be coming up, and while it was full of AMAZING content, it really was a ‘newsletter’ more than anything else.
But Gina had a far grander vision! The Piano Teacher magazine has been both Gina’s day-job and a labour of love. Early meetings about what this new magazine was going to be like involved Gina sourcing all kinds of publications to draw on for inspiration, and the foundational concept was that this magazine would have really useful teaching content the whole way through the publication and be a resource teachers wouldn’t want to throw in the bin!! Sure, new publications would be highlighted in each issue, but this was not going to be a catalogue – it was to be a genuine teaching resource that could be referred to for years to come.
And that is exactly what it has been for teachers all over Australia.
Gina has consistently pulled together a range of voices and a spectrum of resources to help support Australian piano teachers in their delivery of excellence to the piano students of the nation.
Now, I’ve known Gina for the whole of this century, near enough. And the whole time I’ve known Gina I’ve known that her real passion in life is great food – making it, understanding it, learning about it, experimenting with it, sharing it, and bringing health and happiness to people through her gifts in this department.
I’ve been the beneficiary of her nutritional insight for a decade now – in early 2005 I discovered that a wheat intolerance was the cause of my then debilitating migraines (I was getting a migraine every 11-12 days by that stage). Gina made sure that from that moment on, when I was on tour I had the perfect nutrition to support my rather specific needs. I can’t begin to say how grateful I will always be for her nurture and support at this time – making sure I didn’t accidentally eat the wrong stuff, and planning for me to have the right kind of nutrition to be at my best when on the road.
That detailed care and consideration is now going to find its true expression as Gina moves on to a life as a food professional. I don’t know whether, in the years to come, she’s going to open an amazing restaurant, write cookbooks that all of us will be using in our family cooking, start a catering business that finds time to supply amazing food to piano teacher conferences on the side, or become a consultant to the stars. All I know is that whatever is coming next in the story of Gina, it’s going to be amazing.
Thank you, Gina, for the incredible impact you’ve made on piano teaching in Australia – and beyond. Just make sure you let us all know where we can come and taste all the amazing new things you dream up.
Melbourne readers can access Gina’s amazing culinary delights in 2016: head to http://www.ginaskitchen.com.au for all you need to know!