Prince and Princess of Breifne at the Music Teachers Association of NSW Centenary 1912 – 2012 – Parliament House, Sydney

Article: The Music Teachers Association of NSW Centenary 1912 – 2012

Lord Martin and Lady Ingrid in The Parliament House, Sydney
Lord Martin and Lady Ingrid of Breifne in The Parliament House, Sydney

For publication by Lord Martin of Breifne in

              The Inaugural President                                               The Current President

Friday, 13th July, 2012 was a day of celebration. Together with Lady Ingrid I was fortunate to attend the Centenary Luncheon of the Music Teachers Association of NSW (Australia) in the magnificent setting of the dining room of Parliament House, Sydney. The Association, until 1979 The Musical Association of NSW, celebrated 100 years of achievement. Apart from the change of name, there have been many changes in that time, including allowing ladies to hold office, formerly an absolute ‘NO’. Apart from keeping up with the times and acknowledging the principles of equity, this particular advancement has given the association the benefit of several very competent ladies, including the current president Dr Rita Crews.

At the time of it’s inception there was, in Australia, very little regulation of music, either in terms of education, qualification or support networks in this fledgling country that had become federated as a nation a mere eleven years previously. The Sydney Conservatorium of Music, now part of the University of Sydney, came into being a little later due, in no small part, to the efforts of the then Musical Association of NSW. It was only later that a formalised system of examinations and qualifications was established.

Lady Ingrid is a music teacher, operating from a private studio in a country town in regional NSW. Much of her support network comes from her membership in the Music Teachers Association and her attendance at workshops designed to support such teachers. She goes away, often for a few days at a time, and comes home enthused by what she has experienced and eager to take this to her students who range in ages from pre-school to 80 plus! Without such support our teachers of music would be hard pressed to maintain professional standards, let alone to advance their knowledge and abilities.

In her Presidential Address at the Centenary Lunch, Dr Crews dropped many pearls of wisdom for the edification of the audience. There were, of course, many people to thank and to acknowledge. However, one simple statement hit me at the time and has stayed with me ever since, a statement that reminds me of the real meaning of the word ‘education’ in its truly etiological context. The image that springs to mind is of a tiny rose bud. This bud is nurtured with nutrients, water, sunlight and massive doses of tender loving care. Every effort is made to provide the best possible environment for this little bud to reach its full potential. Eventually, all else being equal, this bud will bloom into a mass of beautiful petals offering the observer a bust of the most amazing fragrance – the true potential of that rose.

Much emphasis is placed on performance, of rank order and who can boast the best, the most and the highest! This applies to every walk of life from the high levels of academia to workers in every industry to children at school. Let me quote Dr Crews from her address. “ . . . So what can you do for this association – and conversely, what can this association do for you, its members? For all studio teachers? It’s not about how many student referrals you get; it’s not about how many trophies your students win at Junior Music Festivals or how well they do in exams, it’s not about whether you have more students than the next teacher… it’s about your own self esteem, your professionalism, your own confidence . . . your training …” In other words it is about how the teacher can educate the students to facilitate the growth of that student from bud to full bloom, to reach his or her potential!

This demonstrates a clear shift from the dominant focus of achievement – over and above that of others, and into a focus of caring for the individual for the benefit of that individual. We sometimes need a reminder that the students of today are the teachers and performers, and dare I say the Beethovens, Mozarts and Bachs, of tomorrow! This day of celebration has been such a reminder for me.

As part of the celebrations Dr Rita Crews, together with one of the previous presidents, Julie Spithill, produced a book which can be described as nothing short of a gem! This book, “100 Years – Music teachers’ Association of NSW – 1912 – 2012, published by Wirripang (another success story about music publishing for musicians) is an illustrated record of those 100 years. Many examples are given of achievements throughout the century. There are examples of many documents and lots of photographs. Comparisons and contrasts are drawn between 1912 and 2012. This is a book that will long be used as a reference for what has been and, therefore, why we are and where we are today! It is also a great souvenir of a most enjoyable day!

As a lover of music and one whose life is always coloured by music I offer my sincere thanks to everyone involved in the celebrations the production of the Book by Rita and Julie, by Brennan and Anne Keats of Wirripang and to Mr Mark Coure Member of the Parliament of NSW who hosted the event.

To all members of the Royal Court of Breifne, both Lady Ingrid and I wish to bring to your attention the value of organisations such as the Music Teachers’ Association and remember our duty as royal and nobles to show our support in any way we can. The work they do parallels the aims of the Court and the values we hold dear.

Information about the Music Teachers’ Association of NSW can be obtained from and

The book “100 Years – Music Teachers’ Association of NSW – 1912 – 2012 can be obtained from

Lord Martin O’Reilly

Prince of the House of Breifne

NEXT PAGE: Profiles of the authors (Rita Crews and Julie Spithill) of “100 Years – Music Teachers’ Association of NSW –

1912 – 2012”

Reproductions from this book and citations from Dr Crews’ speech at the centenary lunch are included cum permissu.