Thoughts on the 11th APPC – Toowoomba

11th appc toowoomba

As I return from a much-needed week of holiday sun in Asia, I thought I’d put together my thoughts on the recent Australia Piano Pedagogy conference.

Firstly, huge congratulations to Katy Pingell and the organising committee for what must have been months and months of hard slog to get everything so well organised. The conference ran very smoothly and was organised with military precision. I thoroughly enjoyed meeting so many dedicated piano teachers (and readers of this blog), and as a presenter, I loved the warning signs given to us when we we running out of time including the bright orange “FINISH NOW PLEASE!”, which was very effective at keeping things on schedule!

The accommodation and live-in food was perfectly satisfactory and, I think, slightly better than two years ago in Wagga and the morning, afternoon teas and lunches were tasty and healthy with lots of fresh fruit readily available. I also noticed considerable catering options for those suffering allergies and/or requiring special diets.

The main lecture theatre and performance spaces were fantastic and the available technology very useful for presenters. There were some audio issues leading to some presenters being hard to hear, but overwhelmingly, the technology was up to the task.

Here are some of my further thoughts on…

THE DELEGATES

Wow! What a huge variety of people from all around the world! I met lots of fabulous people, all dedicated to their work and looking to improve their practice. It was wonderful how many younger teachers were present as well. Even in the course of 2 years, I believe the number of younger teachers has significantly increased which is great for our profession, ensuring we continue to infuse new blood and ideas whilst also maintaining the experience of the older generations.

The youngest person I met was 19 and the oldest was, I believe, into her 80s and had travelled a significant distance to get there. There were lots of people from Queensland (and, of course, many Toowoombarians) and people from Hobart, Sydney, Canberra, Perth, Adelaide and then as far as USA, Canada, London and Singapore. It made me realise that this conference is really gaining an international reputation now, as it should.

It was lovely chatting to other delegates over dinner in the evening, sharing stories and finding out about each other’s studios and teaching ideas. It was also great to talk over the ideas presented during the day’s talks.

THE PRESENTERS

We had the pleasure of a huge variety of presenters and topics and I’d like to thank the organising committee for managing to fit in such a mix of personalities and topics.

Highlights for me were presentations by Mario (and Nio!) Ajero on music technology, Randall Faber on creativity and stages of student development, Greg Holdaway on the Alexander Technique and man more. We learnt about all sorts of new applications of technology and took away lots of valuable tips for our studios.

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In the same way that I found the above presentations engaging, I was disappointed that so many presenters fell into the trap of simply reading from their notes and thereby creating a fairly uninspiring outcome. This doesn’t for a minute diminish their research or the work that went into presenting, but when there are so many sessions and such a long conference, these dry presentations were really hard to find motivating during the long days.

I wonder whether the requirement for presenters to submit their papers IN FULL prior to the conference is actually encouraging this style of presentation and whether this could be something that’s reconsidered for the future. Perhaps making the standard presentation a discussion or open forum rather than a dissertation of a thesis might be a better approach? Or recommending that those presenting formal research papers adopt a different approach for presenting?

In addition, and particularly as a presenter, I feel a 5-10 minute changeover period between sessions would have been really handy, giving time for delegates to move between rooms and for presenters to get the technology set up prior to people arriving.

I’m also not sure that having 90 minute keynotes at the end of the day is particularly effective for delegates who have already been sitting listening and concentrating for 8 hours.

OVERALL

Before I give a few last suggestions of how I feel the conference could be improved, I want to stress that there is so much that’s great about the APPC and I encourage as many people as possible to get along to the next one as it is, without a doubt, the preeminent learning, networking and professional development experience for piano teachers in Australia.

That said, I wonder whether the conference, in its current format, is too long. I’d be interested to hear whether other delegates found it almost overwhelming in content and length. Perhaps removing the empty half-day at the start and just having four full days might actually be more manageable, preferably with a good afternoon off in the middle to avoid having to take sessions off just to clear your head.

I also think that the trade display rooms have to be reconfigured. I felt quite sorry for the crew stuck in the blacked cell with no windows and doubt how encouraging the environment was for sales. At future venues, I think this really needs to be in a generally accessible area as we all know how important the retailers and publishers are for the success of the conference.

I’m so looking forward to having the conference in my home town of Melbourne in two years; I hope that the capital city base will mean that we get at least double the numbers that we had in Toowoomba and hopefully alleviate some of the isolation that delegates without cars felt in Toowoomba.

I wondered the other day how many piano teachers there must be in Australia. 5000? 8000? 10000+? Given its an unregulated industry, it’s actually really hard to put a figure on it as not everyone is a member of their state association and not everyone probably advertises. I’d guess that 10,000 probably isn’t over the top. Regardless, where are all those teachers when the conference comes around? Is there a way to make it more attractive to the non-attending teachers other than just a capital-city location?

I look forward to hearing your own thoughts and feedback about the conference as you get time to digest it over the coming months.

For those of you still struggling to come to grips with all the technology discussed, just remember to start small. Try out just one new device or app and see how it goes over the course of a few weeks. Check out other blogs, forums and Facebook pages and please feel free to contact me if you have any questions – I’d be only too pleased to help.

See you in Melbourne 2015 if not before!