Thoughts on the 11th APPC – Toowoomba

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…


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.


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.

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.


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!

Tim Topham

Tim Topham is the founder and director of TopMusic. Tim hosts the popular Integrated Music Teaching Podcast, blogs regularly at and speaks at local and international conferences on topics such as integrated teaching, creativity, business, marketing and entrepreneurship. Tim has been featured in American Music Teacher, The Piano Teacher Magazine, California Music Teacher and EPTA Piano Professional. Tim holds an MBA in Educational Leadership, BMus, DipEd and AMusA.

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11th appc toowoomba
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  1. Hi Tim, I did really enjoy the conference. It was long, four days might have been better but even though I was tired at the end it was such a buzz to actually have live presentations from so many great educators. It was such a great opportunity for teachers in remote areas to have access to the presenters and also really great live piano music that I didn’t want it to end.
    Lynda Irvine (Mossman)

  2. Hi Tim, thanks for your reflection on the conference. I very much enjoyed it and had many engaging conversations both about the content of the presentations as well as sharing experiences of running a busy teaching practice and all the challenges involved.

    Like you I thought it was great to see so many younger teachers.

    Yes the conference was long—I anticipated that I wouldnt last the full time so booked accordingly for three days rather than the full time. That worked well for me and I had more than enough information to keep me occupied. I think a slightly shorter conference would be very good. Maybe 3 days.
    Perhaps there could be a place for the”mere reading” of papers/lectures in a different part of the conference somewhere. Not everyone is a born presenter and the contents of these presentations I found very worthwhile, just hard work to get hold of and absorb.

    The concert performances were a highlight for me.

    I agree—there must be thousands of teachers in Australia. If I have any inspiration about how to engage them in a capital city conference I will get back to you.

    All the best

    Fiona (Melbourne)

  3. Hi Tim, have just subscribed to your site after seeing you at the Toowoomba conference. Thanks for providing all you do.
    I also felt that 4.5 full days is rather a lot to take in. I was only able to attend 2.5 days, and although I was disappointed to be missing some other wonderful sessions, I knew that I had more than enough information to go and think about and put into practice.

  4. Thoroughly agree with the mere ‘reading’ of papers/lectures. I found this very disappointing with one presentation in particular and as such, did not feel engaged right from the outset. A big shame because I know that the detail would have been wonderful to get my head around.

  5. Hi Tim
    Thanks for sharing your thoughts re the conference, I do enjoy your blogs and informative notes.
    Maureen Milton

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