CLASSICALLY TRAINED: Local student Bernadette Fitzpatrick was presented with her second Diploma in Classical Pianoforte in March this year, adding to a list of achievements with her study of the piano at the highest level, something that runs in her family.
By JOHN DOOLEY
THERE is nothing quite like listening to a beautiful piano recital being performed by a highly talented virtuoso – one whose dedication and years of hard work have earned them recognition at the highest level.
This is a perfect description of 19-year-old Mildura SuniTAFE accountancy student, Bernadette Fitzpatrick, who I was privileged to meet (and listen to playing a grand piano) at her music teacher’s home recently.
Bernadette, who in March this year was presented with her Licentiate Performer Diploma L.Dip.A. in Classical Pianoforte – her second Diploma having been awarded an Associate Diploma A.Dip.A. in Classical Pianoforte in March 2016 – comes from a family of talented musicians, all of whom have achieved remarkable levels of accomplishment on the piano.
“Piano has been at the heart of my family, I have four sisters and two brothers and we all learned to play piano from an early age and were all tutored by Mrs (Dorothy) Rogers,” Bernadette said.
“I have two diplomas, which required me to undertake a two-year course of study for each, which I completed through ANZCA music examinations.”
Bernadette said the courses mainly focused on performance, saying she had four different pieces from various eras to study.
“I had to do research into each of the contrasting eras – studying each piece in detail, which involved theoretical work in the form of an essay,” she said. “It’s akin to producing the sort of booklet you’d find at a concert hall performance – a synopsis of each piece, which includes detailed background of the composer’s style.
“In addition to that, I was required to undertake a separate, three-hour theory exam, and then on the day of the practical exam I was required to play the four pieces and answer questions the examiners asked.”
Bernadette was born and bred in Mildura, and loves the district she has called home for the past 19 years.
She hopes to stay in the region, ideally becoming a music teacher one day.
“I may choose to follow a career path into accountancy, however I would like to become a music teacher, and I’m currently teaching piano at the Mildura Academy of Music and Performance (MAMP) which I really enjoy,” she said. “I’m mainly teaching preliminary students, and being a new academy there aren’t many advanced students, but I’m able to teach those students as well.
“I teach students from as young as five, and I have one student who is 21.”
BERNADETTE’S father, Peter, was instrumental in having his children taught the piano, having met teacher, Dorothy Rogers, many years ago.
“Dad got us involved because he knew Mrs Rogers and she’s been a wonderful teacher and mentor, who’s provided me and my siblings with the inspiration to achieve what we have,” Bernadette said.
Being one of the younger members of her family, Bernadette would have heard the ‘tinkling of the ivories’ almost from the day she arrived in this world, and I asked her what she most enjoyed about the piano.
“I think once you learn it it’s something that stays with you for life,” Bernadette said. “I’ll have a hard day at TAFE and come home and just play the piano – do something I’m good at and I find it’s a lovely way to relax.
“Just to know that I can pick up a piece of music – any music and play it – or you hear something beautiful and you can sit down and reproduce that.
“It’s something you can do by yourself, but I always like playing for others, that’s really enjoyable.”
Bernadette and her siblings were all home-schooled by their mother Sabrina, something their piano teacher credits with helping them achieve so highly in the field of piano.
“I started teaching Mary, the Fitzpatrick’s eldest child, who is now a Dominican Nun working in New Zealand,” Dorothy said. “Then came Christina and Rachel, who are living and working in Mildura, and both of them became outstanding pianists who have achieved highly, as has their brother Paul.
“Mary, Christina and Paul, like Bernadette, all gained the Associate Diploma in Classical Pianoforte. Bernadette’s achievements are enormous, but it’s hard work and she’s been a dedicated student.
“Because they were home schooled, they knew how to apply themselves – it’s not only being able to play, it’s the knowledge, understanding the theory and the composers.”
Bernadette’s father said that while he enjoyed music, he hadn’t been gifted with the skill that his children have.
“My role has been to support them in their education and music tuition over the years,” Peter said. “I was fortunate to know Dorothy, and she’s been a marvellous piano teacher to all my children and to many others in the district too.
“Sabrina and I made the decision that we were going to home-school our children and we thought it was a good idea that, as a discipline, the children should learn piano.”
Sabrina agreed with Peter, saying that’s what she wanted the children to do as well, providing they could afford it.
“Pianos are very expensive musical instruments, and not all families can afford to purchase one for their own home,” she said. “Thanks be to God that we were able to afford one, not knowing at the time that the children would advance to the extent that they have, and Dorothy Rogers is the reason for that.
“She said to me when the children first came to her that ‘if they haven’t got the aptitude, I’m not going to waste your money’, fortunately they had the ability, and under her tuition they have done extremely well.”