My Melbourne with Curt Thompson

September 14 / 143

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Welcome to My Melbourne. I’m Daryl Holland and joining me today is Curt Thompson. Hi Curt.

What is your role at the University?

I’m Associate Professor and Head of Strings at the Melbourne Conservatorium of Music.

How long have you been at the University?

I’ve just started my third year here so it still feels like I’m relatively new to the University.

What does your role involve?

I’m a professionally trained violinist and I teach private violin to the Music majors. I direct the strings ensemble, so I oversee whatever involves the violin, viola, cello or bass. I have 100 Music majors to deal with in strings.

Can you describe a typical day for you?

Yes, “controlled chaos”. There is never enough time, as everything I do is either teaching one on one individual classes or one on four string quartet classes. I spend an hour per week in an individual setting with my students, in addition to the string quartet classes. I teach about four or five individual classes per day which can be quite exhausting. If I have time, I try and practice violin myself, so it ends up being a long day by the time I close down shop.

Tell us about the event you have coming up at the Melbourne Conservatorium of Music?

Yes, this week, the first week of September, is a very exciting week as it marks the second visit to the Melbourne Conservatorium of Music of the Mimir chamber music artists. This festival is a chamber music festival I started in the US in 1998. Some of the leading North American musicians will be giving master classes to our students and giving three performances on campus this week.

What is your favourite thing about working at the University?

I love Australia generally and Melbourne in particular. The students are fantastic and wonderful young people. It’s a privilege to be a part of teaching them and shaping their aspirations. They are a great group of people to teach and work with.

Where is your favourite place for food or drink on campus?

Percy’s at the Grainger Museum is a favourite quick hang out for a coffee as it is close and I don’t have much time.

Have you received any helpful advice you would like to share with us?

I received a piece of advice a long time ago that I should have listened to more carefully, which is that the status quo is the way it is, so don’t try and change things too quickly. I’m impatient by nature and want things to move quickly, so I try to remind myself to follow this advice, although I don’t do so successfully. The reason I ended up in Melbourne is a fairly interesting story, and a series of coincidences. My teacher was a famous Russian violinist, Nelli Shkolnikova, who came to Melbourne after defecting from the Soviet Union, thanks to the late John Hopkins. I met her when she came to Indiana University and after she returned to Melbourne for her retirement she unfortunately became ill. Because of my connection to Nelli, she suggested to John Hopkins that I apply for the role at the University, which is how I ended up in this current role. So I felt connected to Melbourne through my teacher, even before coming here.

Is there something your colleagues might not know about you?

It’s not really a secret, but I am a huge Elvis Presley fan. It’s not much of a connection but I used to travel six hours in the car every weekend for my violin lessons with a student of two famous violin teachers, Ivan Galamian and Nathan Millstein. One day I informed my teacher Joy Weiner that I was going to visit Graceland. She shuddered because she said she had not stepped foot in the house since that man (Elvis Presley), bought it. Her great aunt was Grace, and she sold it to Elvis Presley, which is something I did not know. I’m a big Elvis Presley fan as he comes from my part of the country in the US - Arkansas and Tennessee, and I am not embarrassed to admit to that.

That’s My Melbourne. Thank you for watching.

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