Avondale offering to restore music buildings


Music has been an intrinsic part of the heritage of Avondale College of Higher Education since its founding in 1897. From the orchestral groups of the 1910s to the major choral works such as Elijah and the Messiah to the interstate and overseas tours, music is ingrained in Avondale’s culture.

It formed part of the curriculum from the beginning. Herbert Lacey served as the inaugural music teacher, offering private tuition in piano, organ and voice for £1.1s per quarter. The cost, around an eighth of the total boarding cost, is comparable to today’s rates.

Music has been central to our ethos.

As the popularity of music increased, so did the need for a designated building. That building, Music Hall, opened in 1925, the first on what is now the Lake Macquarie campus to be constructed of brick—the materials helped deaden the sound of the instruments and voices.

The new building helped the music program continue to grow. George Greer, head of music from 1947 to 1952, transformed the image of music at Avondale. He quickly organised a 70-member a cappella choir, which toured extensively throughout the country. Greer also rapidly expanded the music program, lobbying for students to use music electives to satisfy degree requirements in other programs. By 1949, the music program enrolled 200 students. By the time Greer left in 1952, the choir had gained national recognition for excellence.

Alan Thrift, head of the Music Department for 41 years—from 1957—said this recognition had been a major form of public relations. “From the 1970s, the concert tours, radio broadcasts and TV appearances of the Avondale Symphonic Choir and later the Avondale Singers were what the college was best known for,” he said. These performances not only formed an image of Avondale, but they also solidified the role of music as part of the Avondale experience.

“Music has been central to our ethos,” said Aleta King, the new lecturer in music at Avondale. “So many people—Greer, Clapham, Thrift, Clark—have been through those Music Hall doors.”

Today’s Avondale College of Higher Education offering acknowledges this heritage. The money you give will help restore Music Hall and Greer Hall, the old science building now also used for the music program. The historic buildings need a facelift.

Mr Thrift urged those with a heart for music to donate. “The academic opportunities are of a high standard but the facilities are located in old and inadequate buildings in urgent need of upgrading,” he said. Ms King is looking forward to seeing the “dilapidated” halls being “restored to their former glory”.

Some of the restoration work planned for later this year includes: re-coating roofs; repainting exteriors and interiors; replacing broken windows, guttering and rotten timber beams; repointing mortar between bricks; and re-plastering ceilings. “It will enhance the learning and teaching spaces for students and staff members,” said director of advancement Colin Crabtree.

“Music is able to transcend the normality of life—to take us to a place closer to God,” Ms King concluded. “You may not remember the classes you sat in, but you remember the amazing concerts you were a part of. They’re the experiences that captivated you.”

Thank you for helping improve the Avondale experience for today’s music students.

Josh Dye is a public relations intern at Avondale College of Higher Education, Cooranbong, NSW.