Geoffrey Cumming

Viola

National Music Camp: 1962-65

AYO: 1965-66


I consider that I was never really good at the viola, but playing in orchestras and chamber music groups was nevertheless a wonderful experience. Some special memories include:

Playing in the back desk of the violas in the vast Centennial Hall in Adelaide at the 1966 Festival, repeating an AYO program for enormous numbers of school children, with the hope that some would become inspired.

Practising those devilish fast runs in the viola part of the Mozart Oboe Quartet for months, before eventually performing it at one of the famous Cocktail Concerts at National Music Camp.

Attending a performance of a Mozart symphony at Geelong College by the best players at Camp. To me it was an overwhelmingly beautiful sound. And how brilliant and inspiring those players were, even if I felt I could never personally achieve such heights.

Conductor Tommy Matthews enthusing about Brahms as AYO played the Symphony No. 2 in Sydney in 1965. Matthews’ obvious devotion to Brahms and his great efforts to encourage us to share the feeling were inspiring.

I have said ‘inspiring’ a lot, but that’s probably a good summary of what Music Camp and AYO meant for me, even as I chose to pursue a career as an academic psychologist and statistician.

I attended four camps and two AYO seasons. In a very different role, I was ‘baggage manager’ for the 1975 AYO tour to Asia, and remember wonderful concerts in South Korea, Japan, and Hong Kong. (I also recall many late night dramas, with piles of instruments in strange places in the depths of winter).

In yet another role, my wife Lindsay and I were dormitory hosts for girls at Music Camp at Geelong Grammar in 1976 and 1977. We used to sit in orchestra rehearsals and work at memorizing the names of students—while of course greatly enjoying the wonderful music.

My musical experiences as a student at Camps and AYO no doubt contributed to my election to a Rhodes Scholarship. In Oxford for doctoral work in experimental psychology I played for a time in the student orchestra, before academic and other priorities took over. However, my love of music, especially chamber music and opera, has persisted since Music Camp days.

After returning to Melbourne I joined the excellent Psychology Department at La Trobe University, where I worked until “retirement” in 2008. I took a particular interest in teaching statistics, and in trying to improve how researchers do their statistics. In 2012 I published a statistics textbook that advocates estimation and meta-analysis as much better than the traditional statistical significance testing. Details can be found at www.thenewstatistics.com 

The introductory version of the textbook (published 2016) is intended to change the world. So….. you can never tell where the back desk of the violas can lead!

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