Almost everything I did as a child, I did badly. My ineptitude extended to all forms of sport and included learning to play the piano.

Justin Fleming Justin Fleming. Photo © Amelia Stubbs

All my piano teachers were long-suffering women, and I continued to learn for some years after I left school. My last teachers were Julienne Horn and the great concert pianist, Tessa Birnie OAM, who famously played the entire keyboard works of Schubert and Haydn and Beethoven’s MoonlightSonata in its original lower pitch. Her extraordinary musical memory earned her the title of ‘The Marathon Woman of the Keyboard’. It was she who one day said to me: “We both know you’ll never play the piano in public, and I have worked out why.” What followed was an important revelation: “You don’t want to play music; you want to talk about it.” From that day on, my ‘lessons’ consisted of me asking Tessa...

Access our paywalled content and archive of magazines, regular news and features for the limited offer of $3 per month. Support independent journalism.

Subscribe now or log in to continue reading.