J ust as we had no books in our home so we had no music. My mother couldn’t hold a note and when happy my father would occasionally whistle a tune. That was it. When we shifted from our housing commission home into a middle-class suburb my mother bought a record player. We had few records and they were musicals like Kismetor My Fair Lady.

Louis Nowra. Photo © Adam Knott

It was only when I was 13 and saw a movie about Benny Goodman that I wanted to play a musical instrument. I learned clarinet from a spinster in the neighbouring suburb, while her twin sister taught piano in the other room. Miss Taylor taught me to play Bach, Mozart and Weber. When I said I wanted to learn jazz she told me it was ‘sordid’ and ‘spiritually unhealthy’, so we parted on bad terms.

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