Paul Saintilan, Dean of Melbourne’s Collarts, reflects on what it was like to study with him.

Peter Sculthorpe, an internationally recognised Australian composer passed away in Sydney nearly two weeks ago. I had the privilege of studying composition with Peter during the 1980s, while a student at the University of Sydney’s Music Department. I recall many hours spent reclining on the sofa in Peter’s office, treating my composition tutorials as part lesson, part psychotherapy session. He was happy to endure endless whinging about our workload, and for many composition students he provided an artistic, supportive oasis in the heart of the Seymour Centre. While you couldn’t necessarily count on confidentiality, a session with him reconnected you to the reasons you wanted to study there in the first place. There were many things that impressed me about his approach to teaching composition, which I list below.

Firstly, he had a light touch. He understood that creative tuition is less about telling people what to do, than providing a structured, supportive context for people to find their own way, discover their own path, explore their own enthusiasms. His breadth of taste allowed him to be genuinely interested in a diverse range...

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.