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Narelle Doolan

Narelle Doolan won the Queensland Conservatorium Foundation Scholarship in 1965, and graduated after 5 years full-time study from QCM, Griffith University. Under the piano tutelage of Max Olding AM, she holds a Master Diploma in Music, along with Associate and Licentiate Diplomas from Trinity College of Music, London, and the AMEB.


Narelle began her piano teaching career in Brisbane developing a burgeoning private practice including QUT, Kelvin Grove, and schools such as Loreto College, Coorparoo, St Aidan’s Anglican Girls School, Corinda, and John Paul College, Daisy Hill.


Narelle was invited to join the Qld Panel of Examiners for the AMEB in 1973, a Senior position which she currently holds. Her experience has included performance — Classical and other genres, adjudication and so forth, but her passion became directed very early on towards Pedagogy and examining.


How would you describe yourself in 5 words?

Only 5 words?! Diligent. Determined. Methodical. Sensitive/Caring. Optimist. Can’t leave out ‘sense of humour’, intolerant of plain stupidity and poor grammar; and none-the-least, annoying to people who have to put up with my Diligence, Determination, and Methodical-ness).


What makes you smile?

Returning a smile. Lovely company. Satisfaction.


What scares you the most?

The loss of loved ones. The loss of all things precious. Waiting on test results – me and my family. Change.


Are you a bathroom singer?

No, I’m a bathroom cleaner. The shower is left waterless with shining chrome, perfectly folded towels. Etc, etc. How can I sing through all that?!


What type of music do you like to play the most?

I’ve covered so much over the years; the stock ‘party-pieces’ where I used to blow-off technical steam, if you like. If you’re talking about ‘listening to’, it has changed over the years, all things from Bach to Bacharach. Being a Classical musician, my ‘downtime’ choices are usually Jazz, Cocktail/lounge, Zen/Spa, but I still gravitate to Rachmaninoff.


What type of music do you like to write?

I stopped writing music when I didn’t have to write it. I did like to compose Fugues during my years at the Conservatorium. ‘Hearing’ what I ‘see’ has been my biggest Godsend.


Do you have time to just noodle around and play for yourself or is it always work right now?

I’m very restricted now-a-days, probably for the last 20 years, with osteo-arthritis sadly putting a stop to pure Classical music. There are many days that I can’t curve my fingers at all. It’s one of my greatest regrets. But I’ve been able to still do some practice – the more I do, sometimes, the less painful it is. I adore Spanish music – where I have no stylistic limitations for its passion, elasticity, guitar-effects, etc., and ohh, the delectable melodies. I have to avoid the scalar intricacies, and I’m fine. But what I like to play as well, and more-so, is Cocktail-style music – Billy Joel, (would you believe), but ‘a la George Shearing’. Just anything that has a beautiful melody, I make it ‘my own’. I was blessed with a good ear, and I rarely use music for anything. Actually, that brings back vivid memories of my sitting 2nd grade AMEB exam in Lismore. If I might indulge! I was totally oblivious to the fact that I played all my pieces in another key! I loved F# major! The pompous, old, cravat-wearing English-import mentioned this to my lovely teacher (who must have been equally horrified, as she was also an examiner), and as it turned out, my results were the highest in NSW that year. (That makes me smile).


How do you describe what you do professionally?

I derive much enjoyment and satisfaction from it. I give it 110% in every way. My reporting is something I take very seriously and in which a great deal of pride. It is my hope that in the role of an AMEB Examiner that my conduct and assessments make for an encouraging difference to the candidates who come my way. I’ve been on the Qld Panel since 1973, so I’ve become ‘part of the furniture’, so to speak. I very much miss my teaching career. Retirement was somewhat forced upon me prematurely due to a serious health challenge. I often feel discontent that the ‘horse and the cart’ aren’t jogging along together.  


Are you doing today what you dreamed of when you were young?

No. I don’t believe I was very ambitious. I just took things in my stride and gratefully accepted opportunities that came my way.


What advice do you have for someone who wants a career doing what you do (or hope to do)?

The same advice I have given over the years. Choose a career in which you flourish – (not just what you love, or think you’ll love); a career in which the disciplines come naturally and relatively easy. In this context, there should be little sense of dread, frustration, or regret. But, there must be a desire for diligence.


Where do you think you will be after 25 years?

Well, I’ll be only 98. So the answer is, hopefully I’ll still have a sense of humour; but if the osteo-arthritis won’t let me open a bottle of my favourite Sauvignon Blanc, then rest assured, I will have definitely lost my sense of humour.

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