Cliff Goodchild OAM
(1926 – 2008)
Cliff began his musical journey as a student at Kincumber Boys’ Home. Joining the Kincumber band at nine years of age, Cliff had received only one year of piano lessons as his formal training before taking on the tuba, ‘the most noble of instruments’ as he used to call it. This decision set in train a lifetime of music making which saw Cliff become one of Australia’s most distinguished brass musicians.
Moving to Sydney Cliff continued his playing and commenced lessons with Ernest P. Kerry, from the legendary Besses O’ the Barn Band. In 1945 Cliff won the Australian EEb Bass Championship and in 1946 joined the ABC Military Band. From 1951 until 1987 he held the position of Principal Tuba with the Sydney Symphony Orchestra, appearing as soloist with the orchestra on four occasions.
During this time he was instrumental in the formation of Sydney Brass, a selection of the finest players from Sydney’s bands, which performed under John Hopkins in 1971-73 and continues to this day as a professional brass ensemble under the direction of his son, Paul, Associate Principal Trumpet, Sydney Symphony.
It is in the area of musical education that Cliff took most pride. Commencing with the Leichhardt Police Boys’ Band in 1946 Cliff soon took over the Kincumber band where he had been a student. In the following years most schools in Sydney’s Eastern Suburbs were to receive the benefit of Cliff’s musical expertise and enthusiasm. He said of teaching, “There is nothing more thrilling than to get a group of young people and start them right from scratch, have them playing and all making music and over years to see them become professional players, amateur players, teachers”.
In 1959, recognising that the students coming out of the schools had nowhere to continue their music making, Cliff formed the Waverley Municipal Band, later to be called the Waverley Bondi Beach Band. As well as providing music for local community events the band has undertaken numerous concerts of serious music, featuring many Australian and world premiers, especially of Australian works.
The crowning achievement of Cliff’s career of music education is undoubtedly the NSW School Band Festival. Cliff was involved in the running of the Festival since its inception in 1961. His vision was for a festival of music making where school concert, brass and big bands of all levels would be given the opportunity to perform under professional conditions, in high quality venues and receive constructive and instructive appraisal of their performances from professional musicians. He best summed up his own philosophy, “More emphasis on music and less on contests”.
Cliff’s legacy is to be seen in the countless professionals, amateurs, students and audience members who have benefited from his pursuit of musical excellence, his boundless energy and enthusiasm and his vision for a better future of which music making is an integral part.
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