Wollongong Eisteddfod 2014: Teacher well qualified to judge junior pianists

Piano teacher Diane Waples. Picture: KIRK GILMOUR

Piano teacher Diane Waples. Picture: KIRK GILMOUR

Mount Keira's Diane Waples will draw on a lifetime of musical experience when she adjudicates in the piano sections at the BlueScope WIN Wollongong Eisteddfod.

Ms Waples has been teaching piano for 40 years and also has strong memories of performing in eisteddfods during her childhood and formative years.

Ms Waples came from a musical family, and along with siblings, Ross and Lynette, the three children were taken by their mother Betty all over the NSW to compete in eisteddfods.

Their love of music was encouraged by their father, the late Colin Waples, a professional musician who played the piano, piano accordion and drums.

One of Ms Waples career highlights was being chosen with Ross as duo pianists on TV's Showcase, a Crawford Productions national talent show, in 1967.

Ms Waples was 14 and Mr Waples, now a high school music teacher, was 16 when they flew to Melbourne to be filmed in the talent quest. They played Strauss' Tritsch-Tratsch-Polka.

"It was something we will never forget - it was a big deal to us," she recalls.

"It was our first time on a plane and it was wonderful that we were able to share that experience with our mother, who had done so much for us."

Ms Waples was also taught by James (Jim) Powell, the founding principal of the Wollongong Conservatorium of Music.

She said there was much to be gained, artistically and personally, for young people performing in eisteddfods.

"The value of eisteddfod performances is that it gives motivation to children to strive to perform to the best of their ability," she said.

"In other words, it makes them work a lot harder.

"It gives them that motivation to aim towards something. They develop more confidence and become a lot more relaxed performing in front of an audience."

The BlueScope WIN Wollongong Eisteddfod starts this Saturday with the senior vocals sections in the Wesley Church on the Mall.

The eisteddfod, which is celebrating its 120th anniversary, will be officially opened on Saturday by Wollongong Lord Mayor Gordon Bradbery, followed by a stirring rendition of As Long As I Have Music and the Welsh national anthem, performed by the Wollongong Welsh Choir.

The performance will be a tribute to late eisteddfod committee member Ann James, who died earlier this year.

Mrs James, who sang with the Wollongong Welsh Choir, had a lifetime association with the eisteddfod.

The senior vocal section will take place on Saturday. The flute and woodwind sections will start on Monday, and the strings competition will be held later next week.

BlueScope WIN Wollongong Eisteddfod president and chairperson Tony Purdon said big things were planned to mark the anniversary of the event, which was first held in 1894, and was disrupted only by the world wars.

Mr Purdon said committee members planned to decorate the Illawarra Performing Arts Centre with a small amount of memorabilia that had been collected over the decades.

This year also marks the inaugural Wollongong International Chamber Music Competition, which has a $20,000 prize up for grabs.

The BlueScope WIN Wollongong Eisteddfod runs from May 31 to July 6.

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