A pioneer of contemporary music education in the TAFE system says his Queen’s Birthday Honour is an “emblem of a much wider effort”.
Musician and composer Michael Barkl has performed in many ensembles with a number of roles in music education on his resume. But his “greatest achievement” after joining TAFE Illawarra Institute in 1987, he said, was to establish a curriculum for music education in Vocational Education and Training.
“TAFE is like the Cinderella of the education system,” he said. “All you need to do is talk to someone and they or people they know has had their life transformed by TAFE.”
Although music education in schools and as an extracurricular activity is dwindling, Mr Barkl was and will continue to be a strong advocate as he believed it teaches pupils more than just melodies.
TAFE is like the Cinderella of the education system.Michael Barkl
“Just about every field of endeavour is contained in music – mathematical, there’s social aspect … and it’s an intellectual and social environment,” he said. “We can use music to give young people … their first taste of success in our quite rigid social system.
“We’ve had students who are from disadvantaged backgrounds who have gone on to great success – you won’t see them in the Top 40, but they’ve gone on to now being lecturers themselves or completed PhD’s in music, or creating a great community projects.”
Although the TAFE lecturer and AMEB examiner has an extensive career he was in disbelief when he received his official letter, announcing his OAM for his service to the performing arts and music education.
“You hope you didn’t open somebody else’s letter by mistake.”
Mr Barkl began his musical career as many children did and “sent along to [piano] lessons” by his parents. He later swapped classical for contemporary after hearing the most extraordinary thing ever – a Jimi Hendrix record – resulting in the purchase of his first electric guitar.
Over the years he’s performed at various rock and jazz venues working as a freelance bass and guitar player – including working with artists like George Golla, Roger Frampton, and Mickey "T-Bone" Tucker.
Mr Barkl’s compositions include cabaret music and musicals as well as concert music for orchestra, chamber ensemble and solo instruments.
He’s on a number of music education boards and has also performed with Illawarra chamber orchestra Steel City Strings.