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Service to school and string

Brisbane Grammar School Director of Orchestras Stephen Chin has marked his 30th year at BGS by taking out a prestigious national award at the Australian Strings Association (AUSTA) national conference in Melbourne. 

Mr Chin, one of the School’s longest-serving teachers, was presented the award in July in recognition and appreciation for outstanding service within a string and music community of Australia. 

The recognition is extra special, Mr Chin said, because it is judged by his peers at AUSTA and awarded triennially. 

“The award is given out every three years, just for one person, and it coincides with the national conference,” he said.  

“For me, it says that I’m on the right track as an educator and mentor for other teachers.”  

It is the latest honour for Mr Chin, who has enjoyed a storied career as a musical educator, adjudicator of eisteddfods, director of orchestras, and composer and examiner for the Australian Music Examination Board (AMEB). 

For the past three decades, Mr Chin has also been pivotal in the growth of the School’s Music program. 

The BGS String Program is one of the most extensive in Australia, with string ensembles, two symphony orchestras, and hundreds of boys involved in group and private tuition. 

The scale and prestige of the BGS program brings out the best in students as they continually strive to improve their musical skills, Mr Chin said. 

“The School takes it very seriously; the fact that boys can come out of their sport training sessions or the classroom when required and into music is a big endorsement of the Music program. 

“We have enough groups so that students can aspire to go to higher levels, and there’s a sense of ongoing achievement as the boys move through those groups. 

“We put it to the boys that the pursuit of excellence is a personal one, and they can go as far as they want. When we ask, ‘is there room for improvement?’, the answer is usually yes.” 

One of the most dramatic changes Mr Chin made to the program was shifting the Grammar Symphony Orchestra rehearsal from afternoon to early morning  

“We are the only school in Australia that has a 6.20am call for a rehearsal. We hold the record for early morning starts, and that’s not about to change,” Mr Chin said. 

“We used to do that rehearsal on Monday afternoons, which made it difficult to engage the boys. But at 6.20am, we get a lot of music done.” 

Some of the BGS Old Boys that Mr Chin has mentored who have achieved international acclaim include conductor Simon Hewitt, cellist Simon Cobcroft, sound engineer Ben Tolliday, violist Henry Justo and violinist Ray Chen. 

But to Mr Chin, his most important legacy is the countless number of boys who have discovered the joy of music and assimilated it into their lives beyond the classroom. 

“We’ve had our fair share of luminaries, which is great, but the important thing is we’ve got a lot of boys who still play music,” he said.  

“It is sometimes difficult in academic schools to emphasise the importance of the Arts, but a lot of boys have found that studying music has broadened their horizons and made them better academically. 

“Many boys have been influenced positively and profoundly by their musical experiences at BGS.”

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