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Harping on about musical foundations

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The thing about the harmonica is that you can get pretty good in a fairly short amount of time, not Stevie Wonder good but good enough to have fun with it and feel a sense of achievement.

And as far as a foundational instrument goes there is always the recorder but the harp can be taken all the way through to a career, recorder not so much. A harp is also inexpensive and portable and so doesn’t present the logistical problems and expense of say a double base or a drum kit.

One guy who has gone a long way with the harp is Chris Maunders, he became the first person in Australian history to complete a Bachelor of Music on the chromatic harmonica and is an alumnus of Melbourne’s prestigious Victorian College of the Arts (Melbourne University). He has also won Australia’s largest harmonica competition, the 'Tamworth Golden Harmonica' in 2012. 

“It was a real honour to be a part of the Tamworth Golden Harmonica competition, it gave me the chance to hear what other great local harmonica players were doing and to express my own musical interests to others. When I look back on that period I realise how different my career on the harmonica has been to most other players as I’ve been fortunate enough to play many different styles of music with so many amazing musicians. My current performances vary from Tango to Dixieland and Ethio-Jazz to Bebop, all mediated via my Melbournian musical peers.”

“My fascination for the harmonica came from a combination of its portability and vast textural qualities that can be reached. This combination was a huge selling point when I first started out as I was travelling and didn’t have any formal music tuition to support me, yet I was quickly learning melodies, creating nice sounds and making music with others. It didn’t take long for me to feel an inner sense of musical achievement which boosted my confidence. I then grew a broader interest in music which led me to the chromatic harmonica and from there I was completely hooked.”

Maunders completed the Honours program at the VCA, his thesis focused on chromatic harmonica technique and its teaching methods and the paper was the first of its kind in academic publishing. 

His passion has turned into a life’s work and Maunders is keen to share his expertise and enthusiasm for the instrument through his teaching, he tutors both adults and children and conducts regular school workshops. 

As a professional musician, he is able to provide and deliver a high quality harmonica program with a highly interactive approach. He has over a decade of experience in harmonica tuition and is an accredited 'Orff teacher. He also uses a variety of teaching styles that enable him to engage with students of differing ages and backgrounds.

“I’ve always loved the possibilities on the harmonica and exploring different approaches to teaching them. Techniques such as vibrato, trills, chords and single-note playing are so easily attainable on the harmonica for children, and with clear instructions through fun exercises, reaching that sense of achievement is so attainable for every participant. The most rewarding part of bringing the harmonica into the education system is to walk away from a workshop and hear students jamming together in the schoolyard, or sitting down learning melodies from their booklets. The response from the students and feedback from the principals has been incredible.” 

Each student is supplied with a brand new harmonica which they explore throughout the session. The harmonica’s basic diatonic tuning (tuned to a major scale) creates an instrument well-suited to early learners. Practice often carries on into the schoolyard where students interact with each other without the pressures of formal music tuition.

Playing harp is not only good for your soul it’s good for you, as a bi-directional wind instrument playing harmonica leads to deep breathing which increases lung power and oxygen levels to the blood, optimises heart rate and reduces blood pressure which is great for asthma patients.

Workshop information
$15 per student with 20–50 students per session

Includes:

  • 1 new harmonica & 1-hour workshop
  • Interactive 'Orff' based activities utilising the harmonica
  • Technique tuition to provide students with an understanding of the functionality of the harmonica & playing possibilities
  • Fun aural training games
  • Rhythm training & body percussion
  • Deep breathing techniques
  • Role-play & dance
  • Display of rare harmonicas including chromatic, melodica, bass, chord & ladybird harmonicas
  • Orchestrated storytelling (great for lunchtime performances)
  • A “Successful Harmonica Player” certificate
  • Specially designed & very simple “harmonica tablature” booklets for each student to continue learning familiar melodies after the workshop (extra learning/teaching material can also be provided throughout the year free of charge)

Website: www.harpsabreeze.com.au

Facebook: www.facebook.com/harpsabreeze

Phone: 0421 456 282


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