Biographical Log of Michael Furstner - Page 13

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Thursday February 21, 2008 (bio, Adelaide, Jazz College, Australian Education shake up)

Freedom 4 continues from February 20
The first 4-5 years at the Jazz College were wonderful. I struggled with most subjects but got through. The SACAE Concert Band was the best in Australia, winning the annual Band Competitions held each year during the Easter Weekend 14 out of 15 times under the outstanding direction of Hal Hall. I was in the band for 5 years.
During one concert in the Adelaide Festival Theatre I suddenly burst out into silent tears in the middle of playing a beautiful arrangement of the "Star Wars" soundtrack. The other sax players sitting next to me look surprised out of the corner of their eyes. "Where is the baritone voice ?". I have suddenly realised that I am nearing my goal of becoming a musician, able and privileged to play with these great young performers.

Then in 1989-90 disaster struck. The Hawke Labour Government started to "rationalise" the Australian Education system. The College of Advanced Education had to merge with Adelaide University and the Jazz Department became part of the Adelaide Conservatory. The College had a vibrant 4 year Bachelors course with great teachers. This had to scale down to get in line with the Con's 3 year course, which was very mediocre with mainly deadwood teachers.
Each year 100 applicants did an entry audition to the Jazz College. Of these usually only 15 (very rarely up to 18) were admitted. From '89 onwards up to 55 students would be admitted, selected from the same number of applicants, a huge drop in quality of the students was the results. Facilities remained as before, so class rooms were dreadfully over crowded. The Piano Lab held 10 keyboards, which had been ample before. Now two students had to share one keyboard in class, it was bedlam. The best SACAE teachers saw the writing on the wall and left in droves, taking a "golden handshake".

My Korg keyboard As a result of this upheaval I was invited to do some casual teaching to provide 1st and 2nd year Jazz students with some basic knowledge and facility on the keyboard. I saw this initially as a great opportunity. I had around 60 students divided over three classes, each of 1 hour per week. I will never forget my first day.
I gave, what I considered an inspired talk about the principles of a good piano technique. "Any questions ?" I asked at the end of it. No one spoke a word. I repeated a similar talk to the next class. Again no one stirred at the end of it. Finally the third class, and would you believe it, at the end one student raised his hand, wonderful. Yes man, what is your question ?" I asked expectantly. The boy kept pointing his finger in the air and said "Does that fan work ? It is very hot in here !"   After 6 weeks I was thoroughly depressed and ready to quit. However I decided to see the year through to help the College out.

By that time I had completed all my required subjects except one, the final 45 minutes recital with a small Jazz combo. At that stage my instrumental skills were as yet not good enough to attempt that. Also all students I had bonded with the first few years had by now completed their degrees and left.
I therefore decided that enough was enough. I had nothing more to learn at this place, also the HECS student payment system would kick in, the days of free education in Australia were over.
I had a few years earlier already started to teach music privately and was doing well with that. So early in 1991 I packed my bags and left Adelaide. "Sunshine Coast, here I come."
Freedom continues on February 25

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Friday February 22, 2008 (bio, travel, Silver Shadow staff, bridge, 5BX exercises, food)

Crisanto the Headwaiter taking our order I receive an email from Amafe this morning. She has completed an 8 months tour on the Silver Shadow (where I met her) and the Silver Whisper (both ships of the Silverseas fleet) and now has a brief holiday back home in the Philippines. It reminds me again of the wonderful time we had on last year's cruise from Singapore to Lisbon. The staff in particular were absolutely marvelous, and I really miss them in many ways, as after 41 days together we felt like a family. There are so many happy memories I have with several of the individual staff members.

After boarding the Silver Shadow in Singapore all staff immediately start memorising our names. I always hate it to be called "Mr. Furstner", but they will not accept the standard Aussie custom of calling me by my first name. So I introduce myself by the name I had way back as a student in Spain : Don Miguel. This works brilliantly. Wherever I go on board it is always "Hi, Don Miguel". All staff are terrific, but the Philippinos, who are generally in the head waiter to bar servant duty range, are the absolute masters of hospitality.

Mary-Beth with Don Miguel's Drambui After three days on board the appointed bridge director suddenly dies of a heart attack. I immediately offer my services to the Cruise Social Director with result that, until Dubai, I conduct the daily contract bridge sessions each afternoon and also give some lectures on card play technique. A week later Adam the Polish solo pianist has to leave ship to attend his Dad's funeral. So once again it is "Don Miguel, can you play for us ?" I do have one session with the band, but am rather drunk and not at my best. All in all however I am very well known by all on board staff and guests alike.

Ready for the Sashimi Yesterday I gave Babette's friend Sandy a session on HTML writing. She is starting an Editing business and needs to have a web site online. Marc Villeneuve is also interested to learn, as he too will start a Blog as soon as he is back in Sydney. I will give him a session on Monday. On my way home I pick up a bottle of sake, as Babette has brought home some sashimi and also cockles for the miso soup. The tuna and salmon are both exquisite today. I wash them down with plenty of Aussie sake.

Last week I found in my lockup the 5BX Physical Fitness Exercises instructions I used to follow way back in my Kalgoorlie days. It is an 11 minute fitness program developed by the Royal Canadian Air Force (Penguin ISBN 0 14 00.2055 1). The program consists of 6 graded Exercise Charts. Each Chart contains 5 exercises, gradually increasing in frequency as you work your way up twelve levels of each Chart. I decide to get back into this today and start at the bottom level of Chart 1. The Charts are graded for age requirements. If I manage to progress to halfway up Chart 2 I will have reached an appropriate level for my age.   5BX, here we come!
(The Penguin booklet also includes 12 minute XBX Exercises for women.)

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Saturday February 23, 2008 (diary, Cosmos, multiverse, 5BX)

Multiple universes ? I made another addition to my daily schedule of tasks. I will try to read every day during lunch at the Surf Club a Chapter of Brian Greene's book The Fabric of the Cosmos. It is a great read, but I find that by the end of the day I prefer to read something which does not require the brain to work too intensely. I have read today about the fantastic possibility of a multiverse containing a number of universes, with newer onces sprouting from older ones. It may be impossible to prove, but the idea is fascinating.

5BX Exercise 1, Chart 1 Back at home I spend quite some time to photograph and process the first three Exercise Charts of the 5BX Fitness program. I want to have them at my disposal wherever I am without carrying the book with me all the time. So they go on my Blog. If you are interested feel free to copy these to get you started, but if serious, it is best to get the whole book. Here are the details once more : 5BX Physical Fitness Exercises developed by the Royal Canadian Air Force (Penguin ISBN 0 14 00.2055 1).

It is very hot today, the first day like this of the year. I am happy to switch on the air conditioning. Great that the rainy days are finally appear to be coming to an end.

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Sunday February 24, 2008 (diary, mussels, recipe, food)

It is the second sunny day in a row, fortunately not so hot as yesterday, and the visitors (mostly from Brisbane, 100km to the South) are flocking into Mooloolaba. There is not much wind and the surf looks blue and lovely from the Surf Club deck, which is packed as usually is the case on a sunny Sunday like this. A guitar duo plays unobtrusive music and the mood becomes almost festive as the Villeneuves and I get deeper into a few bottles of wine over lunch.
Ingredients for Moules Bourguignon When I mention that Babette bought some fresh mussels for tonight, Marc becomes very excited. He is a passionate cook and Moules Bourguignon is one of his favourite dishes he prepares, and absolutely famous amongst his friends. He proceeds to tell me all about it in explicit detail and quite soon I start to become enthusiastic too.
Apart from the odd Oysters Kilpatrck I prepare, I have not been interested in cooking for years, but this mussel dish, that sounds simple yet very exciting. I let Marc explain it to me several times, filling in little details I did not get before. Moules Bourguignon, you are going to have a new cook !

On my way back home I stop by at Woolworth and buy the required ingredients. Thanks goodness they do have Double thick cream, because Marc has impressed on me that without it the dish is just not on. Triple cream would be even better, but they don't have that.
Back home I explain the situation to Babette. She initially looks a bit hesitant and talks about doing the mussels "half-half". I realise she probably had her own idea about how to cook them, but this is new territory we are heading into, you can not possibly do that "half - half"! This time Dad wins out.

There are two 1kg plastic packs of washed black mussels in the fridge. I fill the sink with water, open the packs and put the mussels in the water. I also cut 3 lemons in half, squeeze their juice into the water, then throw the lemons in too. This is to thoroughly clean the mussel shells. I leave them in the water for an hour or two, then take their beards off, brush each of them clean with a small brush and finally dry them with a cloth.   Babette joins me in cleaning and dicing the garlic and red onions. I am not allowed any sloppy work as Babette tells me to peel off the garlic skins properly !. We are now ready to go.

Use a shell, NOT a spoon!

  1. I place a suitable pan on the flame and throw in a clump of quality butter together with a liberal splash of virgin olive oil. I let it mix together and simmer until getting brown near the edges. Our beure noire ("black butter") is ready.
  2. I now pour in the diced garlic and red onions and let them simmer until the onions start to become transparent.
  3. Then the mussels go in. I pour half a bottle of white wine over them, then put a lid on the pan to let the mussels steam.
  4. The mussels should steam for only 2 minutes at the most, but the wine needs to heat up first, so I keep checking under the lid how things are proceeding.
  5. When the shells are opening up I throw in 2 large table spoons of the precious double thick cream and stir until this has mixed in with the liquid stock in the bottom. As soon as the stock simmers again I cut the flame. The mussels are ready.

    How to use the left mussles stock for romen noodles soup.

The mussels taste as mussels should taste. And the broth stock, without overpowering the mussels, is so delicious it can not be expressed in words. Marc has urged me to drink the stock using one half of a mussel shell, and so we do. The feel of the shell shape and texture on one's lips adds an extra dimension to the total eating experience. I whole-heartedly agree with Marc, using a spoon would very much lessen the overall effect.
(Oh, and please don't sprinkle chef's dandruff (parsley) all over it. Its a cheap trick and accomplishes nothing.)

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Monday February 25, 2008 (bio, Sunshine Coast, music teaching, sax quartet, Start Jazclass web site)

Freedom 5 continues from February 21
During the Jazz College summer recess in '85 or '86 I went with my son and a friend on a fly-drive holiday to the Sunshine Coast. Driving North from Brisbane Airport and nearing the end of our journey while darkness was setting in the road climbed up a hill. Looking to my left when reaching the top ("Shell Station Hill") I saw a sleepy hollow full of twinkling lights. It was so like the typical opening scene of cartoons like Pinnocio, or the closing scenes like The Flintstones, scenes I had always loved as a child (and truth be told, still do!). An instant pang of envy went through my body. The next day I found out this place was called Nambour.

My house in Nambour After deciding in '91 it was time for me to leave Adelaide, I drove the 2,200 km to the Sunshine Coastin my tiny 3 cylinder Daihatsu 'Handivan'. I went straight to Nambour, as from a strategic point too this small sugar cane country town was ideally located as a suitable base. It was halfway between the coast to the East and the Blackall Range hinterland to the West, either region only 10-20 km away.
Within 3 days I had spotted and bought a suitable home in a cul de sac (Hall Court) on top of a small hill. The house had a large room underneath (connected via a wooden spiral staircase to the floor above) which became my music studio. I taught here three days a week, the other two I went on the road teaching at private homes, one day at the coast, the other up the Range. I had a great variety of students (both young and old) on saxophone, clarinet, flute, piano, piano accordion and of course Jazz improvisation. The setup suited me well.

A wonderful time of consolidation after all my frantic hard work to become a musician set in. Also a feeling of enormous relief. I had made it and would survive without having to go back to the depressing environment of working for others in a job I did not like. I had written two music books while in Adelaide and added another four while in Nambour.
My Saxophone Quartet I also formed a few small combos, a duo with a female singer from the Range, a trio with a banjo and bass, and a saxophone quartet with three very capable professional players. Unfortunately the repertoire on the Sunshine Coast was, and still is, very limited. With the wonderful bands in Adelaide we had plenty of opportunities to perform the full range of musical styles, from Medieval, Classical, Satie, Kurt Weil to ultra modern music using vacuum cleaners, piano lids, blowing on mouthpieces only etc. Also of course the full range of Jazz styles in both small groups and Big Bands. In country Queensland most of this was not on, just the usual popular music, Trad Jazz and Swing stuff, forget about the rest. Nevertheless we had a lot of fun.

In '96 Michael Strong, a young IT consultant from the Range, became one of my sax students. Instead of paying for his lessons he built for me a web site online, programming my first few lessons in HTML. Soon I got the hang of what he was doing and I took over myself. It opened a new direction in my life I could never have dreamed of.
I started writing music courses first by email, but soon after in proper HTML format which I initially sold on 3.5 inch diskettes, then on CDs and now also as direct downloads.

By 2001 I had generated enough online business to stop face to face tuition, 10 years of that was enough I felt. Been there done that ! I had also become restless again, and wanted to utilise the new freedom my online business allowed for.
My son Jeroen had moved from Adelaide to tropical Darwin in the early 90s and was very happy there. I soon started visiting him, first for a week, then two and eventually for a couple of months each year. I absolutely loved it there, it was a real place with real people. The Sunshine Coast had also lost some of its appeal to me. Too many retirees, seachangers and treechangers had deluted the original rural and coastal communities. It was time to move on. Darwin here we come !
Freedom continues on February 29

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