Performing v Teaching – The Great Divide

“I Want It All!!!”

Every since I can remember there’s always been a debate as to what musicians should do – perform or teach.

As a small child I recall being present when my father (possibly the finest musician I’ve ever met) was discussing with a couple of performer friends the merits of his teaching work, who were shaking their heads sadly. The implication was that he’d somehow sold out by going down the teaching route. He was still performing at that stage too!

I don’t remember this but apparently they asked me what I wanted to do when I grew up and (true to form) said I wanted it all!

The story goes like this. If you teach, you must be a second rate performer and if you perform you can’t ever be a decent teacher. Personally, I’ve always found it a vacuous argument – I do both and have done for many years. How well I do them is a matter of conjecture of course, but I have managed to balance the two – and I believe I am a better performer and music educator for the experience.

I know most of my students would tell you that they come to me because I am a performer and understand what it takes to be that kind of musician.

Recently, I had a phone call from a family member, who took the teaching route after graduating from a prestigious Australian music conservatorium. She teaches at an International School in South East Asia and many people I know would be jealous of her career and lifestyle. Nevertheless, a touring musician made a thoughtless remark at a concert she recently attended that amounted  to saying teaching was second rate compared to the exciting life of touring.

Touring is hard work. Yes, it’s exciting going to new places and playing to new audiences but very risky financially, physically very draining and (no matter what anyone says) can be grindingly dull when you’ve played so many dates you can’t recall what town you’re in anymore. These days I try and break up my performance schedule with a little time off, a day for relaxation and sleep and just playing tourist or catching up with friends or family. Fellow Tasmanian musicians The Sign are a good case in point. Currently touring in the US, they’re making it a road-trip holiday and family get together plus a very slick and professional music tour. Smart people!

In many respects I think teaching is the harder gig. One-to-one or groups, students hang on your every note and word, and they’re very happy to question if  you do anything that might contradict what you’re trying to get across! The process of educating for me is a different kind of performance, with it’s own specific skill set. And it must be said that just because someone is a brilliant live performer that does not follow that they will be an equally brilliant educator!

For me the old “those who can, do – those who can’t, teach” chestnut just doesn’t stack up – I love both and will continue to educate and perform to the very best of my ability.

If you want to read more, this 2007 blog from professional double bass player & educator Jason Heath is recommended.

I’ll finish by quoting US classical pianist Joshua Nemith;

The path to a narrow musical career is paved with good intentions. Today, more than ever, that path needs to widen rather than permanently branch into two unconnected avenues: educators who are not performers, and performers who are not educators.

The Fringe Dwellers – Sneak Preview

The Fringe Dwellers are my new band – Mal Battersby (The Bat Band) – guitars & vocals, Oscar Neyland – bass guitar, James Excell – drums and me on vocals & rhythm guitar.

As some of you might be aware, it’s a very long time since I’ve been in a band and this is shaping up to being a very rewarding experience! The music is a broad mix of genres, with songs written by Mal and some by me.

We’re just in the final stages of completing our first full recording “After Time” and it’s sounding excellent!

For those of you in southern Tasmania, we’re playing our first proper pub gig next Friday 22nd June at The Grand Poobah in Liverpool St, Hobart. It’s the end of mid-year exams for all my uni friends, so we’re planning to party! We’d love to see you there 😀

Meanwhile, this is one of my favourite photos of Mal & me, taken by our beautiful photographer friend Saria Phillips…… it kinda sums things up pretty well – we have a lot of fun 😉

The Woman On The Edge Of The World – A Review

TWOTEOTW Front Cover

Below is a review of my latest album, which I released earlier this year. Reading it still gives me goosebumps – Matt’s review is extraordinarily generous!

If you’re interested in having a listen, “The Woman On The Edge Of The World” is available on my SoundCloud page. Individual tracks as well as the full album are available for purchase.

Sales have been very good but I’m currently looking at potential crowd-funding methods of releasing a physical CD & vinyl version, with posters and possibly art & lyric book.

I welcome your feedback 🙂

March 2012 Sauce Magazine Review

“The Woman on The Edge of The World”

Many would know Deb as the female vocalist from ARIA award winning Wild Pumpkins at Midnight or more recently as one half of the blues/roots Fringe Dwellers. Like her contemporaries, Deb had always enjoyed more recognition inEurope. Angie Hart and Monique Brumby have publicly acknowledged the importance of Manskey’s influence.

I won’t go into why it took 13 years to make this album but in many ways the songs tell so many beautiful stories of sadness and sorrow, perhaps it’s better to let the music tell the story.

This is a stripped back acoustic album, just vocal and guitar. “Drowning On Dry Land” is perhaps the most intense song on this album, far more intimidating than anything PJ Harvey, Sinead O’Connor or Patti Smith have ever committed to tape.
”Sandy Bay” is an un-mistakenly Tasmanian song, capturing feel of the suburb and referencing the landmarks, as John Lennon did when he sang the Rubber Soul era, “In My Life”. But it’s not an entirely miserable experience. “Mr Invincible” is a wonderful up-tempo slice of pop, as is “Beautiful Life”. This album has been a long time in the making, it might be more accurately described as a greatest hits album, no doubt the toughest decision was deciding which of the hundreds of great songs she wrote in its preparation to banish to the orphanage.

Manskey possesses one of the finest voices imaginable and if you buy this album you will discover, she is also one of the finest songwriters.

Matt Sertori

A Place To Start

The hardest thing about any writing project is finding somewhere to start.

I’ve been thinking about this blog for ages and confess every time I’ve opened up WordPress, full of good intentions I’ve ended up writing another piece for Bumper Crop – my “other life” as an avid organic gardener and cook.

But with autumn taking hold in the southern hemisphere, it’s high time to make a start and share some of my musical life with you all. Many of you would never have heard of me, so here’s the official bio, direct from the press kit…..

Debra Manskey was born into a musical family in South Australia. In fact, for the first ten or twelve years of her life, Debra thought everyone lived in a home where music was on the menu most nights of the week.

“Growing up, it was a revelation for me to discover that some families didn’t play music together or even own a musical instrument. We used to sit around the kitchen table and just do it! Looking back, it’s a gift I can’t thank my parents enough for.”

One of the founding members of Australian 80’s indie icons Wild Pumpkins at Midnight, Debra’s trademark soaring vocals contributed to the Pumpkins’ 1990 ARIA award for “This Machine is Made of People”

Throughout her long career, Debra has graced many concert stages and festivals, including Pt Fairy, Moomba, Cygnet Folk Festival and Tasmania’s jewel, 10 Days on the Island. In recent years as a solo performer she has also supported other outstanding artists such as The Stiff Gins, Neil Murray, Stefan Grossman, Sophie B Hawkins, Mick Thomas, Dave Steel and the inimitable Dave Graney.

Debra is also highly regarded as an arts administrator and educator, regularly conducting specialist workshops for adults and children in voice, songwriting and performance skills. She has worked as a Writer-In-Residence, been celebrated as Tasmanian Living Writer and released a live cd in 2006 which received excellent reviews and has now sold out.

Her first full-length studio album “The Woman on the Edge of the World” was released in January 2012 and is available as a digital download through SoundCloud.

Besides her solo work, Debra has also been in the studio again with a new four-piece band The Fringe Dwellers, featuring guitarist/songwriter Malcolm Battersby. Their debut album “After Time” is due out in the second half of 2012

Ok, that’s enough to begin with………

Next time I’ll give you all a rundown on beautiful Hobart in winter (including some pics)  🙂 and some of the projects I’m involved in at present. Life is busy!