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Teachers

Gary France (Director)

Photo of Gary France

Significant former positions:
 
  • Associate Professor of Percussion and Head of School: Australian National University (17 years)
  • Senior Lecturer in Drums and Percussion / Head of Music WAAPA, Edith Cowan University (8 years)
  • Board of Directors PAS International (Percussive Arts Society 7500 members world wide) (4 years)
  • Board of Directors Speak Percussion (4 years)
  • Graduate Teaching Fellow / Director of 6 O'clock and 9 O'clock Jazz Labands University of North Texas
 
Gary received his Bachelor of Music degree, Music Education / Performance, in 1979, from the Crane School of Music, SUNY Potsdam, and his Master of Music degree, Orchestral Performance / Jazz, in 1988 at the University of North Texas. While at UNT Gary became was not only awarded several competitive teaching fellowships in classical percussion but was also selected as the first and only drummer/percussionist, in the fifty-year history of the program, to direct the prestigious Jazz Lab Bands (6 O’Clock and 9 O’Clock bands).
Gary France has done much, through his dedicated teaching performing and entrepreneurial leadership, to significantly raise the profile of percussion playing in Australia.
 
What do people say?
 
Describing Gary’s 1986 initial appointment in  Australia “The Musical Tornado - Gary France had an almost immediate impact on percussion nationally”  Eminent Australian musician Richard Gill in his 2012 book “Give Me Excess of It”
 
“Gary taught me the importance of focusing on the pocket and efficiency at a very young age. His lessons where really fun and inspirational and just what I needed at the crucial point as a young student!” “I still remember him showing up for our first lesson, I was probably 11 and the first thing he did was remove my second mounted rack tom so he could get the ride cymbal closer and so I would focus on a four piece kit. As a kid I was mortified because I wanted “more” of everything but to be honest it was one of the best lessons I’ve ever learned and I’ve never put that other tom back up after all these years!”  Jason Sutter – Drummer Marilyn Manson, Smash Mouth, New York Dolls, Chris Cornell (Soundgarden, Audioslave), and Foreigner
 
“I feel very lucky to have had Gary as a teacher, and often remind myself of the many things he taught me about the beauty and importance of music, the essential assets of preparedness and professionalism, and that wherever and whenever you see an amazing percussion instrument you should buy it for your collection!” Bree van Reyk - Synergy Percussion,  Paul Kelly,  Australian Opera and Ballet Orchestra
 
“It always amazes me how in hindsight you realise how important certain individuals were to your musical growth, for me Gary France was definitely one of those people, true story”Evan Jenkins - Drummer Neil Cowley Trio, voted one of the 7 best jazz drummers in the world By Rhythm magazine, 2014
 
“Gary France was one of those pivotal, influential teachers you never forget. His input into my career as a percussionist and fellow educator was enormous and I will be forever thankful for his guidance and professionalism during my time at the WA Academy of Performing Arts”. Iain Robbie Tetrafied Percussion, Instrumental Music School Service W.A. Education Department
 
“The heart of Gary’s teaching is commitment, it’s about being 100% committed- always!” Ric Eastman Lecturer in Drum kit WAAPA, Australian Session Drummer Hank Marvin, Dave Hole, John Meyer, Lucky Oceans and more
 
I never knew a more enthusiastic, dedicated, or proactive musician than Gary France- the very embodiment of percussive passion and the ultimate mover and shaker in every sense Adam Jeffrey Principal Timpanist, Estonian National Opera

For full bio and web site http://garyfrance.com/about-gary

Courtney Leiba

Photo of Courtney Leiba

Born on December 19th, in Flanagin Town, Trinidad, Courtney Leiba was an only child from a racially mixed background (a mixture of Negro, Venezuelan, Chinese, Irish and Portuguese).
 
In his home district most people made their living growing crops of cocoa and coffee. He was a typical country boy and at one time both his parents families had plantations. He learnt the art of picking and cleaning crops.
 
His initial involvment with music began when he formed his own small group. Right after he left school, in Newtown, Port of Spain, he learnt to play the ukelele (otherwise known as a quatro). At that time a neighbour heard him play and asked him to teach him to play. One thing lead to the next and the boys in the neighbourhood formed a small group. He left this group and joined a singing group called the 'Polka Dots'. This too was a rather short experience when he found they mainly wanted him because he knew of important people in connection with his clerical job for a lawyer, a special adviser to the Prime Minister. Just as he was leaving the 'Polka Dots' his ukelele students were forming a combo. At this time everyone was playing the electric guitar but it was Courtney's misfortune the he couldn't afford one so he started playing the guiro (known as a 'scratcher') a instrument more in line with his finances and ability to clown around.
 
Courtney specialises in Steel Pan and Ukulele.
 
Steve Richards
 
Steve Richards is a versatile and in-demand drummer and teacher. He plays and teaches a wide variety of styles, from jazz to rock to musical theatre and everything in between. Steve studied at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music under the expert tutelage of Andrew Dickeson before spending a number of years working with international artists on some of the world's largest cruise ships. Locally he has been called upon to back touring artists such as Marina Prior and Dan Bolton, and is most active in the jazz scene where he regularly plays with Canberra's top musicians. At a community level Steve is an in-demand big band drummer who currently plays with the newly formed CBR Big Band and Connexion Big Band.