WHEN piano exponent Stephanie Neeman arrives in Canberra during April to become the new artistic director and CEO of Music for Canberra, it’ll be a kind of homecoming.
Strictly speaking, her home city is Jakarta but, after meeting and marrying our own brilliant pianist Edward “Teddy” Neeman while both were studying at the Manhattan School of Music, she’s been a regular visitor to the ACT, performing for the National Capital Orchestra and Canberra Youth Orchestra, both solo and as part of the Neeman Piano Duo.
“CityNews” caught up with Stephanie by phone to Georgia, US, where she is a piano professor at Valdosta State University and found her fairly bubbling with excitement about the move “home”.
Teddy will arrive early in April with their 4½-year-old son “JJ” (James Jerome) so he can settle into sessional teaching at the ANU School of Music and she’ll follow as soon as her papers are ready.
Teddy, who has a doctorate from the Juilliard School, plans to keep up his concert recitals while Stephanie, a doctor of musical arts from the University of Cincinnati, will tackle her new job, initially staying with his family.
“I know the music scene in Australia. I’ve given many lessons, masterclasses and lectures in Sydney and Canberra and also attended a piano pedagogy conference in Adelaide,” she tells us.
She enjoyed performing with the Canberra Youth Orchestra, part of Music for Canberra, saying: “I would be very honoured to be part of that, as it’s my passion to see people perform music both professionally and for fun.”
She praises the board as “a fantastic group of people with a variety of legal, musical and financial expertise”.
It will be a change of pace, but the move hits the spot for her and Jakarta, where she helps out at her mum’s music academy, is a mere hop, step and a jump from Canberra. She also has a sister in Melbourne.
Stephanie has won virtually all major piano competitions in Indonesia, including first prize in the Yamaha National Piano Competition when she was only six. She has appeared as a soloist with the Jakarta Chamber Orchestra and likes to stay in touch with the musical scene there.
Stephanie replaces former CEO Kathleen Grant, who left late last year for Melbourne, and says: “I would like to be a positive impact on the musical community of Canberra, which has so much talent. I want to make sure that Canberra has really good music programs.”
She is quick to point out that she is no ignoramus when it comes to the business side of music.
“I am a performing artist, yes, but when I was young I started out building a musical conservatory with my mother, developing the curriculum and organising the examination system through London, as well as running annual masterclasses and supervising the financial side of the business,” she says.
“My job here in Georgia as a professor includes administration, I sit on four different committees and I am a faculty senate member.”
“My major at Cincinnati was in performance, but my minor was in music pedagogy. I strongly feel that in the future I’d like to see Music for Canberra as a centre for teachers, too.
“I think it’s very important for generations to come and there is a difference between when you can play and when you can teach – it’s important to nurture.”
Teddy, she reports, is very happy.
“We always talked about going back to Australia. Having this job is great – it’s the right time,” she says.