TRIBUTE by Neil Boon
I first met Ted when I joined the RAAF Central Band in September 1958.Ted had already joined the Band a year earlier, when the then conductor Squadron Leader Laurie Hicks had recruited new band members in the UK in 1956-57. Although Ted and I came from very different backgrounds, our love of music, especially our love for the clarinet, was the reason we became very close in the following years. We also held many other values in common. When the Band’s principal clarinetist Peter Clinch decided in 1959 not to sign on again I became the principal clarinetist whilst Ted decided he would prefer to concentrate on the bass clarinet. Within a reasonably short time he became one of Australia’s top bass clarinetists. In an audition for the ABC Symphony Orchestras Ted was placed on a waiting list of suitable bass clarinetists should an opening occur in one of the orchestras.
When eventually Ted was offered a position in The Adelaide Symphony Orchestra Squadron, Leader Hicks prevented him from leaving the RAAF. While he was in the RAAF Band Ted took on the prestigious position of part time clarinet teacher in the Secondary School of Geelong Grammar. The RAAF Central Band of the late fifties and sixties was without a doubt the finest Concert Band in Australia and many of its leading musicians, on leaving the Air Force, became teachers in the Victorian and/or Queensland Education Department’s Instrumental Music Schemes.
Two of such top players in the Band, Ted Lewis and John Wood (the Band’s principal trumpet player), decided to move further away and joined The Education Department of WA; Ted in 1970, John in 1971-72. When I arrived in Perth from the Victorian Education Department in 1971, Ted had already established himself as a fine teacher of clarinet and flute as a member of a group of 4 teachers in the then Music Branch of the Ed Dept. of WA. The other 3 teachers in that group were Sam Maher, John Embleton and Daphne Murnane. In 1971-72 they were joined by John Wood, John Casey and me.The group grew steadily over the next few years when, among others, we were joined by the first Perth Modern School special music students who graduated through The WA Secondary Teachers College. Ted taught in a variety of schools and became the conductor of the highly successful John Forest Senior High School Concert Band when that school became part of the Music Branch’s program.
Ted started teaching in Churchlands Senior High School around 1772-73 and he became chief conductor of that school’s wonderful Concert Band soon after. In 1976 He became co-conductor, together with John Embleton, of the Combined Secondary Schools Concert Band. This was a world class ensemble of its kind and its successes were recognised worldwide. Nine of the fourteen clarinet players in this ensemble were Ted’s students and all of the first clarinet players (except for one) were his students.
In March 1982 I became the Head of Instrumental Music in the Ed Dept. and four years later Music Branch was restructured under the name of School of Instrumental Studies. It was later known as SIM, (School of Instrumental Music).By that time the School employed 160 teachers filling 96 full time positions and I was the School’s first principal from 1986 until 1991.
Looking at teaching and conducting results over the period 1970-2005 (Ted’s retirement year) there were two teachers, Ted and John Casey who, more than any others, produced outstanding world class results, both in personal and ensemble performance standard.
These days there are many professional clarinetists, conductors, teachers and music administrators in Australia who, to a large extent, owe their success to Ted’s dedication to music education. Although, by 1973, some concert bands in Australian schools had reached a high standard of precision performance and discipline already, it was Ted who, more than anyone, introduced a new and important component.
This was musical sensitivity. This had been lacking so far. When Ted conducted a concert band I got the feeling that I was listening to our RAAF Central Band once again. After all, that was the best band in the land!!
Speaking for all those whose lives are enriched by having known Ted.
“Thank you dear friend…. you will live on through your superb contributions.”