Trevor Henley: retirement speech, OCGA Dinner - 2015

31 July, 2015,  The Pullman (Hilton on the Park), Melbourne, Australia

Trevor Henley is ending a celebrated career as a music teacher and Director of Music at Camberwell Grammar School. He made this speech at the Old Boys (OCGA) annual dinner.

Ladies and gentlemen,

To see so many past Camberwell Grammarians; former students;(I am disinclined to use the word “old” these days!) and staff, is testament to the strength of the School, the OCGA and its network administered and encouraged so much by Liz Board and her team in the Development Office. Thank you Liz.

Tonight is one for us all to mix and reconnect with each other sharing times past.

Quite recently whilst lying in the sun; as I am wont to do!; on a green, grassy verge next to a babbling brook in the French countryside, I fell into reflective mood.

Should tonight be about my times at school, or your times at school, or perhaps our times at school?  And then I began to realize all I was leaving behind once this school year concludes.

Perhaps it is times shared that is best to recall.

1965 is when it all began for me, in the old Memorial Hall at the first Junior School House Music Competition. It was the beginning of my time at CGS and a time of change for my family.

And this is how it began …

Play flute accomp by JWM

Change! It affects us all. Sometimes it happens very often, sometimes regularly, and sometimes only occasionally. All of us here have had changes of various kinds, from the most basic and simplest to the most complicated. Sometimes the change can be happy and sometimes it can be traumatic.

The Headmaster will not really believe that I am actually using this word “change,” as he is not used to me changing anything-with the exception of my wardrobe!

In fact he has said that next year he might actually be allowed a word or two about some new ideas or possibly “change”!

The big change for me was when my family moved from country Victoria to Rubens Grove Canterbury, in December 1964, as my younger brother David and I were enrolled at Camberwell Grammar School.

Though we only attended the school for a very short time, we never really left its physical precincts. Joining St Mark’s Choir maintained the links with friends made at the school, and especially with John Mallinson.

Change is what I am looking towards in the very near future, but as CGS has been a constant my entire working life I will reflect upon the past 45 years teaching at CGS and my 50 year association with the school.

What memories do you have from “the happy days at school”…even though the school no longer “looks down t’wards the golden west”! But instead to the windy, and at the present time, very icy north!

A few of my memories from 1965: teachers such as Kyn Craig liked to say he single handedly fought the Japanese.

French teacher, “Dr” Harry Iverson lasted one year, and gave me ZZ minus 100 for my end of year mark!!!

Rod Lamborn driving his VW beetle which he was still driving 20 ye]ars later.

Ian Mason and his baby Austin always parked at the front of Roystead.

Roy McDonald upstairs in roystead with his cats and his cello. Ron Wootton in his art room, Harry Rice in his pottery room, John Mallinson in “Tara.” John Stafford and Bruce Doery sharing a small portable room between Roystead and the Memorial Hall.

The Pirates of Penzance was staged in the Memorial Hall in 1965 and all the first and second formers in the choir formed the girls chorus, tripping our way merrily and gaily across the stage.

To quote Ian Hansen’s 1986 book to celebrate the School’s Centenary; “By Their Deeds;” one of Major General Stanley’s daughters was a very young; and I would like to think, fetching; “yours truly! ” playing the role of Isabelle.

Memories of the “Highton Highway” across the JTO. Hymn singing and massed singing  assemblies in the Centenary Quadrangle during the 1995-’96 building of the PAC and Music School… the neighbours loved it at 8.30 in the morning hearing the 23rd psalm and the Pilgrim hymn to name but two.

Paul Hicks and especially Chris Bence moving furniture at concerts.

Prior to 1988, Andrew Cox used to say that apart from the music, the most entertainingsection of school concerts was to see how fast Trevor could swing the furniture into place for the next item. He was a bit disappointed when others took over from me in 1988!

The senior boys in the choir at the large Sunday Choir rehs would take bets as to how long it would be before I would sling a poor middle school boy out for not paying attention… and you boys would whisper to each other

“ooohh….. I love it when he does that”!!!

I always apologised and allowed the crest fallen child back for the performance.

My first Hamer Hall concert as Dir of Music where the pipe organ was not loud enough. So I called out (with apologies to the ladies here)

“Can you give me more organ Mr Joyner”

Sport was not my favourite activity! I just didn’t turn up! And got away with it!  A bit like the 1995 Captain of Music!

How many of you were ragged or teased for what ever reason at school as boys, let alone as a teacher! Looking younger than many of the senior boys, I often felt intimidated walking across to the Common Room, always up to date in my not exactly “un-colourful clothes,” but feeling rather self conscious.

 Carrying a musical instrument in the 60’s and early 70’s took some grit and determination. What may have been odd then is now very much the norm, with over 400 boys playing instruments in many ensembles and as skilled soloists.  CGS is also now a ‘singing school’.

Those who did not wish to join the choirs enjoy massed singing at weekly assemblies and during our annual concerts.

These singing experiences regularly display the healthy soul of the school of which the annual Senior House Music Competition is the perfect example.

Thank goodness those days of discrimination and teasing for both boys and staff have well and truly gone at CGS. It is now a place where any person can feel secure in themselves, where a boy can be himself, participate in any activity and feel comfortable, supported and, we hope, happy at school

Whilst I have many vivid and happy memories of my association with you all, to recall only a few memories of some of you here tonight would be doing an injustice to all the others.

Buildings have come down and gone up,

real-estate  has been acquired and is still being acquired. So the physical School is not what it was in 1965.

But a school in not really about buildings, rules and regulations, as necessary as they are.

It is about the people who go to it; teaching and learning day in day out, acquiring the necessary tools or building blocks for their future.

Contributing to the fabric of its day to day goings on and to its history. This is the essence of a school, a sense of community, receiving and contributing, winning and losing with good grace, doing something good for others as well as yourself.

Teachers and Headmasters come and go.

The uniform changes, the standard of academic excellence rises, and the enrolments increase.

The increased range of sporting opportunities is not always reflected in the weekend results but makes sport much more palatable to a wider range of students..  Overseas cultural, language and sporting tours continue to enrich the lives of our students.

But it is the development of “The Arts” within the total school programme that I see as one of the biggest changes. The performing arts in music and drama, and the creative arts in painting, sculpture, ceramics, visual communication and design have expanded beyond all measure since those early days.

I have been told that the development of the arts within the school has changed the culture of the school.

I think I can say that Music is now core and central to the life of CGS. Every boy is now a performer at some time in his school life.  Instituted in 1986 by John Mallinson and Graham Morey-Nase with David Dyer’s support,

the Biennial Concert in Hamer Hall continues to be the platform for this to happen where so many of you have been a part. The “Hamer Hall” concert has grown to include everyone in the school community.

There would be few, if any schools, where the boys and their teachers perform as one unit which is eagerly anticipated by the whole school every two years. The sense of pride in themselves, their achievement, and in their school that this concert engenders, is priceless.

I wonder what you have taken away from your school days? Perhaps some of my recollections might ring true for you.

How much do you wish to recall and how much would you prefer to forget?

But with the passing of time I hope that we are all able to look back with fondness upon many or some of our days at school.

In conclusion if I may be a little self indulgent.

During my teaching career I have been supported by wonderful teaching colleagues, by very fine specialist Music Staff and by three very tolerant and encouraging Headmasters.

A truly supportive school environment encompassing Staff in all areas, Parents, Friends and especially wonderful giving, forgiving and enthusiastic students who have really cared for me  and supported me in my work.

I leave behind a very special place, after 45 years working in this community, which has embraced me and I have embraced  it.

A place where I have been accepted for all that I am, and all that I do both musically, and in other areas.

To be able to achieve more than I could ever have hoped or dreamed, to experience so much that I wanted to be a part and to have had the chance to accomplish so much and beyond what  I thought possible, has made for  a very happy and fulfilling career.

This is something that many people aspire, but few attain, and I feel so fortunate to be one of those rare people who have had that experience.

The old saying “ that in giving you receive” is so very true.  

I have received far more than I could ever have asked or hoped, from my colleagues, from parents and friends but most especially from thousands of boys.

Quite simply, I could ask for nothing more.

May I ask you to be upstanding for a toast to The School……