In the Studio with Peter Luff

Jamie Kennedy spoke with Peter Luff, distinguished Brisbane-based horn player and teacher, about playing and learning in orchestras, mentorship and healthy competitiveness in conservatoriums.

Peter Luff head shot

Photo credit: QSO

Jamie: You’re a very active musician, as Co-Chair of Brass at Queensland Conservatorium Griffith University and Associate Principal Horn of the Queensland Symphony Orchestra amongst many other activities. Can you tell me a bit about your life as a musician up to this point? What were some of the highlights and some of the challenges?

Peter: I’m from Western Australia originally, and started with music in Perth. Having started out on trumpet I didn’t actually play horn until I was in high school. My first horn teacher of note was a guy called Paul Duhig; he actually has a huge stable of professional horn players who have come through the ranks as his students. He’s only about five or six years older than me – Paul was a very young teacher straight out of university – and I’m now teaching some students who actually studied with him, so it’s really gone full circle. He’s a kind of horn grandfather even though he’s not that much older. Paul instilled a great interest in the horn in me, there was something really fascinating about the way he described things. He played in lessons and was a good player. I don’t know what his professional background was or has become, but I know he still teaches and I have contact with him. He helped me develop a great enjoyment of playing, and identified ability in me which he fostered.

I auditioned for the Elder Conservatorium in Adelaide, for no other reason than there being no conservatorium in Western Australia at that stage. The University of Western Australia appeared to be a heavily academic programme compared to the Elder Con, and I also had grandparents who lived in Adelaide. I wanted to get away from Western Australia at that point, to get out of Perth and see the big wide world as they say. My teacher at the Elder Con in Adelaide was Patrick Brislan; he is the real reason why I love the horn and love music. Patrick was a phenomenal musician who had an amazing way of inspiring me to play music. I just loved going to lessons to play for him. A very calm gentleman, incredibly knowledgeable, he was a member of the Adelaide Wind Quintet for many years who had a good musical background. He wasn’t really playing at the time, but playing enough to demonstrate things.

Patrick was my major influence at university level along with maybe a couple of others. My greatest inspiration through all of my university days was Hector McDonald who taught at the Canberra School of Music at the time, although I didn’t realise that until after I’d been studying for a while. He came to Adelaide on occasions where I had the chance to join classes with him and have a few lessons. They were wonderful lessons; Hector was just the most phenomenal player I had ever heard. Seriously an amazing soloist, an amazing chamber musician and a fantastic teacher with incredible diagnostic skills. Hector was the pinnacle for me, while I always had the mentorship of Patrick. I always went back to Patrick because he was the type of teacher who allowed me to do anything I wanted, like have lessons with other teachers.

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One response

  1. A really excellent interview! I haven’t met Peter, but he sounds like a wonderful pedagogue that cares deeply for other musicians, and works hard at the craft.
    I really value the notion of having a mentor, and being able to act in that role for others if and when they need it, too. It’s been very important to me, especially when moving through different phases of professional life, to have a mentor (not that we’ve ever used that term) to bounce ideas off, play things for, and use as a sounding board. It’s all too easy, when venturing out into the professional world, to think that you’re on your own, and it’s all up to you at the point. It’s nice to know that someone has got your back when you need it.
    Loved hearing some good ol’ Adelaide names in there, too!