Don Secomb received an OAM for service to the arts, particularly through music. He was one of six people in the region to be honoured on Australia Day.
The name Don Secomb has been synonymous with music in the Manning Valley for the past 30 years.
In that time he has, among other things, been a piano teacher, given time and skills to the Taree and District Eisteddfod, had various roles with Taree Arts Council and other musical theatre organisations and also co-founded a regional orchestra and founded a youth choir.
His contributions have been recognised in the Australia Day honours list, with Don announced a recipient of a Medal of the Order of Australia (OAM) for service to the arts, particularly through music.
“I was shocked,” said Don of the news.
“In a way I just feel like I’ve got some skills and if I can help people put on a show in whatever nature, I’m happy to do it.”
Music has been part of Don’s life since he was a child growing up in Brisbane.
His mother was a singer and enjoyed music and ensured all her children attended piano lessons.
In a way I just feel like I’ve got some skills and if I can help people put on a show in whatever nature, I’m happy to do it.Don Secomb, OAM
He was a cast member in a professional production of Oliver at age 13, and went on to study at the Conservatorium of Music, majoring in piano.
Don then went on to train and work as a professional dancer for a number of years.
It was through Kevin Mills, who Don met through the Australia Opera Company, that he came to Taree in 1988 to set up a piano studio, although he was still living in Sydney until making the move in 1992-93.
“It all started really working with Kevin Mills. That’s how the Manning Valley Choral Society and (the youth choir) Voiceworks came about.”
Don was musical director for two choral society shows, the first a variety concert titled The Best of Times, staged at the end of 1988, followed by The King and I.
He also founded and coordinated the youth choir, Voiceworks, the children’s part of the choral society, which ran for a number of years in the 1990s.
Through his involvement with the choral society “one thing led to another” and he came to be aware of the Taree Arts Council.
In 1991 he was a dancer in its production of Camelot and in 1995, musically directed Les Misérables.
Since then Don has had various roles with Taree Arts Council, as rehearsal pianist, vocal and/or orchestral director and/or musical director. He’s also been a cast member at times.
He is generally approached to take on the role of musical director and over the past 10 years has worked on a number of productions directed by Gayle Cameron, who he describes as ‘wonder woman’.
Don’s involvement with the Taree and District Eisteddfod Society began in the 1990s and continues to this day.
A lot of what I do is working with kids and younger people and that’s where I really feel passionate about itDon Secomb OAM
He started as a piano accompanist for competitors and has been piano section coordinator since 2008. He also accompanies performers during the grand concerts.
He was a co-founder of the regional orchestra, Sinfonia Mid North Coast in 1999-2000, is a past conductor and director and is a current adjudicator, sitting in on some scholarship auditions.
A member/supporter of Mirage Theatre, Armchair Theatre since 1992, he was also a past orchestra member for Clockwork Theatre for the musical productions Hansel and Gretel and Song for a Tree.
“A lot of what I do is working with kids and younger people and that’s where I really feel passionate about it. When I’m at the eisteddfod the majority are under 20.”
Through a lot of his work with young people, as well as when he works in musicals and with groups, he aims to pass on his musical passion and instill a desire to strive for excellence.
When asked what music means to him he answers with one word: joy.
“Because it’s such an abstract thing, music doesn’t mean anything like when you read a book and there is a meaning.”
He said if you listen to a piece of music, everyone can get something different out of listening to the same piece of music.
“That diversity of what it does for everyone, that’s what’s so special about music.”
Classical music has been at the forefront of his musical career.
That diversity of what it does for everyone, that’s what’s so special about music.Don Secomb, OAM
“When it comes to playing music as a youngster, it would have been classical. As a teenager I got more into pop music but as a player, I continued to play classical.
“I’d go out with friends to concerts and discos and all the latest Motown and hits of the ’70s but when I was playing it was 100 per cent classical.”
The fact that classical music can bring multiple meanings and feelings to multiple people is what he loves about it.
“It can bring you joy or have you in a flood of tears, you can run the gamut of emotions.”
In 2018 Don was announced joint winner of the Manning Winter Festival Performing Arts Award, along with Tanya Brown.
He is about to head into piano teaching again as the new year gets underway, and is also preparing as a coordinator of the eisteddfod’s piano section.
Order of Australia
The Order of Australia is the principal means of recognising outstanding members of the community at a national level and nominations are encouraged from all members of the Australian public. It was established in 1975 by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. Source: Governor-General