Head of Program (Piano), Curriculum Coordinator, Piano Teacher
Acclaimed pianist and Head of the Central Coast Conservatorium’s Piano Department, Carl Schmidt, has performed all around the world – from European palaces to the iconic Sydney Opera House. Concerts have ranged from intimate recitals for diplomats to grand choral masterpieces with full orchestra.
In addition to his classical background, Carl enjoys listening to, and playing, music from many different genres.
“Much like appetite changes, so does my musical mood. I have a very eclectic taste in music and on my commute up and down the freeway I can be listening to anything from Rachmaninoff concertos to Elton John,” says Carl.
In fact, it wasn’t until he was eight that Carl, who was born and raised on the NSW Central Coast, took to the piano after finding his mother’s old records of the Chopin Etudes. “My mum played the piano a bit, but both parents were not really musicians. My great grandmother however, apparently played piano for the old silent movies back in England,” he says.
It was always Carl’s childhood dream to study and perform in Europe, and after graduating with 1st class honours from the Sydney Conservatorium of Music he went on to complete a Master of Music degree in Piano Performance from the Royal Conservatory of The Netherlands. He has also regularly appeared as soloist and member of various ensembles around the world and is an accomplished accompanist, chamber musician, and a senior piano examiner for the Australian Music Examinations Board (AMEB).
It was while living in the Netherlands that Carl was invited to give a recital for foreign diplomats and members of the international courts on a brand new Steinway housed in the grand ballroom of a historic palace in the Hague. Carl said it was that moment, plus being part of a performance of Carmina Burana at Sydney Opera House, was one of the highlights of his career. “Being on stage in the middle of such a huge orchestra and choir in such an iconic venue was definitely a memorable experience for me.”
With over 25 years’ of teaching and performing experience, including adjudicating at all levels from local scholarships through to international competitions, Carl says his main goal as the head of program and teacher at the Central Coast Conservatorium, is to “help students of all ages and abilities discover the amazing world of music to further enrich and expand their own world, as it has my own”.
“My affiliation with the Conservatorium goes back to the ‘80s and I am excited by what the future holds for the organisation. I look forward to being part of an organisation that provides the highest level of musical tuition and whose name is synonymous with musical excellence on the Central Coast. The gift of music is one that we have a duty to share, and it is a gift that has the ability to shape lives.”
When he’s not playing, practising, listening to, examining, or teaching music, Carl – a father to three energetic boys – enjoys learning new skills, from creating websites and designing apps to building a swimming pools and doing stand-up paddleboarding. “Whatever challenge I take on I like to do it with 100 per cent focus and commitment.”
Carl holds a 1st Class Bachelor of Music from the Sydney Conservatorium of Music and a Masters of Music degree in Piano Performance from the Royal Conservatory of The Netherlands. While living in Europe Carl was invited to perform in the 2004 International Chopin Festival in The Hague and with Steve Reich during the 2003 Steve Reich Festival.
He has recorded the complete Chopin Preludes and the Brahms Fantasien Opus 116 and has been soloist with the Central Coast Symphony Orchestra, Balmain Sinfonia and Sydney Youth Orchestra. He was a recitalist for the Sydney Conservatorium’s Virtuoso Piano Series and a lecturer and performer at the 2008 Summer Piano Teachers’ Festival.
Carl is an experienced examiner and adjudicator and was a jury member for the 2016 Australia Chinese Arts Study & Exchange Association International Music Festival Piano Competition. He continues to give workshops, recitals and masterclasses for NSW Music Teachers’ Association and other musical organisations state-wide.
As Founder of the Scottish International Piano Competition who received musical training at the highest level in Sydney and Russia, as well competing on the international stage and performing with ABC orchestras, piano teacher Elisabeth Jacobs brings a wealth of experience and knowledge to the Central Coast Conservatorium of Music.
Elisabeth began learning piano at five then received her early training at Sydney Conservatorium of Music, graduating with many prizes. Before moving to continue her studies in St Petersburg Conservatoire as a Churchill Fellow, Elisabeth won the ABC Concerto and Vocal Competition, a prize which allowed her to record and perform with the major orchestras in Australia including the ABC orchestra in Adelaide, Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane.
“A highlight for me was performing Moussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition in the Leningrad Philharmonia Small Hall on a wonderful Bosendorfer Imperial grand piano,” she says.
Upon completion of studies in Russia, Elisabeth competed in a number of International Piano Competitions in Moscow (Tchaikovsky Competition), Lisbon (Vianna da Motta), Vercelli and Leipzig (International Bach Competition). From St Petersburg Elisabeth moved to Glasgow where she took up the position of lecturer in piano at the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama.
It was Elisabeth’s experience in piano competitions that she says was “invaluable” when it came to setting up the Scottish International Piano Competition, which she founded with Royal Scottish Academy colleague Bernard King.
Elisabeth says her years of performing, teaching, giving masterclasses, as well as being the official accompanist for the International Competition of Junior Violinists held in Glasgow and sitting on the jury of the Scottish International Piano Competition leave her well-placed to now pass on her skills, passion and knowledge to music students on the Central Coast.
When it comes to her own favourite works, Elisabeth is moved by works by Beethoven and Strauss.
“I love so many works but I am completely transported by Beethoven’s Missa Solemnis and the Grosse Fugue. But American opera singer Jessye Norman singing Im Abendrot by Strauss is totally irresistible.”
It is this love of music Elisabeth hopes to pass on to her pupils.
“To quote the Russian School of Piano Playing Book 1, as a piano teacher I aim to ‘instil in the pupil a love of music as an art and the ability to portray its different feelings, moods and emotional experiences associated with everyday life’” says Elisabeth.
Piano Teacher / Keyboard Club
Aaron, who teaches in the Conservatorium’s Keyboard Club, began as a piano student at a very young age, and completed his AMEB piano studies with A+ High Distinction in Grade 8, as well as achieving a Band 6 in both HSC Music 2 and Music Extension (Performance) in 2018. He was the winner of The Pearl Beach Senior Music Scholarship and People’s Choice Award in 2018.
A former Central Coast Conservatorium of Music student himself, who learned with Carl Schmidt, Aaron graduated from Macquarie University in 2022 with a Bachelor of Cognitive and Brain Sciences, in pursuit of his long-held joint passion for both music, sound and research. Aaron has secured a place to further his studies with a Masters of Research in Cognitive Science in 2024, and is looking forward to the opportunity to combine his passion for music with research in sound, hearing and the brain.
As a teacher, Aaron enjoys building great working relationships with the broad range of students he teaches. He began mentoring young students in his early years of High School in both music and other subjects, and loves sharing his passion for music with young learners. Aaron is a firm believer in the value of musical education to help young students grow, and loves seeing them build their confidence and skill by sharing his knowledge of music and playing the piano.
Carl Schmidt said of Aaron: “I have had the privilege of guiding Aaron from the early stages of his musical development. His innate passion and talent for music have been evident from the start. Aaron is a versatile musician who excels not only in playing the piano, but also in singing. He has a great spirit of generosity and enjoys passing on his musical knowledge to others, sharing his abilities and joy of music through his teaching.”
Born into a musical family, as a youngster Matthew studied piano, violin and guitar. After choosing in his early teens to focus on the piano, he achieved considerable success in the solo performance world. Tertiary studies were completed at the Sydney Conservatorium, and it was there that he felt the pull of collaborative music making through chamber music, and the vast palette of magnificent repertoire made available. He majored in piano accompaniment, with a focus on string and vocal music. After several years of post-graduate study and the ex-pat life in London, Matthew returned to Australia and joined the accompaniment staff of the Newcastle Conservatorium, and began teaching and performing throughout NSW.
Beyond his musical training, Matthew has qualifications in neuro-linguistic programming as well as in remedial massage, and uses these skills to work with budding musicians on both the psychology and the physiology of playing their instrument.His focus with students is on fostering creativity and exploration of the instrument, along with gaining a core understanding of simple structures underlying musical creation. He’s also focussed on making music fun.
Liisa was awarded a Bachelor of Music (Piano Performance) from Sydney Conservatorium of Music and has extensive experience as a rehearsal pianist and accompanist and is a member of the Accompanists Guild of NSW.
Piano Teacher and Accompanist
From vocalists and violinists to bassoonists and brass players, many Central Coast Conservatorium of Music students (past and present) and local choristers can attest to the unfaltering, awe-inspiring sight reading ability of experienced piano accompanist and teacher Lilli Naulu.
“I love accompanying and performing with the many instrumentalists and vocalists at the Conservatorium over the years for numerous concerts and exams,” says Lilli.
An exceptional piano student from a young age, who studied at Sydney Conservatorium High School receiving her A.Mus Diploma in piano in Year 9, Lilli went on to study Bachelor of Music majoring in piano performance at Sydney Conservatorium of Music with Stephanie McCallum.
But it was her exceptional sight-reading skills that led Lilli to major in Piano Accompaniment in her third year at university in which she studied accompaniment with David Miller. “ I chose to pursue the path of being an accompanist rather than a concert pianist due to my enjoyment of playing in an ensemble as well as my proven sight-reading skills.”
Demonstrating also a keen interest in music study, Lilli furthered her music education studying a Master of Creative Arts at the Newcastle Conservatorium of Music to build her solo repertoire and maintain her skills in piano performance. Part of her studies included performing four piano recitals which were recorded on the Stuart and Sons piano.
The following year, in 2005, Lilli completed a Graduate Diploma in Secondary Education at University of Canberra. “During this time I was also employed as a Staff Accompanist at the ANU School of Music accompanying university students for their music examination recitals.”
Since then Lilli has worked as a music teacher in high schools across Sydney and the Central Coast, including Willoughby Girls High, The Hills Grammar School, Wyong High School, Gosford High School and The Central Coast Grammar School. She has also worked as an HSC Music Examiner for Music 1 students.
In 2014, Lilli decided to return to teaching piano as well as building her work as a professional accompanist and joined the Central Coast Conservatorium as a piano tutor. “Since this time I have taught many students ranging from beginners to advanced level, as well as accompanying numerous concerts and music events held by the Conservatorium.”
In 2015 she returned to the Sydney Conservatorium of Music to complete a Master of Music Studies specialising in piano accompaniment.
A highlight of Lilli’s career was performing for His Majesty King Taufa’ahau Tupou IV of Tonga during a visit to Sydney in the 90s. “I remember performing the Chopin Revolutionary Etude. Being of Tongan heritage it was a great privilege and experience for me, one I will never forget,” she said.
She has a broad taste in music. “As a classical pianist I have studied and performed piano works by Beethoven, Mozart, Liszt, Chopin, Debussy, Ravel and Rachmaninoff. But I also love to listen and play many other genres of music ranging from RnB and reggae to classical and pop.”
Lilli says her strengths lie in her wealth of experience as a music educator and professional musician. “I’ve served many different roles – from high school music teacher and accompanist to HSC Music examiner – and I think this is what sets me apart from the average music teacher.”
She says the reason she comes to work everyday is because of her passion and love for music and for playing the piano. “I want to impart my skills with the students I teach, collaborating with students and other staff in helping to nurture and build their musical skills while fostering a love for learning music of many different styles.”
As a child listening to Rachmaninov in bed on a radio she had smuggled under her pillow, Sharon Hatton fell asleep to the composer’s third piano concerto – one of the most difficult pieces ever written for piano.
“This will sound a bit of a cliché, but I absolutely love the Rach 3, even before it was featured in the movie Shine,” says Central Coast Conservatorium piano teacher Sharon.
“I would fall asleep listening to the radio and the Rach 3 came on one night. Why anyone would play that at night is beyond my comprehension, but that was amazing to a young little me.”
Born and raised in Singapore, Sharon’s home was filled with music. “My parents were session and wedding musicians, and so there was always singing and music making around in the household, even after they stopped professionally. My dad had vinyl records of the London Symphony Orchestra as well so that’s where my love for classical music began.”
She started piano lessons aged five by a preschool teacher who heard Sharon playing tunes on the classroom piano by ear.
“She offered me a free year of lessons if my parents bought me a piano, which they did.”
After completing her AMus from the London College of Music at 18, Sharon went on to complete a Bachelor of Music from University of New England.
“I look back and I am ever grateful that I had amazing piano teachers along the way,” says Sharon who realised early on in her musical career that her heart lay in teaching music and piano to young children.
“I enjoyed performing, but it was never as exciting as teaching for me,” she says.
This realisation was cemented after attending a workshop on the Dalcroze method – a pedagogical approach to music taught through physical movement by Dr Joan Pope OAM – former President of Dalcroze Australia.
“That truly opened up the world of music and movement, and learning to lay the foundation in teaching young children.”
In Singapore, Sharon planned and taught a keyboard curriculum for Years 1 to 6 as a pilot program in a neighbourhood primary school.
“It was a real honor, knowing that every single student in that school was not just receiving a general music lesson, but being taught to play an actual instrument. I hope that opened up musical doors for some of those primary school children and that they went on to use that to explore and learn more music.”
Sharon says she believes it is the right of every child to learn music properly and formerly, as part of their emotional and social growth and development. “I don’t think music education should be a privilege.”
Her favourite part of her job at the Con is walking through the halls and hearing music playing from every room. “The Con is an exciting place for students to explore music and be offered various opportunities to perform and gain scholarships.”
When it comes to lessons, Sharon stresses the importance of planning and fun. “I’ve always given great thought to lesson planning, in choosing repertoire for my students, and also various aspects of developing piano technique in a fun and enjoyable way.
“My goal is to instil a lifelong love for learning music in each of my students, so that they always continue to play piano and make music throughout their lives. I always enjoyed my lessons with my teachers, and I gain so much joy in music. I hope all my students feel the same.”