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Wal Gregory : Associate Artist

Photo of Wal Gregory

Born: Bathurst, NSW, 26 October 1938.

My father was a big influence on many things in my life, especially music. He had been a semi-professional musician in Sydney before being sent to Bathurst in 1938 (a work posting) where he soon became very active and respected in its musical scene. From him I gained my love of classical and jazz music and when (in my teens) I was good enough to join them, Dad and his cronies always offered friendly encouragement and advice. However in those days music wasn't considered a suitable school subject, so I had to learn from books, scores, listening and friends.

After leaving school I moved to Wollongong in 1958 and got involved in the limited jazz scene (best payment was free beer!). We often used my arrangements and compositions, some of which we still play. However in 1962 I gave up music for seven years, in which time I got married, produced 4 children, graduated as a surveyor and got involved in contemporary art.

I was enticed back to music in 1969 and in the 70s played in club bands and in a big band, for which I contributed arrangements. Up until then I'd been self-taught, but in 1977, to improve my arranging skills, I attended Sydney Conservatorium's jazz studies course, doing big and small band arranging under George Brodbeck. A happy coincident at the end of that year saw the formation of EROS Big Band (still going strong), in which I began using my improved arranging skills. Since then EROS has been a great supporter of my compositions and arrangements (which at their best are a form of composition).

Besides EROS, I have composed for a variety of local groups including Belmore Basin Jazz Band (which I joined in 1985), the Wollongong Conservatorium Big Bands, various school groups, a small classical ensemble and even a church choir. I remain a very provincial musician although this year, thanks to the contact through a young local jazz drummer, John Morrision's Swing City Big Band has been playing some of my compositions and arrangements.

Five Islands Fandango, which gained second prize at the 1984 Australian Jazz Convention, is characteristic of my composition style during that period, while Pannowonica (1999) is typical of my current work. I try to make my music interesting (sometimes challenging) to play and to listen to. Sometimes I am guilty of adding a bit of deviant humour. I believe music is meant to be enjoyed (even the so called heavy classics like Wagner) and those who play my music all do that.

Having taken redundancy as a Registered Surveyor in 1996, I now jokingly call myself a full time musician. I am a member of APRA and the Music Arrangers' Guild of Australia.

Biography provided by the composer