You’re Never Too Old To Make Your Concert Hall Debut

Judy Hall has dreamed of being a concert pianist ever since she first played the instrument.

That was a mere 85 years ago.

“My first introduction to technique was you put your hand over your knee, and that’s how you play,” she recalls.

She took to the instrument like a natural, and the piano became her life.

For the last 75 years, Judy’s been teaching others how to play the instrument. But she’d always had a hankering to perform herself.

“I always wanted to, but it was always on the backburner,” Judy, who turned 97 last month, says. “I used to mainly accompany, but I never ever did any solo work.”

But in the last couple of years, her break has finally come – thanks to one of her former students.

Since learning from Judy as a young boy, Timothy Young has gone on to a highly successful international career as a pianist, and is now the Head of Piano and Chamber Music at the Australian National Academy of Music (ANAM).

Last year Judy performed Chopin in regional centres Sale and Warragul with the Gippsland Symphony Orchestra.

And that led to her dream gig.

“I always said I’d love to play at the Melbourne Town Hall because that was the only venue we had in those days for concerts. My Dad and I used to listen, and Mum used to listen, from overseas, these wonderful artists on the radio….”

In November, the Melbourne City Council offered her a Sunday afternoon spot, and she played with the orchestra and Timothy on the Town Hall stage.

But even better was to come. In February this year, Judy was a guest star at the Melbourne Recital Centre’s 10th anniversary concert, playing alongside both Timothy, and another former student of hers, recent ANAM alumnus Alex Waite.

Judy describes it as the highlight of her life.

“I have never had a really good piano to play, only that day… It was a 9 foot new Steinway and it was so beautiful the damn thing played itself! It was like driving a Rolls Royce car.”

Timothy paid tribute as she introduced Judy at the event.

“Without her guidance and support I don’t believe I would have received the timely insight that a career as a musician was even possible,” he said.

Judy still has seven regular students learning from her, ranging in age from 10 to 70. And she says that it’s never too late to learn something new.

“I didn’t drive til I was in my 30s, I learnt swimming at 50, I started the cello at 60, and I started to paint at 60, and I’ve painted 450 paintings,” she says.

“Someone said ‘how did you manage to live so long?’ And I think that’s it, because you’re giving yourself something new to do.”