Getting to know… Victoria Jacono-Gilmovich of Inner West Institute of Music

Based in Five Dock and owned by award-winning Victoria Jacono-Gilmovich, IWIM offers music education to children, adults, the disabled, the elderly and music lovers alike. They believe that a balanced attitude toward lifelong music learning should be encouraged in every person.
www.innerwestinstituteofmusic.com
Tell us about yourself
I am a violinist, a mother to 2 kids aged 3 & 5 years and an educator which luckily for me all tie in with each other. I can give music and education to my own children, my students, and work in schools with other kids. The 3 things I like the most in life all come together in all aspects of my life; everything I do, read about or spend recreation time is with the kids, education or music. Sometimes I think it is a bit of a tunnel vision life but it is what makes me happy.
I grew up in a family where my mum was, and still is, a fantastic piano teacher. As soon as I was born she stuck a radio in my cot so that I wouldn’t react to her students playing music around me. This conditioned me from day one and it’s perhaps how I became a musician, which set everything in motion for the rest of my life. I never went to day care or preschool so until I was 5, my only friends and playmates were her students and siblings. I grew up believing that every child learnt to play the piano and was shocked when I went to school and discovered I was the only one who played a musical instrument in my class. I felt special and wore it as a prize. In the 80’s it wasn’t that common to learn music outside of school, so I went through my schooling years always feeling that I would be a musician or a music teacher. I never considered anything else.
I went to uni and performed a great deal in Australia and overseas. I had my first child at age 27 and decided to start teaching and cutting down a bit of the performing. After I had my second child – I decided to flip my career and became a full time teacher. I still do the odd performance but nothing like I was doing beforehand.
Tell us about your business, the Inner West Institute of Music
I was working on my own as a violin and piano teacher and had thought about starting a music school. My mum took the kids away to the Central Coast for a couple of days just before Christmas, and I thought “it’s now or never” so started registering the business.
I frantically interviewed people to join me as I already had a waiting list of students that was too long, so I would have had to give those students away to another teacher anyway. As a result, I am now in a position to offer more spots, more instruments and more classes. I have a great guy called Harry who specialises in music therapy for disabled kids, as well as being experienced at running toddler musical engagement groups.
I researched the overseas music schools and found gaps in what we offer in Australia. I couldn’t find many examples of music therapy for the disabled or elderly outside of special schools or nursing homes. A child with a disability who attends the local public school can experience music there, but they don’t cater music therapy for them. The same applies to the elderly; if they live in a nursing home that can provide music for them they get to experience it. For those who live with their kids or spouses they don’t have exposure to music therapy, and it could really help them.
I used to perform concerts regularly at a nursing home and very often I’d play for dementia patients. There could be 40 people in the room sitting in silence but when I started to play popular classical music they’d spark up, start dancing, or some would start to eat even if they hadn’t eaten in days. I could see it would totally change their mood so quickly!
What can your students expect from IWIM and what is your style of teaching?
They can expect that any child can learn an instrument and whilst not every one will become a concert performer, they each have the innate ability to make music. We adapt our offering to each child’s learning preference, for example we have downloadable study guides for the AMEB exams and coming soon we will offer a podcast of the same content for the students who prefer to learn things aurally instead of visually.
I am slightly dyslexic and never trusted my own ability to read music as a student. I would listen to recordings non-stop to memorise my pieces. I even recorded my study notes on my other subjects and listened to them so that I could learn the content. As a result, I am more sympathetic to kids who learn in a variety of ways. Students these days tend to need technology and I often use my phone to take a photo or record something for them in the lessons and find the kids are responding well to these sorts of resources.
Why does teaching music to all ages and abilities appeal to you?
First of all I believe it is never too early to start learning but also it is never too late. If you can get in as early as possible, that’s great but if you have left it to later you can still start it at 30, 50 or 70 years of age. Music is not like training to be a gymnast – you can wake up at 70 and decide to learn it. I think it’s important that teachers know that everyone can do it. If you learn something and repeat it, it can become second nature like learning a language.
What are ear training classes? Who are they most suited to and what benefits do they offer?
It is similar to solfege, where you can read or hear music and understand its elements. Some people believe perfect pitch is a gift that you are born with; I believe that it can be trained. It’s about building the memory in your ear. For example most people would acknowledge that their fridge is humming and a spoon dropping clangs, whereas my daughter (who I’ve been ear training from a very young age) will say the fridge is humming at a G sharp. If you train your listening, it can become an acquired skill. It’s really best described as listening with intent or tuning into sounds more acutely.
The benefits of ear training and combining it with learning music is obvious, but you don’t need to learn music to do ear training. One of my teachers , Alvart Apoyan has spent years in Armenia teaching students how to hear and identify, for example, the flute or violin in a symphony.
There will be different focuses of the ear training classes, from an adult appreciation of music to more student-focused learning where students will be taught to play in tune and listen properly to what they are playing.
You are an accomplished, award-winning musician who has performed all over the world. What is it about music that inspires you so much? 
Music has been my language for so long and being an introvert, it has always been a comfortable place for me. I think that is the same case for so many other people – life can be so easily felt or explained with something musical. Music fills the gaps that we can’t achieve with words or feelings and it can make us more rounded as humans.
Tell us about a favourite journey you have witnessed a student go on while teaching them.
I see a lot of my students that have grown up over the years and I’ve seen them go from early primary and some of them get scholarships at private schools or do music for their HSC, it’s hard to pick a favourite!
I loved growing up with my mum’s students and seeing her students progression from child to adult. She has kept so many close relationships with her students and has been invited to their 18th and 21st birthdays and their weddings – she has almost become a parent to all people. She is now teaching her students children, which is amazing. These students and parents have already become so close with our family that they are practically like extended family. The most inspirational thing is the relationships and I just hope I can have the same journey with my own students, it’s something I aspire to.
For you, what is the best part of having a music career?
There are so many parts to being a musician, from performing and teaching and I have changed my focus to suit my own life stages. Now that I have started IWIM, I’ll also hold a management role, which is new and different again. Then, when my kids grow up I might go back to performing more regularly. It has fit perfectly where I need to be with my family.
I am listening to…
ABC Classic FM on radio because I like not knowing what is coming up next. I like listening to podcasts with wide ranging topics. I love the Mamamia ‘How does she do it?’ podcasts about mums in business and how they juggle family life. I am addicted to TED Talk podcasts and hearing about topics I have no idea about. Sometimes I’ll go and Google the topic to learn more. I often combine household tasks, like folding laundry, with listening to the talks.
What do your kids listen to?
Classical music, talking books or listening to my students practice. I try to avoid them listening to kids music or listening to the same cd’s over and over. If you never played the Wiggles to them they wouldn’t know they miss it. I only let them listen to what I want to hear, which is a variety of music.
Favourite spots in Sydney’s Inner West?
I am a foodie and love Ramsey Street in Haberfield and try to shop there whenever I can to support local family businesses. When I am there I am in my zone as a foodie and as a consumer. There are some great speciality shops like the cheese shop, the pasta shop, the bread shop, and a fruit and veg shop that has the biggest eggs – the most incredible things that you just don’t find elsewhere in Sydney. It’s mostly Italian stuff and it’s my happy place, I like to go there alone so I can shop slowly and feel like I am in Europe.
 
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