Michael Atherton – Lane Cove’s Own Piano Man

In the Cove loves to feature talented Lane Cove locals.  Let us introduce you to Michael Atherton.  Michael Atherton is a composer, performer, musicologist, educator and author.  Michael has written a book called A Coveted Possession: The Rise and Fall of the Piano in Australia.  We asked Michael to tell us about the book.

Why did you write a book about the piano?

I have long believed that the piano helped define us as a nation. I came across fascinating stories and wanted to explore and share them in a book. The book tells the curious story of Australia’s intimate and intrepid relationship with the piano.


Did learning the piano as a child spark your interest?

No, while I play over 30 musical instruments, mostly self- taught, I took up piano lessons later, while I was composing film music. I am also an Emeritus Professor of Music. I founded the music dept at Western Sydney University.  I compose music for voices. Although I have travelled widely as a performing musician, I continue to contribute to music education and development. One of my achievements is leading the development of a music therapy course and clinic in Western Sydney. I was inspired by the mentoring I received from Dame Professor Marie Bashir, while working as a music therapist in her team at the Rivendell Adolescent Unit.  This work highlighted the important role of the piano in music and wellbeing.

Why is the piano so important to the Australian nation?

It tells us about our history and the European part of our heritage. Before electricity brought us the gramophone, the radio and eventually the TV, the piano was central to family and community life. With its iron frame, polished surfaces and ivory keys, an upright piano in the home was a modern industrial machine, a musical instrument and a treasured member of the household, conveying powerful messages about class, education, leisure, national identity and intergenerational history.

We once wanted the piano just as much we did the motor car! 

How long did it take you to write the book?

It took two years of research and writing.  It charts the piano’s fascinating adventures across Australia – on the goldfields, at the frontlines of war, in the manufacturing hubs of the Federation era, and in the hands of the makers, entrepreneurs, teachers and virtuosos of the twentieth history – to illuminate the many worlds in which the ivories were tinkled.

The book has already inspired interest from a film company.

How long have you lived in Lane Cove?

We have lived in Lane Cove for 11 years, and my family loves it. We came here because it’s a great environment for kids. Our son is 13. He attended Lane Cove Public School and plays violin in the wonderful Lane Cove Youth Orchestra

What is your favourite thing to do in Lane Cove?

Go to coffee shops, meet friends, kick a ball on Pottery Green or Blackman Park, and even kayak the Lane Cove River.

Where is the book available?

The book is available in good book stores and online.

Do you know another talented Lane Cove person we should interview?  Drop us a line at [email protected].

Do you have a local issue you would like help with? ITC is here to help just email us at [email protected]

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