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HUMBLE, Keith AM (1927-1995)

HUMBLE, Keith AM (1927-1995)

Keith Humble

Keith Humble

Composer, pianist, conductor and educator, Keith Humble was born in Geelong on 6 September 1927. Throughout his life he proudly identified with Australia, the Corio region, and the Humble Family's long-standing contribution to commerce and culture in Geelong. Recognised as a child prodigy pianist, he later won many awards including a coveted overseas scholarship to the Royal Academy of Music in London. This was taken up in 1950 after his piano studies at the University of Melbourne Conservatorium under the invaluable mentorship of Roy Shepherd, a former College staff member. He relocated to Paris in 1951 where he enrolled in the Ecole Normale de Musique and studied privately with the French composer; conductor and theorist, Rene Leibowitz, a former pupil of Anton Webern and the high priest of contemporary music in Paris at that time. He assisted Leibowitz in various exciting performance projects and toured Europe extensively as a soloist and accompanist. In 1955, Keith married Jill Dobson, a former fellow student at the Melbourne Conservatorium.

The experience and enthusiasm for presenting 'new music’ gained from his association with Leibowitz led him, in 1960, to found the Centre de Musique at the American Artists' Center in Paris. This was a unique crucible of creative activity which attracted leading international figures in the avant-garde and hosted a remarkable spectrum of contemporary music and music theatre. By 1966, equipped and exhilarated by his experiences, he was eager to return to Australia and participate in the new developments taking place in the arts. Accepting a post as Senior Lecturer in composition at the University of Melbourne, he embarked on a remarkably diverse, innovative and influential series of creative and educational projects. He joined the Department of Music at the University of California, San Diego in 1971 and three years later was appointed to the Foundation Chair of Music at LaTrobe University, which he retained until his retirement in 1989. LaTrobe was a beacon of innovative contemporary music education in Australia throughout his professorship. After LaTrobe, he remained interested and involved in overseas projects and travelled annually to the USA and France, but his creative energy was focussed on composition. Many of his important works were written in Geelong and Queenscliff during these final years.

Keith Humble died in Geelong on 23 May 1995. Despite his international profile, he saw himself as a community musician and believed passionately in the musical empowerment of local communities and youth. The significance and dynamic legacy of his music and ideas - together with the spirit of his unbounded energy, enthusiasm and curiosity - live on through those whose lives he touched. The KEITH HUMBLE CENTRE for MUSIC and the PERFORMING ARTS at the Geelong College was named in his memory. Latrobe University in the year 2000 also named a major teaching and performance space within the James Forbes Academy, School of Music as the Keith Humble Auditorium.

Sources: Opening Program Keith Humble Centre for Music and the Performing Arts 22 July 2006. Great Scot April 2000 p 23; Images courtesy of Jill Humble.
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