Work Experience

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Maggie Zeng working on the Sydney Conservatorium Ruckers Double harpsichord1103K jpeg
Maggie at the Sydney Conservatorium 2021 Ruckers Double.

Word must have got out amongst the harpsichord students at Sydney’s “Con High”, the selective high school attached to the Sydney Conservatorium of Music: Maggie Zeng had enthusiastically reserved her August 2023 workplace learning week in early April!

Maggie is a Year 10 violin student of Evgeny Sorkin doing harpsichord as her second instrument. There were no rehearsal or concert activities scheduled during the week, so this allowed us to spend most of our time together in the workshop.

First project was to get familiar with the Kevin Fryer Ottavina, which had just returned from the Australian Brandenburg Orchestra’s sellout twelve-concert Ottoman Baroque series. It was on the bench, so we took it all apart to make some keyboard and action refinements.

Throughout the week, we also worked on a Hubert clavichord I built in 1987, removing the original strings to allow a thorough cleaning of the soundboard, keys and case interior in preparation for restringing and eventual sale to its new home. Maggie studied how to wind nice double-helix hitchpin loops—essential for tuning stability.

I do believe that certain instrumentalists like string players are in a better position to grasp tuning fundamentals because they have already learned how to listen. Pianists generally have a much harder time, because they are used to bellying up to a complicated instrument already prepared for them.

There were several instruments for Maggie to practice her tuning on, and discover that each instrument has its own personality. She began on a Ruckers Single, then honed her skills on my 2003 Ruckers Double which had recently returned from the Australian Festival of Chamber Music in Townsville. The single-choir AMD Cadet was next, then my two Italians gave her a brass-strung perspective.

Thursday was the day for out-calls, so we spent the morning at Sydney Con to check over my 2021 Ruckers Double and ensure it is working perfectly for the beginning of second semester. Then we dropped into the Brandenburg Orchestra’s studio at Mascot to detail Paul Dyer’s French Double built by Melbourne maker Alastair McAllister in 2000, and tune their Walter fortepiano copy by Detmar Hungerberg.

More tuning for Maggie back at the workshop, then to finish the week, we had some scanning of my Sotheby’s Musical Instrument auction catalog collection to update that section of this website.

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