On the Couch with Chris Maunders

Chris-MaundersWho is Chris Maunders?
I am a full-time chromatic harmonica player local to Melbourne. My life (outside of a pandemic) consists of gigs, teaching, rehearsals, studio work and all things music. I was Australia’s first person to study formal music tuition on my instrument (Victorian College of the Arts, Melbourne University). I continued my studies to write a one-of-a-kind thesis focusing on technique for the chromatic harmonica and its teaching methods.

What would you do differently from what you do now?
I would have started actively playing music at a younger age. My brother and I were always very interested in different styles of music as children, although music tuition wasn’t part of our childhood, so the thought of actually learning and creating music on instruments wasn’t even considered. I would also have followed my own ideas earlier in my career and cared less about what other people thought about my own musical practices. Besides this, I am entirely happy, grateful and proud of my musical activities.

Who inspires you and why?
I’m inspired by people that speak honestly and openly, who have the ability to truly listen to others, those that are genuinely inquisitive, critical thinkers, people with strong opinions yet are open to change. I’m inspired by people with culture, who have interest in culture and have stories to tell. Much of my inspiration stems from fellow local musicians that explore different ideas with confidence, these musicians include Andrea Keller, Ronny Ferella, Phillip Noy, Eugene Ball, Scott McConnachie, Adam Haliwell and many more.

Finally, I am extraordinarily inspired by current chromatic harmonica players around the world who are pushing the boundaries of my instrument. These people include Gregoire Maret, Yvonnick Prene, Mathias Heise, Antonio Serrano and Franco Luciani.

What would you do to make a difference in the world?
I asked myself this question in 2017 while working in Government housing, and since then have been acting on this. I developed a music education program, Harp’s a Breeze Harmonica Workshops, which allows me to reach out to children who don’t have access to music tuition and teach them how to play the harmonica. I make sure every participant receives their own harmonica, which they get to keep. The program enables students to form a steady musical platform at an early age on an instrument that is affordable, accessible and fun. I hope this contributes to a healthier Australian music community for the future.

Favourite holiday destination and why?
East Nusa Tenggara for its extraordinarily kind people, Liguria for its pesto, upstream Goulburn River for its tranquility and modesty.

When friends come to town, what attraction would you take them to, and why?
Morning strolls along the Yarra Bend trail (greet the flying foxes), afternoon beer garden gigs at The Brunswick Green, Pinnacle Hotel, Rooks Return and night gigs at Uptown Jazz Café, Jazzlab, Bar 303.

What are you currently reading?
Russell Drysdale 1912-81 by Geoffrey Smith; Tasmanian Aborigines: A History since 1803 by Lyndall Ryan; and The Explorers by Tim Flannery.

What are you currently listening to?
Swailing – Julien Wilson Trio; Sherlock Hanlon Duo – James Sherlock & Ben Hanlon; Lake Tyres – Tom Allen-Graham; I’ll See You in My Dream – Jon Delaney; French Sonatas – Ben Opie; Five Below Live – Andrea Keller; Tango and Milongas by Hugo Diaz, Francisco Canaro, Anibal Troilo and Ruben Juarez. There’s too much to keep up with! Yvonnick Prene’s Harmonica Studio Podcast also floats around in the background when I have spare time, which feeds my hunger to continue learning more about the chromatic harmonica.

Happiness is?
Being part of a strong local music community, playing a high functioning instrument, discovering recordings which really hit me, (hopefully) progressing musically, live music of all kinds, growing surplus amounts of basil.

What does the future hold for you?
My work as a performing musician will constantly evolve as I grow which really excites me, although I have come to realize that my work as an educator holds so much importance to the Australian education system and well-being of children. I hope the future sees me teaching many children across Australia how to play the harmonica. I am currently designing a new Braille system for the harmonica alongside Vision Australia. This will allow me to teach blind and visually impaired children how to play the harmonica, and I’m so excited to see how this project unfolds.

Chris is the Founder and Producer of Harp’s a Breeze – who offer interactive musical workshops on the harmonica! Chris has also released his debut album, It’s Like Reaching for the Moon featuring himself on Chromatic Harmonica, Tom Allen-Graham on Guitar and Stephen Hornby on Bass. For more information, visit: www.chrismaunders.bandcamp.com for details.

Image: Chris Maunders – photo by Waldek Skibinski