Vce english “Maestro” Maestro Peter Goldsworthy

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Peter Goldsworthy

The text used for this essay was:

Maestro, Peter Goldsworthy, Angus and Robertson, Australia, 1989.


PO BOX 2227

KEW VIC 3101


TEL: (03) 9817 5374

FAX: (03) 9817 4334

Maestro Page 1

Peter Goldsworthy


• use the 15 minutes reading time wisely to select your topic and to organise your thoughts.
• when reading the question, key phrases or words in the topic need to be identified and preferably underlined. Let the Examiner know, in the essay, what you understand by these key terms or words.

e.g.- ‘blindness’ could be physical or an unwillingness to see the facts; ‘survival’ could be discussed in both physical and emotional terms; 'loss' could be loss of life or hope.
• from the beginning, develop a contention, or viewpoint, which gives your response to the question asked. You might agree with the statement given; you might disagree; or you might want to modify or challenge the statement. At no stage will you be asked to simply retell the story. You are asked to give your opinion about this topic.

• in about five to ten minutes, you should write a plan which clearly relates to the question asked. Organise your thoughts into paragraphs (introduction, body paragraphs,

and conclusion).

• in your plan, include all main ideas. Don’t make it too long or you won’t have time to write the essay.
• be sure to link the ideas in each paragraph to the ones which came before, so that you are developing a line of argument and clearly presenting your views.
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Peter Goldsworthy

• you will only be given sixty minutes to write your response. It is important to address the topic in the introduction.
• support your contention with detailed evidence from the text; use specific examples and quotations. A few words or even a single word which is significant can often be enough for a reference. Don’t include very lengthy quotations, or so many that you appear not to be developing your own ideas. Also, try to blend the quotations into your sentences so that the ideas flow fluently.

e.g.- At the end of the novel Paul says, "Keller was bad for me, the worst possible teacher".

• each paragraph should have a topic sentence which tells the Examiner what it is about; and at regular intervals ensure that you are still relevant to the question by relating back to this. A good idea is to put a strong sentence at the end of the paragraph which relates to the question and your contention.

• as you finish the conclusion, check to see that you have maintained the same line of argument that you began in your introduction, and check that you haven’t contradicted yourself. Ensure that your answer is relevant to the question.

• there should be a few minutes left to proofread your work, to check the spelling and expression.

• the questions on previous papers will not be asked again. Each question is different. You can use information from other answers but it is how you choose to use it for the question asked that is important.
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Peter Goldsworthy

two analytical topics
i. At the end of the novel Paul says, "Keller was bad for me, the worst possible teacher".

Do you agree with him?

ii. ‘Despite the often light-hearted tone of Maestro, there is an underlying sadness.’


Let’s assume you have chosen to answer question i.
Remember you are allowed to bring a dictionary into the exam. If the words in the topic are not clear to you, then consider another question. It is highly likely that you will be completely irrelevant if you do not understand what the question is asking.
It is very important to ensure that you understand the meaning of every word in the question. For example, look at the words ‘worst possible teacher’ and make absolutely sure you adopt the widest possible interpretation of this term. This will mean that your essay will have far more scope and sophistication.
Do not make the mistake of only considering Keller as a teacher of music with regard to Paul's learning experiences. This will mean that your answer is too limited. Also consider that Keller taught Paul much about life, people's attitudes and Paul's own limitations. In addition, he was influential in creating a more sensitive, less arrogant person, which Paul himself was able to recognise as he matured.

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Peter Goldsworthy
a possible essay plan for topic (i)
At the end of the novel Paul says, "Keller was bad for me, the worst possible teacher".

Do you agree with him?
Introduction- (give an overview noting whether you agree, disagree, or wish to modify the statement that Keller was the worst possible teacher )
• Paul feels negative about Keller because of Keller's criticism of his playing

• yet Keller teaches him to be realistic about music and life itself

• Keller is the biggest single influence for good shaping Paul's character

(perhaps experiment with starting your essay with a quotation or a phrase with impact such as the quotation which begins this paragraph)

Paragraph 2- (include a topic sentence/s which indicates what the paragraph will be about)

e.g.- Paul wanted to be a concert pianist but Keller compels him to recognise that "a concert pianist is one in a million" and that "a second rate perfection is all (Paul had) any hope of achieving".
• Paul is forced to accept his musical limitations
• he finds it difficult because his pride is hurt
• this is a hard lesson for Paul to learn- only Keller could teach that lesson
(at the end of the paragraph, relate back to the topic)
Paragraph 3- (include a topic sentence/s which relates the ideas of this new paragraph to the one which came before it. Some linking words could be: However, On the other hand, By contrast, Similarly, Also, Yet, Undoubtedly, or by repeating an idea)

e.g.- Undoubtedly, Keller is an exceptional musician and an exceptional teacher. Through Keller and his music, "the world of the mind was slowly losing its hold on (Paul) and the world of the senses replacing it".
• because of Keller Paul begins to respond emotionally to music, rather than intellectually
• Keller warns Paul about the danger of the Romantic composers whom he associates with the Nazi era
• yet Keller is denying part of himself and Paul recognises this and realises the importance of being true to self (continued)

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Peter Goldsworthy

• the learning experience reinforced by experiences with Rough Stuff and Bennie Reid

(end paragraph by relating back to topic)

Paragraph 4- (include a topic sentence/s which links to previous paragraph)

e.g.- In fact, there is much that Paul learns indirectly from Keller.
• Paul made aware of his own insensitivity through experiences with Keller
• Paul blames himself for not reacting more sensitively when Keller tells him about the past
• the narrator, Paul, looks back and learns about himself and clearly will not behave in the same way again
(add concluding sentence/s that relate back to the terms of the topic)

Conclusion- (refer back to question and the terms in it)
• Paul influenced greatly by his association with Keller
• learns from Keller not just about music but about himself
• also learns how experiences can shape a person's life
• Paul forced to grow up and develop into a more sensitive and realistic person as a result of Keller's influence

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Peter Goldsworthy
an accessible analytical essay response

Several sentences are underlined to highlight the relevance of the examples used and the concepts mentioned. This is to illustrate the importance of relevance to the topic and to act as a guide for you. You do not underline sections of your own essay on the examination.

At the end of the novel Paul says, "Keller was bad for me, the worst possible teacher".

Do you agree with him?

Paul blames Keller for teaching him "a self criticism that would never allow (him) to forget (his) limits" and it is this sense of negativity that Paul feels Eduard Keller was responsible for instilling in him which limits Paul's view of life and his achievements. Yet Keller has taught Paul so much, not only about music but also about life and people. As a result of Keller's influence, Paul learns to be more realistic in his expectations and to accept his limitations; he learns that the motives and attitudes of others must be recognised and evaluated, while at the same time he learns to look at himself introspectively. Paul is wrong when he says Keller is the "worst possible teacher". On the contrary, he is probably the biggest single influence for good, shaping the kind of realistic person Paul was to become by the end of the novel.
Paul wanted to be a concert pianist but Keller compels him to recognise that "a concert pianist is one in a million" and that "a second rate perfection is all (Paul had) any hope of achieving". It was a hard lesson to learn, to accept one's limitations, especially for someone like Paul who was "irredeemably smug" and, at times, "insufferable". In 1972, while in Adelaide, he sends Keller a tape of his Honours performance in Elder Hall, a "Christmas gift (he) expected him to treasure". Instead, Keller returns it with a "a critique that tore (his) performance apart phrase by phrase". Paul is angry, his pride has suffered a severe blow, but like most of us, he ultimately has to come to terms with his limitations and recognise that, "something was missing. Not much- but something", and that "something" could not be taught, even by the most brilliant of teachers. It was a hard lesson for Paul to learn and a powerful one, and only Keller seems able to teach him that lesson, to suffer "a small hurt now to avoid a wasted life".
Undoubtedly, Keller is an exceptional musician and an exceptional teacher. Through Keller and his music, "the world of the mind was slowly losing its hold on (Paul) and the world of the senses replacing it". Paul listens to Keller playing and "the music seemed nearer to lovemaking than to music". Through Keller's influence, Paul begins to respond emotionally to music, rather than intellectually.

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Peter Goldsworthy
Yet Keller tries so desperately to warn Paul against the "lyric flashiness" of the Romantics, but in his attempt to abandon those Romantic composers whom he associates with Nazism, anti-semitism and Auschwitz, he is denying who he is and becoming something of a lost soul. Paul recognises this, at the same time

recognising the importance of being true to yourself. This is reinforced even further when Paul joins 'Rough Stuff' and rejects Bennie as a way of ingratiating himself with his rather unappealing peers. At first he loves "the driving rhythms, the wall of noise" but he comes to realise it was just "music to shit by" and that "nothing worthwhile was ever achieved so easily". Yes, Keller has taught him some valuable lessons, both directly and indirectly, that will stay with Paul forever.
In fact, there is much that Paul learns indirectly from Keller. When he first meets him, he dismisses him as a "Nazi", a "boozer" with his "pitted, sun coarsened skin". Later he changes, but not before he has been made aware, only too painfully, of his own insensitivity and arrogance. For some time, Paul has been probing Keller about his story- the deaths of his wife and son at the hands of the Nazis, his own overwhelming guilt and ultimate self-exile to Darwin. However, when Keller ultimately decides to reach out to Paul (probably the first time he had ever done this and undoubtedly it was part of the healing process) Paul is too impatient and wants to get away to the half-naked Rosie who is waiting outside for him. Later, Paul reflects, "I should have stayed, poured out his schnapps, lubricated his tongue. But there wasn't enough time. The aroused, sexual present overwhelmed the past". Natural enough perhaps, at the time, but Paul blames himself for not staying and reacting more sensitively to what Keller is saying. However, obviously he does learn about himself, his own lack of consideration for others and, clearly will try to avoid taking such a path again- yet another lesson learned from Keller.
There is no question that the adult Paul, the narrator of this text, has been influenced greatly by his association, his friendship, with the Maestro. He is able to recognise Keller's collection of bleak newspaper clippings for what they were- a reflection of his tragic past and his cynicism about people. He had been naive about the Nazis and trusted his family would be safe. He tells Paul, "You must understand I knew these people. These murderers. I had signed their concert programmes". Paul, living in the cultured and protected world his parents had created for him, was innocent of the sorts of people and the sorts of events that had shaped Keller. Through Keller, he learns not just about music, his own strengths and weakness and his passion, but also about integrity, about sensitivity to others' needs and suffering and how experiences can shape a person's life and how reactions to these experiences can alter the direction of one's life. While Paul did not emulate Keller's cynicism, he learned to understand the reasons for his attitude. Paul was forced out of his smug, self- satisfied world and judgemental attitudes by the Maestro and compelled to grow up. He has to first try himself out on the world stage- he has to

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Peter Goldsworthy
travel, to feel the isolation and rejection before he completely accepts Keller's criticism and the lessons Keller has to teach. Ultimately he does and recognises that "never for one moment, even at (his) most unguarded" would he ever delude himself again, neither about his music nor himself. No, Keller was not "the worst

possible teacher," even though Paul's aspirations are denied and his feelings hurt. Keller teaches Paul to think more critically about life and music. Paul's final appreciation of him both as a man and as a teacher, "a maestro" is highlighted when Keller dies. Paul wanted "someone- anyone- to know that a Great Man had died". Paul learns some hard lessons from the Maestro which are instrumental in his development into the more sensitive and realistic person he became.


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Peter Goldsworthy

• The author tells the story much better than you possibly can. Do not simply retell it.
• Be selective, be organised, and be clear in your expression.
• Examiners are looking for students who are able to think logically and clearly.

• There is no absolutely correct answer- a sensible, intelligent response is sought.
• Read the question carefully to see if it consists of several parts. If so, make sure you deal with all of these parts in your response.
• Questions will sometimes be phrased so that you can agree with the statement, disagree, or

modify the statement. Be careful if you decide to disagree or modify that you don’t begin a

completely different essay and disregard the intention of the question which is asked.
• The examiners are not out to ‘trick’ you. All questions are worded to be accessible to all students.
• The Criteria for the award of grades-

1. detailed knowledge and understanding of the text;

2. development of a coherent and effective structure;

3. control of expressive and effective language.

• All of these contribute to the overall impression you create, and thus to your grade.
This answer is one that is accessible to students, but certainly not the only

approach one could adopt. It is carefully structured to emphasise relevance and

students should find it accessible in terms of understanding. When faced with a

different topic , create your own intelligent, relevant, clear response in

the time allocated.
Know your texts! Plan carefully! Practise essay writing!

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