Get a glimpse of the Steel City Strings behind the curtain

TAFE NSW music teacher Michael Barkl in his other role as Steel City Strings Orchestra bass section leader.
TAFE NSW music teacher Michael Barkl in his other role as Steel City Strings Orchestra bass section leader.

With more than three decades as a TAFE NSW music teacher, Michael Barkl has spent plenty of time in the limelight.

In February, however, the Illawarra resident will grace the big screen in a documentary, The Passion of Music, Steel City Strings.

The film, directed by acclaimed filmmaker Tony Williams, draws viewers into the heart of the Steel City Strings orchestra, and reveals the stories of the people behind the music.

With passion in the film’s title it was only fitting the choir’s double bass section leader, Mr Barkl, played a role. Music and teaching are his passions.

“I’ve had a lifetime in music,” Mr Barkl said.

“We started as a higher education course with diplomas and advanced diplomas. The teachers we engage have always had higher education degrees as well as the practical skills. It’s a big ask but we do it.

With a CV that includes two doctorates and having authored seven books, Mr Barkl has mixed in academic circles for decades.

“I think one of the strengths of TAFE NSW is there’s no mucking about. We make sure our diploma and advanced diploma students are at the right level to get the most out of the course, and we get straight to it. We’re totally focussed on students being work-ready,” he said.

“We’re not judgemental either. When someone comes to my class they’re not learning a certain way because I think they should do it that way, as a teacher I’m reflecting industry views. It’s not about me and that’s a really unique thing about TAFE NSW.”

As for the documentary, part of it is about him.

At one point, the cameras follow Mr Barkl through the eight performance studios he helped design at TAFE NSW Wollongong Campus.

“Being a part of the movie was a lot of fun.”

“This movie is a good example of how the orchestra and TAFE NSW are part of the community,” he said.

The Passion of Music, Steel City Strings documentary will be presented at Greater Union Cinema Wollongong on Sunday, 11 February at 6pm.

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