When we asked Year 12 music student, Hanley Rorke, who he’d have a conversation with if he could choose absolutely anyone, he selected the remarkable and innovative Jazz Fusion bass player, Jaco Pastorius.
Pastorius is considered by many to be the best electric bassist of all time.
“I once dreamt about meeting him,” Hanley says, “but if I could actually speak with him—once I got over having my mind blown at being in his presence—I’d ask him how he kept coming up with such amazing new ideas.”
Hanley says Jaco didn’t care what others thought about his ground-breaking approach to music and was sacked from numerous record labels because they wanted a consistent commodity and he wanted to innovate.
While music composition is one component of Hanley’s studies, he is happiest when he’s free to improvise and can lose hours immersed in sound and rhythm.
Hanley began playing piano at six years of age. He jumped to brass, then cello in Year 7. In Year 10 he took on double bass, however, electric bass is now his favourite instrument and the focus of his VCE studies.
The bass, Hanley points out, is also a rhythm instrument supporting the percussion side of a performance.
“With bass, sometimes it’s what you’re NOT playing that can define a piece,” he says.
Hanley has spent more than half his life learning various musical instruments and theory and it’s his music that he’s proud of more than anything else.
“I’m so glad I stuck with it,’ he says. “There’s always something to learn. In fact my parents always encouraged us to jump in the deep end because even if nothing works out you learn heaps and the experience often leads to other possibilities.”
His favourite music depends entirely on how he’s feeling at any given time.
“Funk always gets me tapping my feet,” he says.
When Hanley was deciding where to study VCE, the music program at BSSC was recommended by past students.
Hanley says VCE is hard work, regardless of where you study, but he’s happy to come to BSSC each day.
“The music department is a really positive and relaxed atmosphere,” he says. “I love that it’s a completely separate area of the college.”
BSSC also connected Hanley with a whole new group of musicians.
“Most of my friends play one or more instruments so there’s lots of jamming,” he says. “And the college has opened my mind to music I might not have otherwise explored, but now really enjoy. It’s more how I expected uni to be.”
The word Hanley would chose to sum up the college is ‘diverse’.
“There’s not just one type of person here—or an intention to turn us into a certain type of person,” he says. “Every day I see students I’ve never seen before and I’ve met so many interesting people.”
He’s also learnt valuable life skills… like how to bounce back when things don’t work out how you hoped.
“Bouncing back is sometimes about making a change,” he says. “Taking up a new interest, or getting to know different people—or simply persevering.”
While he’s studying three music subjects this year, Hanley has also had a long interest in art, especially cartooning, which he still enjoys when he has time. He also has an ongoing interest in the Humanities, especially Philosophy.
He completed 3/4 Revolutions last year and English and Philosophy are his two ‘traditional’ VCE subjects this year.
“I really admire the Greek philosophers,” he says. “Their ideas are aimed at helping people have a better life.”
The long term plan is to continue music at tertiary level through the Victorian College of the Arts where a jazz and improvisation course is on offer.
“I know lots of people want the fame that comes from being a celebrity musician,” he says, “but in the long-term I’d like to be a session artist. Some of the best bassists in the world were, and are, session artists.”
Hanley is drawn to this career because recording studios offer session artists more regular employment and the chance to play across every genre—with old age no barrier to employment.
“If I have a career in music I’ll never a work a day!” he laughs. “And there’s always something new to learn.”
The philosopher side of Hanley is never far away and he contemplates music from this perspective too.
“What we think of as ‘music’ is just one expression of it,” he says. “People have been smacking sticks on stones and chanting, or singing, for centuries.
“Music has always represented its era and stands on the shoulders of what went before.”