How 88-year-old Terry is leading a Big Band revival in Penrith

Terry Rae is ready to guide the next generation of big band talent. Photo: Melinda Jane.
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Terry Rae played his first professional gig at just 15-years-old, going on to play with music legends like Frank Sinatra, teach future experts, and start a world-class youth orchestra. Now, at 88, he’s ready to do it all again.

According to Rae, the idea for his original Penrith City Young Big Band came about in his teaching days in the early ‘80s, when he was asked to put something together for a local jazz festival.

“They asked me, ‘Are there any kids in the area who can play jazz?’, and I said, ‘Yeah, I can put a band together’,” he said.

The group now has engineers, school teachers and solicitors among them, with Rae gushing not only about his 10 years spent teaching them, but also his time with them since, still continuing to catch up with many to this day.

“I was so proud of those kids,” he said.

“They were just brilliant!”

Though he thought his youth orchestra days were over, Rae said he’s ready to take on the next generation, prompted by his realisation of a lack of opportunities in Penrith.

Terry Rae is passing on his knowledge. Photo: Melinda Jane.

“They had a big band competition out here earlier on in the year, and I went down to the Joan Sutherland to see it, and the nearest band to us was a band from Camden. There was nothing in this area, anywhere – all from the northern suburbs,” he said.

“I thought to myself, ‘There’s no kids bands here, no school bands, nothing!’, so I got very disappointed to see that we weren’t represented when the kids that I had came second in a worlds competition.”

For Rae, this was a sign to start a brand-new community youth orchestra.

According to him, his ultimate goal is to teach kids the classics, and songs they’ll use in the ‘real world’.

“I want to do it again because there’s really nothing for the kids here,” he said.

Terry’s still got it. Photo: Melinda Jane.

“I’m still doing a bit of teaching, and I’m hearing so many good kids out there, and they’re not getting a chance to play real music. That’s what I want to do.”

The group will run on Monday afternoons at PCYC Penrith. Rae is promising plenty of time spent learning, as well as plenty of performance opportunities, including with professional musicians in his Big Band.

“Anyone who wants to play any instrument can join!” he said.

“For anyone who wants to play orchestra music, there’s an outlet for them. I don’t care how many come down, I don’t care how big it gets, there’s plenty of room down there!”

For more information, call Terry Rae on 0468 317 558 or pop down to PCYC Penrith on Mondays from 4pm.

Cassidy Pearce

Cassidy Pearce is a news and entertainment journalist with The Western Weekender. A graduate of the University of Technology Sydney, she has previously worked with Good Morning Macarthur and joined the Weekender in 2022.

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