Michael Dudman was born in Sydney in 1938. His father was an electrical engineer, originally from the Royal Navy, and had a very powerful influence on both sons. He was passionately interested in organ music and philosophy. One of his sons became one of Australia’s most renowned organists. In 1980 he was appointed Principal of the Newcastle branch of the State Conservatorium of Music. The Newcastle Morning Herald records that at that time he said:
“The raison d’etre of this place is students. The staff must have a satisfying environment to work in. Then there is the community: we are intended, designed and funded specifically to service the community, the city and the Hunter Valley. We are not here to be a nice little hothouse.”
The music critic of the Herald, T H Naisby, added the observation: “As I left, the building was still silent, but one felt that ideas were in the air.”
Michael Dudman’s abiding interest in, and love of the King if Instruments developed at quite an early age, so that by the time he came to be appointed organist and choirmaster (at the prodigious age of thirteen at St Oswald’s Anglican Church, Haberfield, he already had an intimate acquaintance with many of the instruments recorded there. An-other for example, is also the first that Michael Dudman encountered, according to his brother, Victor, who recalls;
“having the clearest memory of Mike and me standing on each side of the console, watching the keys being pulled down by the couplers, and Mike barely coming up to the stop handles.”
Michael Dudman’s absorption with the organ and his working acquaintance with many of its manifestations developed in the company of his brother, and of a father who was fond on taking them to, “church crawls on a Sunday afternoons.”
At age fifteen Michael Dudman was selected to play the Sydney Town Hall organ at a Combined High Schools’ concert. Also, at about that time, he gave a lunchtime recital on the 1910 Hill organ at the then Pitt Street Congregational Church, and recorded the first “Young Australia” broadcast for the A.B.C. In his final year of high school he topped the State in Music and, having then gained his Leaving Certificate, the all but self-taught eighteen year old began formal lessons in organ playing with Norman Johnston at the Sydney Conservatorium. He subsequently graduate with the Performer’s and Teacher’s Diplomas in 1959 and with the prize for the most distinguished student of the year.
Aided by the Award of a Vasanta Scholarship, Michael Dudman then undertook post-graduate study in Paris with Norman Johnston’s teacher, André Marchal. This was, how-ever cruelly cut short because of the Algerian crisis. Forces to leave Paris, he went to Eng-land where, not very long after his arrival, he was appointed Assistant Organist at Ely Cathedral. He served at Ely for four years and then spent four years at Grimsby Parish Church before returning to Australia in 1968 armed with much experience in practical music making and with a fellowship of the Royal College of Organists.
The year following his return saw Michael Dudman’s appointment as Organist and Master of the Choristers at Newcastle’s Christ church Cathedral, and as lecturer at the city’s fledgling Conservatorium. He served the cathedral with distinction for some ten years. With the exception of a few years spent in Perth, where he was organist at St George’s cathedral and a lecturer at the Perth’s Teachers College, Michael Dudman spent the remaining twenty-five years of his life in Newcastle. Thus it was that his name became identified with the music of the city the service of which he zealously devoted almost half of his all too short life.
This zeal, and his reputation and achievements came to be recognized in various ways: his being made a member of the Order of Australia for services to music, for example, and his three-month’s tenure as first Artist-In-Residence at the Sydney Opera House. Michael Dudman became Principal of the Newcastle Conservatorium in 1980 and it expanded and progressed enormously under his direction. In 1989 he based there an annual Keyboard Festival of which he was artistic director. That same year his title changed to being that of Dean and Director when the Conservatorium became the Faculty of Music for the University of Newcastle: eventually he was to become Professor upon being given a personal chair in Music.
The combination of onerous responsibility, unrelenting stress in his academic life, family life and the will to maintain his technique through daily practice as well as his active concert and recital career ultimately proved fatal. He died most unexpectedly of a heart attack on the 6th August 1994 aged fifty-five.