Ross Smithard

Part of the 'Harmonies of the Huon' Series

Ross Smithard began playing the violin when he was 12. He had some classical tuition but says it only became fun when he joined a bush band at 15.

He worked at an agricultural research institute in New South Wales and music was his hobby. In 1975 in his hometown of Wagga Wagga he played folk music and Australian bush dancing with the Tin Shed Rattlers, who are still performing today.

‘I also played monthly dances in a lovely old hall with the Kameruka Bush Orchestra, a collective of traditional players from the Bega Valley,’ Ross says. ‘The band has a special interest in playing and promoting Australian bush dance tunes.’

Ross started playing guitar and then taught himself banjo and performed in a blues band for 12 years.

He moved to the Huon and when he couldn’t find work in agricultural research, he began teaching music to private students.

Today he plays in a variety of groups and duos with musicians and vocalists. He plays in a Celtic band in Hobart and with his partner Margaret in a string band, playing old-time American tunes. The string band is foot tappin’ and lively – they played a packed-out dance and concert at the Cygnet Folk Festival.

Ross has recently played with musician David Steel, an Australian singer-songwriter, guitarist and producer who lived in Castle Forbes Bay in the Huon. He is a former member of well-known Australian folk-rock group, Weddings Parties Anything.

‘There’s plenty of music in Cygnet because some of the hippy folk who moved down here in the 1970s brought it with them,’ Ross says. ‘I still bump into some of them today. We all like the relaxing lifestyle, the affordability and the attractive countryside. It’s a great place to sit around and play a few tunes.’

Ross and Margaret live in a house perched like an eagle’s eyrie, high on a hilltop. The steep road is accessible only by four-wheel drive. Designed in the style of an atrium, the house has three large glass walls overlooking Port Cygnet and the mouth of the Huon River. In the distance to the west are the Hartz Mountains and Adamsons Peak, which look glorious when snow-capped in winter. The view to the north-west takes in Franklin and Cygnet.

‘On summer days we often open the doors to cool down,’ Ross says. ‘You can experience four seasons in one day. The space invigorates us to play tunes and when I’m up here that’s all I want to do. My dream is to simply live in a creative place like this and play and create music.’

Most evenings after dinner, Ross and Margaret play for a few hours – ‘until our fingers hurt,’ Ross laughs.

Harmonies of the Huon: Exploring the melodies and musings of Huon Valley artists‘ is a Creative Huon series in collaboration with Huon Valley Council and Huon Valley Tas, showcasing the Huon Valley’s musical talents, their inspiration and journeys.

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