My Grandfather Milton Parkes – How I chose to play guitar

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My grandfather Milton Parkes was born March 20, 1907, In Melbourne (Williamstown), Australia.

He studied piano under Professor William Laver and Professor Holmwood. He was an extremely able pianist, in demand as a piano accompanist and as a soloist.   He also studied the violin which would have aided his sympathy as an accompanist.   Milton performed numerous times at the Melbourne Town Hall with leading artists and often accompanied his brother Cecil and was well known as a teacher (Mc Shane, 1991).

Milton at Piano with Brothers

Milton at Piano
Kingsley to left
Milton at Back             

Music poster of concert with Cecil and Milton Parkes






Music Programme performed by Milton and Cecil Parkes

Milton died tragically whilst under anasthetic early in life at the age of 28.

Milton left behind wife Lillian (nee Brett) and my mother Noela Fagan (nee Parkes), his only child, who was only 3 when he died.
My mother did not continue the Parkes music tradition by learning an instrument. 

My mother Neola Fagan (Nee Parkes) in Williamstown

My mother Noela Fagan (Nee Parkes) in Williamstown

I am grateful that my Sisters and I were greatly encouraged to learn piano and guitar and were exposed to great concerts at a young age.

Before I started learning the guitar at the age of 10, I had the opportunity to have piano lessons when I was 6 with a Nun from the local convent.  Prior to getting piano lessons, I used to listen to my sisters piano lesson and when their lesson was finished I enjoyed going to the piano to play the tune they learnt by ear.  My piano lessons with the Nun came to a holt perhaps because I did not like the way the teacher taught, correcting me with the tap of a ruler.  Perhaps this was this the reason that I used to hide in the bushes to try and avoid my lesson.  Something I learnt of recently from my mother.

I wonder how things may have been different if I had a chance to meet my grandfather.  Perhaps I may have chosen the Piano instead of the Guitar as an instrument if I had the direct influence from him.

I do also wonder what would have come of Milton’s music career if his life wasn’t so short!

In hindsight, I chose the guitar as its a world instrument as every culture in the world has guitar.  I also feel that my ancestors, my Great Uncles Cecil and Kingsley Parkes, concert violinsts, and Grandfather Milton Parkes, concert pianist and violinist, the guitar has elements of both of these instruments.  The guitar fretboard has the capability and range of the keyboard/piano but also has the direct tactile elements of the strings of the violin.

Mc Shane, Gregor, Prodigy. New Zealand : Southern Lights Auckland, 1991.

Information shared about my family has been sourced from the book Prodigy, written by Gregor McShane, the Son in law of Cecil Parkes. Most of the foundational information for the book was gathered in tape-recorded interviews with Cecil Parkes in 1980. His brother Kingsley and Cecil’s wife May were interview in 1986. Linda Phillips O.B.E., composer and music critic, was also interviewed in that year.  Cecil and May’s daughters, Margaret and Cecilie and Noela Fagan, daughter of Cecil’s brother Milton contributed.


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