Book Review: From the Podium, by Gary Daverne

As a musician living in New Zealand, my interest was naturally piqued by this memoir. I had heard of Gary Daverne’s work as a composer over the years, as he’s been fairly prolific in writing advertising jingles, orchestral music, and, interestingly, music for the accordion. But I hadn’t been aware of his career as a conductor of orchestras, and I looked forward to reading more about this side of Daverne’s career. After all, I’m an orchestral musician and it’s always interesting to hear about life seen from the conductor’s podium.

As a man deeply involved and invested in music-making from the community to the professional level, Daverne’s career is impressive. He’s taken his orchestra, the Auckland Symphony Orchestra, to China with Amalia Hall, he’s guest conducted high calibre orchestras like the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, and he’s apparently been in the enviable position of having more offers of work than he can handle—a sure definition of success!

In terms of the memoir itself, however, From the Podium lacks several aspects that would make it a fully engaging read. Granted, this book was self-published, so I can forgive some slips in presentation and basic editing (and I can even forgive one rather strange shift from third to first person near the beginning). It is however a shame that the memoir feels so episodic. Despite this memoir being nominally structured, in a rather cute way, according to the acts of a show, the memoir lacks overall narrative cohesion. In other words, this memoir feels too much like a collection of disconnected (if amusing) stories.
It’s a jumble of beads with no thread to string them onto. As such, these myriad stories may hold interest for those who know Daverne, or perhaps for those who have an insatiable interest in what goes on backstage at a show or at a concert and has never heard these kinds of stories before. But as someone who has lived through similar experiences (having to deal with inclement weather during an outdoor concert, the travails of touring, mistakes made and lights going out during shows) and therefore doesn’t find these things particularly surprising, each story was charming, certainly, but ultimately did not hold my sustained attention.

I found myself wishing that there had been more about what Daverne had actually thought about his experiences of New Zealand musical life, and what he’d learned through his life. Instead I was merely given a catalogue of anecdotes to read. And this is a shame; Daverne has clearly made a huge contribution to musical life, and that contribution should have been better represented. In the end, this memoir represents a missed opportunity to properly delve into an interesting life.

Reviewed by Feby Idrus

From the Podium
by Gary Daverne
Available from

2 thoughts on “Book Review: From the Podium, by Gary Daverne

  1. Thank you Feby for taking the time to review my book, From the Podium. I really appreciate this.

    It has been said, that the destination is unimportant and it is the journey that matters. For me, the journey down memory lane, over those five years or writing the book, was amazing. There were so many wonderful things I had forgotten about. I wrote, From the Podium, for myself and to share my conducting experiences with any one who could be interested.

    There is little mention in my book, about my years growing up as a rock ‘n’ roller in the 60’s and playing in top rock bands, with hit records before I was 21, along with my success as a record producer and top musical arranger for TVNZ. I was Billy T. James and the Maori Hi Marks record producer along with many other popular NZ artists.

    This could to be my next book. I am thinking about it and have actually put a few headings down on paper already.

    Your comments are very valid and I accept them. Perhaps there is someone out there who would like to write about my thoughts and not just the ‘happenings’.

    You are so right, I have had a full illustrious life and it hasn’t stopped. Well not just yet anyway.

    Thank you again

    With my best wishes

    Gary D.

  2. Hi Gary,

    Thank you so much for your response to this review. I can count on one hand how many times an author has responded positively to a review like this – so thank you for this. I have forwarded your response to Feby.

    kind regards,
    Sarah Forster

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