Faulconbridge retired music teacher Mal Hewitt is embarrassed by all the attention after being awarded a medal in the Order of Australia in the Queen's Birthday Honours List.
"You feel other people should be getting this award," Mr Hewitt, 68, said.
"Nothing happens solo, it's always working with teams of people, but I guess it's recognition for the groups of people I've worked with."
Mr Hewitt was awarded his OAM for services to music education and to the community.
He started as a humble music teacher at Merrylands High School in 1967, working up to deputy principal at Riverstone High School before retiring in 2005.
But in between he was president and musical director of the Public Schools Concert Committee for almost a decade, established the General Picton String Band, was the foundation president of the Collegiate of Special Music Educators helping with annual charity concerts since 1992, and since 1993 has been the musical director of The Occasional Performing Sinfonia which has raised about $300,000 for charities, especially The Children's Hospital at Westmead.
For 25 years (from 1970 to 1995) in his Christmas school holidays he led work parties to Pitjantjatjara Country in northern South Australia, building 300 homes for the indigenous community.
In retirement he's been the Friends of the ABC president (since 2007) and is the current editor of their magazine Quarterly Update but he's enjoying his late start as a dad too, teaching his three boys, Reginald, 8, Gordon, 5 and Jeremy, 3, about the joys of music. He met his wife Alison when he was 50 and she was 25 while they were building homes for Aborigines in the outback and she was involved in the "subterfuge" of his OAM nomination.
"I retired and started having a family," Mr Hewitt, who moved to the Mountains earlier this year, said.
Music and social justice have been constant drivers in his life and he is concerned the advent of NAPLAN testing has taken vital focus away from music teaching as well as other "arts, sciences, PE and sport".
"The music teaching I received in Tamworth Public School in the early 50s was vastly superior to that received by most children in 2014.
"Music has changed my life. It enriches lives so enormously and makes such a difference to kids in disadvantaged areas. It boosts their intelligence, exercises virtually every aspect of their brain. For kids who are struggling it can make school the most meaningful place in their lives."
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