Mark Schuster (b. 1958) grew up in Brisbane and was trained as a biologist. He worked for a few years in the Australian Public Service in Canberra. In 1989 he and his family moved to Toowoomba in Queensland, where he was initially employed as a cartographer with the Toowoomba City Council. He has also been a scientific officer with the Darling Downs Regional Organisation of Councils. He is currently on the staff of the Condamine Alliance, based in Toowoomba.
Schuster and his former wife Maria Zann are trained musicians, and can play the violin, button accordion, concertina and zither. In 1986, while on holiday in Queensland, Schuster decided that he should seek out the musical heritage of country districts of Queensland. Of German descent himself, he was especially interested in the traditional music of German and Scandinavian farmers who had settled in Queensland and New South Wales in the second half of the nineteenth century. At weekends and during holidays, Schuster and Zann began to travel to country towns, seeking people who were familiar with traditional music and dances and who could talk about the experiences of immigrants from northern Europe. Their recording activities continued until the late 1990s.
The Library began providing assistance to Schuster and Zann in 1987 and the first tapes were acquired in the following year. Further instalments were received in 1989, 1994 and 1995. After a lengthy hiatus, relations were resumed in 2006 when the Library agreed to purchase Schuster’s collection of 320 field recordings. So far, 90 tapes have been received.
The original collection comprises 78 tapes featuring about 50 performers recorded between 1987 and 1993. Almost all the recordings took place in Queensland, including Maryborough, Bundaberg, Rockhampton, Yepoon, Blackbutt, Kingaroy, Nerang and Minden. In addition to songs and dance music, they contain accounts of settlement by German and Scandinavian immigrants in the nineteenth century, stories and legends, customs and discussions about regional differences in folk music. A few of the recordings are of band music performed by the Bundaberg Apostolic String Band and the Hattonvale Apostolic Brass Band.
The collection currently being acquired contains recordings made by Schuster and Zann in the 1980s and 1990s, but also copies of older recordings of string band performances and accordion players that Schuster acquired from various sources.
The Schuster Collection is held in the Oral History Collection at various locations: TRC 2283, TRC 2367, TRC 2609, TRC 2896 and TRC 3141. It has been catalogued at the collection level, but the interviews and performances have not been catalogued individually. The 90 tapes acquired in 2006 are held at TRC 5709.
Passa Dennis, Music to his Peers, Who Weekly, no. 238, 16 September 1996, pp. 45–6.
Schuster, Mark, Searching for the Queensland Heimatland, Coppertales, no. 5, 1998, pp. 6–17.
Sullivan, Chris, Oral history interview with Mark Schuster and Maria Zann, 1992, ORAL TRC 2570/709–12.