Paul Crabbe is the narrator and protagonist of Maestro. The book is written as his memoir and focuses on his transition from youth to adulthood. Paul moves to Darwin with his parents, where he completes his final years of school and studies piano under Herr Eduard Keller. Although he initially dislikes Herr Keller, Paul grows increasingly attached to his teacher and curious about the circumstances surrounding his past. While at first an outcast at school, Paul eventually becomes friends with the school bullies after using his musical talents to help their band. At school, he meets Rosie Zollo, who he falls in love with and later marries. Paul leaves Darwin to study law at the University of Adelaide, but decides instead to attempt a career as a concert pianist and begins to travel the world for competitions. This ultimately leads him to Vienna, Austria, where he learns the full story of Herr Keller's past.
Paul's piano teacher in Darwin, Keller is originally from Vienna, Austria, where he was a renowned concert pianist. Reclusive from the town's other residents, Keller spends most of his time drinking schnapps and reading newspapers at the beer garden below the room where he lives at the Swan. Keller employs unorthodox teaching methods and does not praise or show approval of Paul's playing. Paul eventually learns that Keller's Jewish wife, Mathilde, and his son, Eric, were both imprisoned and killed in a concentration camp. Although Keller is not Jewish, he registers as a Jew after his wife and son's capture and is also sent to a concentration camp, where everyone believes he died.
John is Paul's father and Nancy's husband. He is a doctor, working as a Government Medical Officer in Darwin, though his true passion is music. His desire for Paul to train as a pianist reflects his unspoken desire to have been a concert pianist himself. He attends some of Paul's piano lessons, taking notes and practicing the piano at home alone.
Nancy is Paul's mother and John's wife. A former librarian, she is more outgoing and emotional than her quiet, stoic husband. She shares his passion for the piano, though her style of playing is more fun and enjoyable. Together they help put on yearly Gilbert and Sullivan performances.
Rosie is Paul's school girlfriend, whom he later marries. The daughter of the school's new French teacher, Rosie moves to Darwin from the South during Paul's second year of school. Although initially annoyed by her, the advent of his sexual maturity makes him instantly attracted to her, and the two share their first sexual experiences. They remain a couple through school and university. Rosie goes to Melbourne to study medicine, and Paul spends his school holidays with her. After Paul returns from his years competing he moves to Melbourne and marries Rosie, and the two have their first child.
The target of school bullies, Paul is initially friends with Bennie when both move to Darwin High at the same time. Originally from England, the bespectacled Bennie plays the violin and collects butterflies. Bennie's response to the bullies is to plot revenge—and sometimes actually enact it. He surprises everyone by heading to the Naval Officer Training School after graduation.
Megan is a student at Darwin High and dates Jimmy Papas. Paul develops a crush on Megan and tells her about the dreams he has about her. She rebuffs his advances, but clearly appreciates the attention. Megan later has sex with Paul once after he joins the band. The experience disappoints him and he instantly regrets it, promising himself that he will never to do it again and remain faithful to Rosie. After graduation, she moves to Sydney to attend Art School.
A school bully in the class above Paul, he enters the story when he beats up Paul for telling Megan about his dreams about her. He plays bass guitar for the band "Rough Stuff." He and Paul later become friends after Paul joins Jimmy's band and uses his musical skills to help the fledgling group. After winning the Battle of the Sounds competition, the group travels to Adelaide, where they play their final performance before breaking up.
Tall, curly haired Scotty dates Megan Murray and plays guitar for "Rough Stuff." While also known to beat up other students, Scotty is less combative than Jimmy and prefers to pick fights for "Just Causes."
Rick is a radio DJ who recently moved to the north from southern Australia. He hosts the Drive-Time Top 40 on the local radio, a program much loved by high school students. Sophisticated, afro-haired Rick refuses to play country western ballads on his show, stirring up controversy and getting him banished to the graveyard shift until he agreed to play one country western track per hour. The members of Rough Stuff held a set in after his demotion, so when they learn that Rick will be the judge at the Battle of the Sounds they know they will win instantly. Rick, who Paul realizes is more broken down and jaded than he originally realized, accompanies the band to Adelaide to play drums in place of Reggie. Fired from his job at the station, after the competition he heads up the coast with Jimmy and Scotty in search of gigs and a new job.
Mr. and Mrs. Wallace
The Wallaces are Paul's maternal grandparents. They live in a seaside suburb of Adelaide, and he stays with them while in Adelaide for the band and piano competitions. While in Adelaide, Herr Keller gives Paul piano lessons in their home and Rough Stuff practices there as well. Paul's grandmother is taken with Herr Keller and attempts to be friendly with him, to little success. Grandfather Wilfred is less fascinated by him and quickly gives up attempts to communicate with him.
Reggie is the Chinese-Aboriginal drummer for "Rough Stuff." While Reggie has a fierce, acne-scared face, he is more of a follower than a leader. This is exemplified when he stays behind in Darwin after the band votes for Rick Whiteley to take his place on drums in the competition in Adelaide.
Mathilde was Eduard Keller's wife, an opera singer and Wagner specialist. Younger than Keller, they met and married between World Wars I and II. Keller hoped to protect his Jewish wife during the Holocaust by being a visual presence in the country's music scene, hoping that his family would become untouchable. His plan backfires, and Mathilde and their son, Eric, are captured while Keller is in Berlin playing for Hitler. She is imprisoned in the Auschwitz concentration camp, where she dies in 1942.
Eric is the son of Eduard Keller and his wife Mathilde. He refuses to be parted from his mother when she is captured for being Jewish and is imprisoned in a concentration camp, where he also dies. Paul becomes a surrogate son figure for Keller, who trains him to become a great musician, as he would have done for his own son.
Paul meets Joseph Heinsch after Heinsch responds to a letter Paul posts inquiring about Eduard Keller. Paul goes to Vienna to speak with Heinsch, a cellist who had played with Keller. Heinsch tells Paul the full story of Keller's former life and his son and wife's capture. He tells Paul that Keller died in the concentration camp and rebuff's Paul's attempts to tell him that Keller is alive and living in Darwin, Australia. Paul and Heinsch attribute very different characteristics to Keller, leading Paul to realize how much Keller has changed.
Maestro Questions and Answers
The Question and Answer section for Maestro is a great
resource to ask questions, find answers, and discuss the novel.
Paul's maturing from a teenage boy to a grown man is a central theme in the novel. His maturity comes in many different forms. He matures physically, growing taller than most of his classmates between his first and second year. Paul also...
While at first an outcast at school, Paul eventually becomes friends with the school bullies after using his musical talents to help their band. At school, he meets Rosie Zollo, who he falls in love with and later marries.
Keller spends most of his time drinking schnapps and reading newspapers at the beer garden below the room where he lives at the Swan. Keller employs unorthodox teaching methods and does not praise or show approval of Paul's playing.