Performing at the State School Spectacular over three days was the highlight for a group of students from a cluster of rural schools within the South West of Victoria. 38 students from the cluster involved in a music program had the fantastic opportunity to perform with other students from across the state, an experience these young people will not forget quickly.

These students are involved in a weekly music program provided the rural cluster and is co-ordinated by their friendly and enthusiastic teacher, Merran, who travels around the schools on a weekly basis.

Making Music

From the beginning of 2010, the cluster music program (along with a kitchen garden program) has operated involving  ….. (ranging from an enrollment of 25 students to 68 students) The cluster developed the program in response to an interest to provide music learning for their students – they have supported this interest by engaging a music teacher to work across the fours schools.

Panmure music students ready for the State Spectacular

Panmure music students ready for the State Spectacular

At the beginning each school varied vastly in terms of the children’s experience with music. Some had no previous classroom experience, others had been learning instruments in the classrooms for a number of years (guitar/recorder).  Up until the development of this cluster program, very few schools in our cluster were able to provide specialist music programs, and our area is also known for a very low uptake of music- either as an elected subject or choosing to learn an instrument at secondary school.  As in most rural schools they all held an annual school concert at the end of the year.

With the various levels of experience this provided an initial challenge for the teacher. However, by using games (chants, movement and rhythm games) and technology, they were quickly engaged. While the program acknowledges current ‘hits’ from TV or radio, there is a conscious effort to introduce a range of music genres to the students.

As a result of the cluster working together on the provision of music, students have been involved in a number of great opportunities which they may not have had previously.

Spectacularly fabulous

Cluster music students

Cluster music students

The highlight was the participation of the students in the Mass Dance Troupe for the State School Spectacular. The children rehearsed during class time at their own schools, then attended one rehearsal in Melbourne, and two regional rehearsals. An advantage of having a number of schools together – the regional rehearsals came to us! So, in the Panmure Hall we had 38  excited children from district schools, and the dance director for the show, Mark Laguerre. The actual show was performed 3 times at Hisense Arena. Children from the schools involved shared accommodation together for 3 nights, and enjoyed getting to know each other better. Educationally there were many benefits- working hard to learn something difficult; performing in a professional setting; and especially the opportunity for ‘our’ kids to witness excellence in other children who perform as solo singers, instrumentalists or dancers in the show.

Online learning

Mal Webb visits for Ping

Mal Webb visits for Ping

Another great experience these students have had included their involvement in the PING Music program – an online music learning program for rural students provided through a partnerhsip between Country Education Project, Songroom, Melbourne Symphony Orchestra, Orchestra Victoria and 3MBS. The children had access to podcasts; lessons; tutorials and feedback through the website, in the areas of singing; percussion and composition. They were able to record and photograph their progress and post it on the site to share with other rural students from across the state. Despite building works in all schools and the resulting interruptions to internet or computer access, it was a highly valued component of music across the schools.  A definite highlight at the end of the program was Mal Webb’s visit to the local hall to perform with, and then for, the kids. They still talk about this day.

The program continues to grow and just shows how we in rural schools can work together in clusters to provide exciting learning programs for our young people. The cluster is already planning numerous performances and events for 2011.