The South Gippsland Schools Music Program is celebrating 25 years of bringing music to more than a generation of rural students in 2010. This is a cluster program involving five secondary colleges: Wonthaggi SC, Korumburra SC, Leongatha SC, Mirboo North SC and South Gippsland SC who share resources to employ instrumental music teachers.
In 2010, fifteen teachers,both full-time and part-time, work across the five schools to provide high quality tuition and band leadership to more than 400 students. The music program in the smaller schools is significantly enriched by access to the full range of instrumental skills of the teachers. In several of the schools, primary students are also involved as full participants in the programme.
In rural areas, opportunities for students to access music teachers privately can be made more difficult by distance and availability as well as the cost. Through SGSMP, for a relatively small cost, students can have a 30 minute lesson, hire an instrument and participate in a full band program. The benefits are considerable; building learning, confidence and performance skills, the ability to mix with others, teamwork, responsibility and fun for those involved. In each school, there are Junior, Intermediate, Senior Stage and Big bands, as well as Rock Bands, Vocal groups and Celtic bands in some schools.
The SGSMP supports major events across the cluster, with a highlight in the Big band Blowout where the big bands of each school perform and then a combined Big Band entertains the audience. This event follows a two day intensive master-class workshop with an invited performer.
Identities who have been involved over the years include Wilbur Wilde, Don Burrows, members of the Navy, Air Force and Police Bands.
James Morrison worked with the students in 2001, much to the delight of the many families who attended a Jazz Ball following the workshop. The cluster facilitates tours, workshops, VCE Music performances and participates in eisteddfods throughout the year. At the end of each year, a three day music camp brings together many of the students from across the cluster in a series of workshops leading up to a concert for families from the five schools. The biggest challenge is finding a venue!
To make this cluster program happen, the five secondary schools have worked with Gippsland DEECD region to ‘pool’ their Instrumental SRP funding into one account. Together with the student fees and fund raising, there is enough money to cover staff and operating costs, although this is always a careful balancing act. The SGSMP is administered by a Committee of Management made up of the five Principals, SGSMP Co-ordinator, two instrumental staff representatives and a Business Manager. The talented staff of the SGSMP work as a team with a Co-ordinator. It has developed a strategic plan, the teachers attend fortnightly music staff meetings and each teacher completes student semester reports.
Over the years, an extensive music library, experiences in running events, sharing instruments across schools and supporting events in each school mean the students receive an excellent music education. The student success of the program can be measured in the numbers of ex-students of SGSMP who are now music teachers, professional and semi-professional performers or working in the music industry. These are opportunities that may not have opened up without the cluster approach to delivering a high quality programme.