In my last newsletter, published on 1st November 2018, I wrote of the passing of Richard Gill AO, musical luminary in Australia and champion of the cause of getting music into every school in Australia. It is ironic that just one week after his death, the ABC broadcast the first of a 3-part series on music in primary school and its effect on students. They chose a disadvantaged school in Perth to showcase what can happen when music is introduced to children.
It is interesting that usually schools cite lack of resources as the reason they can’t do whatever it is they’d like to do. This school, too, didn’t have the resources either so they started to get a little bit creative in their endeavours. They appealed via radio and other media to all and sundry for instruments. Lo and behold! Who would have thought that simply asking the question could have had such dramatic results! Musica Viva and The Salvation Army immediately came to the party with ‘retired’ instruments for the students to practise on. It was not long before they had enough instruments to get started. They enlisted the help of other mentors, including the well-known Guy Sebastian and academic Dr Anita Collins from the ANU. Before long, the students were playing and singing and thoroughly enjoying their music lessons. They already had a music teacher but he was limited in what he could do without this support and especially, without the instruments. He was keen and could play an instrument himself but he was not trained as a music specialist. As such, with all the will in the world, he was somewhat restricted. With all this support he became unstoppable.
The success of this experiment at Challis Primary School is set to be rolled out across other schools and in other states. This is the very thing that Richard Gill was advocating for years. It is gratifying that the cause has been taken up by the ABC through this documentary series. Hopefully the Australian government and our state governments can finally recognize how important this is in schools and make the funding available for better music programs. Not to mention support from the community as well, of course.
In years gone by, Early Childhood teachers were required to play a musical instrument in order to teach. This went out the window with the advent of cassettes and then CD players and finally computers. It was not necessary for the class teacher to be able to actually play. That assumes the importance of music was still being taught at universities to these budding teachers. Hmmm… that is where things get a little blurred. The result is obvious, and no fault of any teacher. The teachers I have had the privilege of working with over the years have all been wonderful examples of dedicated professionals. But they need support.
Let us hope that finally, there will be a good outcome for all primary schools in Australia. I get back to what I have often said, ‘Do they do this in Finland?’ When the answer is, ‘yes’ then we should do it too. As should all schools everywhere. Congratulations ABCTV for bringing this topic into the public domain. If you would like to watch this documentary series, click here.