Music grows young minds

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Performing in some of Europe’s grandest opera houses has more similarities to teaching music to primary school students in suburban Melbourne than one may think.

CHANCE TO SHINE: The annual State Schools Spectacular encourages development of creative skills, discipline, perseverance and confidence over months of rehearsals.

CHANCE TO SHINE: The annual State Schools Spectacular encourages development of creative skills, discipline, perseverance and confidence over months of rehearsals.

Former professional opera singer-turned music teacher, Alison Farr-Handley, said her students can even sometimes be a tougher audience.

But the Footscray City Primary School teacher said it’s so rewarding to teach classical music at the school, where she conducts two choirs, runs a variety of instrumental ensembles and teaches music to students from prep to grade 6. 

She’s seen music instrument playing grow to almost 35 per cent of students studying. “Every child has music in them and every child is exposed to it every day,” she said.

Ms Farr-Handley says the benefits of music education reach across the curriculum.

“Beyond developing musicianship, there’s research showing a link between musical understanding and literacy and maths, it’s opening the mind to thinking in different ways,” she said. “Music is an area that builds their confidence and focus.”

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May 20 to 26 is Education Week in Victoria, with the theme “Celebrating the arts”.

Minister for Education James Merlino said students who study dance, drama, visual arts or music enjoyed far reaching benefits on top of their creative outlet.

“We know kids thrive intellectually, emotionally, socially and physically when studying arts,” he said.

“There are lots of benefits inside and outside of the classroom including building confidence, resilience, self-esteem and a sense of belonging in communities and cultures.”

There are many opportunities to be involved in the arts at school. For example, each year around 3000 Victorian government school students perform in the State Schools Spectacular, providing an invaluable performing arts opportunity. 

Many students are supported through the “Music in Schools” program, which also provides funding to buy music-related resources, including musical instruments.

As part of Creative Learning Partnership run by Creative Victoria, Daylesford Secondary College recently welcomed Jodie Goldring as artist-in-residence to their school to work on a project called “Fluctuating Spaces”. The school’s project co-ordinator, Lisa Gunders, said students investigated installation artists who had explored themes of flux and change.

“A central aspect of the creation process was open-ended exploration, risk taking and play that leads to critical thinking about potential solutions so that final installations were considered,” she said.

Jodie Goldring said the exciting part was having the concept and then “seeing what the kids could come up with, and how far they could take the starting point”.