Music in Schools is in four Western Port primary schools and is a part of the Western Port Learning Guarantee, a community driven initiative aiming to support all children and young people in their educational journey through to successful completion of year 12.

Schools include Crib Point, Wallaroo, Hastings and Tyabb Railway Station Primary Schools with over 500 children participating every week.

Music teacher, Adrian Allen, is based at the Secondary School, and outreaches one day per week to each primary school. Adrian delivers a robust curriculum that teaches children the fundamentals of music through singing, movement and instrumental playing as skills develop.

As Adrian says, “Music is unique, activating all the senses. Music requires listening, moving, thinking, creating all at once. The brain just lights up, every part of the brain is active.”

Adrian has many stories of children who have overcome anxiety or other challenges to participate in the music program. “It’s amazing to see what happens with the students. Their confidence and passion for music grows, and the development of skills helps them feel good about themselves.”

In 2022 for the first time, the Program included a performance at the Secondary College of combined primary school classes. The children had never been in such a performance before and were thrilled with the opportunity to perform in such large choirs in a large performance space with parents and siblings watching on.

Music is an important part of the MPF funded work in education with our focus on oral language and literacy as the building blocks for success in life. Music supports the development of both oral and written language through skills acquisition in pitch and rhythm, as well as emotional self regulation through movement and mental concentration.

This program also supports the transition of children from primary to secondary school as it builds familiarity in both place and people.

For more positives about the program, let’s hear from Adrian…

“I could talk about this for a fortnight. It’s amazing to see what happens with the students. Each lesson they just glow. The smiles on their faces, their happiness in the session, the passion for music, the confidence building, the development of skills helps them feel good about themselves.”

“I try to find out what switches them on first, what they’re interested in and I delve into music that relates to them and then teach them the concepts of music from that point. I teach from more of a practical approach not just giving complicated theory.”

“The rewards are amazing because you have children that turn up to concerts I put on, children who have stage fright and anxiety and then to see the look on their faces and the strength they have when they come away from being in the concert and what a buzz that gives them. The rewards teaching music are really obvious, you see them in front of you. Sometimes they’re instant and sometimes it takes a little while, but you see them in front of you.”

When asked if there have been any standout moments in the MPF Music Program, Adrian says, “I remember one boy I was teaching who was very reserved in all of his subjects at school, he sat up the back with his arms crossed and wouldn’t participate. So, I didn’t pressure him to join in anything, I brought him into it very slowly. I let him sit and watch. After a month he joined in and became one of the most stand out performers. I managed to reach him through the music.”

“There was one stand out thing two weeks ago. We had a concert coming up and there was a boy in grade 4 he had extreme anxiety and refused to come to the concert. He wasn’t going to do it so I just asked him, ‘I hear that you have anxiety, answer me this though ‘would you like to be able to do the concert if you could?’ and he said ‘yes’ and that led us into a discussion about what sort of things I could do for him to make it possible for him to come to the concert. He went home that night really excited about it, did the concert, and felt so good about himself. That is a classic example of how music reached out to him.”

“If I get the chance, what I do like to stress to the kids is how unique music is. Because unlike maths class for example where you’re sitting down focusing on a task, listening to the teacher but in a music class you’re activating all the senses, you might be moving at the same time you have to read the music, you might be creating at the same time you have to read the music, you might be holding your instrument while you are listening to the others play their part. There are so many things happening at once when it comes to music and singing. The brain just lights up, every part of the brain is active. Moving, thinking, creating, doing.”

When it comes to teaching Adrian says there’s one important element that makes all the difference. “The most important thing is, you can be the most fantastic, knowledgeable person at any subject, but you have to have the relationship with the kids. And to show students you care and then if you show them that they’ll be willing to learn what you present, they will feel safe to take some educational risks. They might try and get up there and sing or play something.”

What is the difference between teaching music at primary school compared to secondary school? “The students’ skills are more advanced in the secondary school but you’re dealing with an attitudinal change with the students from about year 6 it happens, so it’s even more important to be able to connect. If you can connect you can teach the curriculum.”

“I notice with children who can’t read, grade ones and twos, if they need to learn a piece of music and you put a piece of paper in front of them with words, I say to them ‘don’t stress because you’re going to be able hear the words with the music and you’ll learn the words and then you’ll be able to relate what you’ve learnt orally to what seeing’ and I think that helps them with their reading.”