07 Dec 2017

A not so typical school day

Our musicians dropped in on this school’s afternoon assembly for a special announcement.

While the students at Soldiers' Settlement Public School are used to hearing Coldplay's A Sky Full of Stars over the loudspeaker to signal the end of lunchtime, yesterday they were treated to a very different sound when the Sydney Symphony Orchestra came to visit.

An ensemble of 10 SSO musicians performed We Wish You a Merry Christmas and Jingle Bells for 180 students at the Matraville school to celebrate its inclusion in the new Credit Suisse Sydney Symphony Orchestra Schools Music Education Program. 

Principal Polly Palaitis says "the students absolutely loved it". "Some of the younger students who were playing the percussion instruments with the SSO are already asking when they are coming back! The children and staff were on a high after the performance."

The Christmas concert was one of many musical exchanges that will take place between the SSO, Credit Suisse and the school during the next three years. Soldiers' Settlement is one of six schools, with students from diverse backgrounds (some of whom live in lower socio-economic areas) selected to participate in the Credit Suisse Sydney Symphony Orchestra Schools Music Education Program.

The other schools selected to participate in the program are Darlington Public School, Parramatta Public School, La Perouse Public School, Pendle Hill Public School and Dandenong West Primary School (Vic).

Next year, the Year Three students at all of the Sydney schools will experience the SSO's schools concerts in Sydney and take an excursion to the Sydney Opera House where they will get a behind-the-scenes look at the world of a professional orchestra musician.  Once a year, SSO musicians and Credit Suisse staff will also visit the schools for an interactive concert. The Year Three teachers will undertake the SSO's immersive TunED-Up!™ program that will equip them to teach music to their students for years to come.

Each year the new intake of Year Three classes at the schools will join the program while their predecessors continue their musical journey. The SSO will monitor each schools' response across the three-year program by exploring the impact of music education on literacy and numeracy.

Mrs Palaitis already has first-hand experience of the effect of music in the classroom.

"I find that when children are engaged in learning, music deepens that learning," she says. "Music has a powerful effect on students and the way that they learn. It can inspire the learning journey and create a sense of calm or excitement within the classroom environment which is conducive to learning.

Sydney Symphony Orchestra Director of Learning and Engagement Linda Lorenza, who is steering the program, says there is a lot of evidence to show that music education has a positive impact on other areas of learning.  

"Numerous local and international studies show that music develops students' ability to listen, and regular music education has positive impacts on children's academic achievement and motivation," Ms Lorenza says. "The students in our program will not only have a lot of fun, but also enjoy the benefits of music in other areas of their lives." 

Credit Suisse Australia CEO John Knox says the program is "expected to directly impact more than 1,000 students, approximately 36 teachers and involve many of our 400 staff" noting that future generations will also benefit from the experience gained by these teachers and students.

Percussionist Timothy Constable NSW Education Minister Rob Stokes and Credit Suisse Australia CEO John Knox. Credit Belinda Pratten

The first activity as part of the Credit Suisse Sydney Symphony Orchestra Schools Music Education Program commences on Monday 15 January 2018 when the Year Three teachers from Soldiers' Settlement and the other schools participate in the TunED-Up!™ five-day immersive teacher training course with the SSO in Sydney, designed to give them the skills and confidence to teach music in their classrooms.

VIDEO: Daniela Testa
IMAGES: Belinda Pratten