Bathurst – March 6 and 7, 2012

John and I always love going to Bathurst. It was where we did our first workshop together and we always take the opportunity to catch up with the friends we have in the area. The high school has a strong music program, built by a dedicated teacher, Andrew Smith, who first met John when he was a young student going to jazz camp. He now encourages his students, and his own children, to come to jazz camp and get the same great experience he got.

While I taught my new arrangement of “Caravan of Love” to the choir members, John enjoyed hearing Swing Factor in their workshop and is confident that this is a program that will continue to thrive. As well as having a junior band within the school, Chill Factor, the area has several primary schools with strong music programs that act as a feeder program. A few years ago, John helped set up a combined primary school’s big band called Serious Fun. Students from 6 different primary schools put forward their top music students to audition for places in the band, and they rehearse and perform together on a regular basis. The first group of students to come through the program have now graduated from high school. They earned great marks in their HSC exams, and one of the students has been accepted into the Generations in Jazz Academy in Mt Gambier to study for a year with Graeme Lyall. It really has proven itself to be an exceptional program for outstanding young musicians. It is now time to refresh the local interest in the program as these things need money to keep going.

To generate some interest amongst the students, John and I decided to do a 2 hour workshop for the local primary schools at Bathurst High School. Called “Musical Madness” we started with one of John’s crazy drum solo’s, then split the group up into instrumentalists and vocalists. The 82 students, from Blayney Public School and Eglinton Public School, had a great time and asked very thoughtful questions at the end of the workshop. Thanks also to Julia Ireland and Peter Hanlon for bringing their lovely students along. We look forward to seeing them again.

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Mackay – March 2, 2012

It’s always very exciting for John and I to be invited to a place we have never been before. Not so much for the chance to view the local scenery, but to be able to meet the people that make up the personality of the area.It is also interesting for us to visit different schools and see what fresh ideas we can pass on to other schools around the country.

While we are jazz specialists, we have both had extensive experience in other areas of the music industry – pop, rock, musicals, cabaret. And just as well as we found ourselves, for the 2nd day in a row, at a school that was working on their musical!

St Patrick’s College in Mackay are in the final stages of rehearsal for their adaptation of Cats. I was very excited as I (secretly) adore this show. It is a very challenging show for young performers. The score changes keys and time signatures regularly – often in the same song. The ranges stretch the most experienced of singers, and don’t get me started on the harmonies – ALW, we need to talk about the illogical alto parts!

The students at St Pat’s have been learning their parts diligently, and building the stamina required to sing and dance at the same time. I met with the very talented singers who had been assigned featured roles. and their biggest obstacle was developing their cat’s personality – and therefore, voice. There is a fine line between singing too “pretty” and sounding like….well, sounding like a cat being strangled in a dark alley. For many it was quite a challenge to overcome, but they all did amazingly well when the cast came together in the afternoon and performed all of Act 1 for me. What a treat!

Meanwhile, John was putting the St Pat’s band through their paces, then headed off to nearby Mercy College to work with the younger musicians there.

It was a fun and challenging day for all. A big thank you to Bianca Johnston from St Pat’s and Judith Hodge from Mercy for making it possible.

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Proserpine – March 1, 2012

Several years ago, John and I were invited to workshop a school in Brisbane who were having a band tour. They had travelled all the way from Proserpine, in Central Queensland, on a bus that broke down every 5 minutes. The bus dramas didn’t dampen the students spirits and we enjoyed working with them.

A whole generation of high school students later, John and I were invited to perform at the North Queensland Wine and Jazz Festival in Mackay. I seemed to recall that the Proserpine student’s bus broke down the first time in Mackay, so I figured they must be reasonably close by. Thanks to Facebook, I had kept in touch with their enthusiastic director, Deb Tunbridge, and we decided that, come hell or high water, we would get to “Prossie” for a workshop.

Usually workshopping jazz bands and singers, we were asked to help the students prepare for their production of “Chicago”, one of my favorite scores. I spent the morning with all the solo vocalists, while John whipped the young band into shape, then in the afternoon we put the vocalists together with the band. Even John and I sat in with the band for a little bit of “And All That Jazz”.

Thanks for having us Prossie. It was well worth the trip!!

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Port Macquarie – February 21-24 2012

John and I travelled 5 hours to Port Macquarie on the NSW north coast. At jazz camp this year, we had 7 students come from the area who were so enthusiastic about their music, and learning and playing jazz in particular, that their teacher, Sharon Green, decided to bring jazz camp home!

Over 4 jam-packed days, John and I workshopped bands, choirs and solo vocalists from St Joseph’s Regional High School, St Paul’s High School, Heritage Christian College, North Haven Primary School and even local community band, Black Magic Big Band.

As well as digging into the workshops, the students joined us in performing at the Panthers club in town. It was a great night of performances from all the students that was very well attended by friends and family. We had the pleasure of performing with local musicians for a quintet set – Geoff Kearns on piano, Chris Trotman on sax, and young multi-instrumentalist Laura Small, who did a wonderful job on bass. We got off to a bit of a shaky start when our GPS took us to the wrong club – there is another Panthers club just out of town. We arrived there just in time for a round of Bingo!!! Thankfully we were able to find our way to the right venue in time.

It was very exciting for us to go to a new region that has so much support for the arts in their schools. We are looking forward to building a long lasting relationship with the musicians in this beautiful part of Australia.

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