Pembroke College, Adelaide – May 30, 31 June 1, 2012

It’s always great to be invited to Adelaide to work with a school. First reason is it’s my home town and secondly, the music schools there are amazing! The students are all highly talented and motivated individuals, and it is clear the motivation comes from the dedicated music teachers that work with them. Darryl Pope is one of those teachers. He has recently moved from Wilderness College to Pembroke College after about 20 years dedicated service.

Pembroke College has a long history of great bands and choirs, and this year’s batch of students are no exception.
Darryl invited us to headline their annual Jazz Cabaret and do some workshops. John worked with the stage band and concert band and was absolutely blown away by the extremely high standard. A great treat for the students was a visit from the University of Adelaide Big Band for a combined workshop. It was an opportunity for the students from Pembroke to discover how they could continue their musical path, even if they didn’t choose to study music full time.

Meanwhile, I took about 50 vocalists from the choir through the first stages of improvisation. They all had a go at scatting and learned that it doesn’t have to be a scary venture! 6 volunteers (chosen by me) participated in an exercise where they scat in pairs, trading 4’s, having a conversation with each other. The results were quite hilarious as we tried to guess what the conversation might be about. They learned a blues head in 3 part harmony and we picked 9 volunteers to scat in the concert the next night.

The Jazz Cabaret was a hugely successful night. A full house at the Norwood Concert Hall gave the students a real buzz. All the groups performed, and had John and I perform with them at different stages in the night. Also performing were trumpeter Ross Irwin (most would know from The Cat Empire), vocalist Liz Tobias, trombonist Nick Pietsch and bassist Marty Holoubek.

On Friday morning we were invited to do a short performance in the chapel for the senior assembly. The chaplain gave an inspiring talk about finding your talent, that everyone has a talent but sometimes it can take a lifetime to discover what it is. John then spent some time with the drummers who are in the drum line group before we headed to the airport.

It was a very inspiring 3 days at Pembroke and we look forward to visiting them again.

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St Ives – June 5, 2012

My psychic powers must have been finely tuned a couple of months ago. I was driving past St Ives High School on my way to do some private teaching and I casually wondered what was happening in their music department. Did they have a choir? Or a stage band? Or a concert band? The very next day I received an unsolicited email from the St Ives music teacher, Kimberley Lovell asking us to bring our workshops to their school.

St Ives is surrounded by other state high schools with major music programs, and feels that it is time they pulled out all the stops to build music department.

John had a great time with the concert band and stage band. They are all young and enthusiastic players who are keen to have more opportunities to play.

My job was to take a group of talented singers and turn them into a vocal ensemble. 11 singers (10 girls, 1 boy) came to have a go at singing in harmony. After working out who was soprano and who was alto, we got down to business learning 2 choir charts – “Blackbird” by Lennon/McCartney and “Count on Me” by Bruno Mars.

Towards the end of the day, we all came together and performed what we had learned for each other.

In the evening, we were joined by St Ives Public School, lead by Gerald Steinmann, and St Ives North Public School, lead by Peter Blythe, and everyone played for family and friends who came to watch. John joined the stage band for his crazy antics on “Caravan” and even sat in with St Ives North for a little rhumba tune. The high school students helped out by playing in any empty chairs in the primary school bands. Our newly formed vocal group, only 11 hours old and a little short on numbers, did me proud!

John and I surprised the students by inviting 2 young musicians to play a couple of tunes with us. William and Harry Morrison (John’s nephews) brought their guitar and bass and braved the horrendous storm to play “Honeysuckle Rose” and “Pink Champagne”. St Ives trumpeter, Travis Loughhead, even sat in on the blues.

The vocalists have all committed to attending regular rehearsals with Mrs Jodi Thomas, and will actively recruit other singers to build the numbers. And with great bands already at the 2 local primary schools, St Ives High School can look forward to enthusiastic and talented musicians heading their way in the coming years.

It was a great night for all.

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