The camps are in full swing now, voices are well and truly warmed up, bodies are moving and the canvas is really taking shape. All of this is not possible without the incredible support of our locally based supervisors. They join in the creative activities during the day, tuck the children up at night, and network behind the scenes in their communities to support them in so many ways more than financial, to ensure that all children are able to participate.
Many children are in peer groups where the dominant message is “don’t stand out – don’t excel beyond your peer group, stay in the background, don’t achieve.” Moorambilla fundamentally challenges this and builds self confidence to say “we can”. We can write music, dance, create words for lyrics, paint a picture, hear stories and sing – beautifully.
The supervisors play a crucial part in this process as both positive role models and often they are educators themselves. They appreciate the professional development they in turn receive from being part of the program and this builds a strong base to grow from each year.
Cobar Public School teacher Kylie Harvey is a first-time Moorambilla supervisor. She met Artistic Director Michelle Leonard in her school staff room when she came through the town to hear the children sing and run skills workshops. She was so impressed with the excellent quality of singing that she made sure every single child in the school attended the workshop.
“I run a little choir at school, because I really believe that all children should have the chance to sing. But while I have the passion for it I don’t have the training to do anything near what Michelle does.”
“The camps are intense. These children have only four days to produce the kind of sound and repertoire that city kids train for week in and week out. And they do!”
Moorambilla has always celebrated Indigenous culture in the north-west region, and this year is no exception. Kylie says this builds on existing programs at school.
“At Cobar we are trying to keep Indigenous language alive. The kids speak language and in the mornings they sing songs in language. We use words from Gamilaroi/Gamilaraay/Yuralaway in Walgett and Ngemba in Cobar.”
What will she take back from Cobar? “For a start I will take back lots of ideas! The educational benefits are huge from a program like this – most small country town kids just don’t get this opportunity. I know that after Moorambilla camps, the way they sing will have changed and so will what they want to sing. I like being part of this because I want to make singing something normal and fun, and not anything to be embarrassed of.”
Local mother Donna Ditchfield is supervising again and says “It’s good to see the kids from the beginning and then see what they are like at the end of the three days. You watch each day and see them change and then all the parts come together. You see the themes and the performances takes shape.”
Walgett Public School teacher Nora Pieterse has been coming to Moorambilla for several years. “When Michelle came into Walgett for the auditions I could see it was something wonderful and different – not just singalongs and country singing – and of a very high quality. Her expertise was something I wanted to be involved in.”
“The children just don’t sing at all as part of their daily education,” says Nora. “I mean, there are only about three qualified music teachers in this part of north-western NSW. Nearly all of our school’s students identify as Indigenous and it’s extremely unlikely that they would ever hear any classical or choral music, let alone participate in it. This gives them a chance to engage with children outside of their own community, and broadens their horizons.”
“Last year I brought one student with me who hardly sang a note – this year I see her opening up and really joining in and participating. Some kids have never slept away from their family before and it’s really challenging for them. But they have to find the resources within themselves to push through it.”
“What I really like about Moorambilla is that it’s not about competition – it’s about sharing music, collaborating in a choir, sharing cabins and meals. They are not trying to outdo each other, they have to learn to cooperate.”
Crystal Donnelly is a teachers aid at Brewarrina Public School and says that while she “sort of knew what to expect” she didn’t realise how excellent the music education would be. “Last year my daughter Taylah and two of her friends wrote a song for the Eco summit in Sydney. Now they are seeing composer Alice Chance and Callum Close playing together and they want to learn the piano so they can write music for their own songs.”
“Brewarrina is a fantastic community and a great town – but there is a lot of energy for sport, and nothing really for music. I am the coach and manager of Brewarrina Netball Club, and I know it’s easier to get funding for sporting activities than for music.”
Crystal is studying a degree in early childhood and primary education at Charles Sturt University. “I want to make a difference to the kids in the community. Just because we live in a rural community it doesn’t mean that we are limited in what we can do.”
“Moorambilla Voices is for the region’s children and adolescents. To have something like this in your own backyard, celebrating your culture, your life, your stories and involving YOU in every aspect in such a positive way, is life affirming on every level,” says Artistic Director Michelle Leonard. “For me, seeing the incredible collaborative results is so artistically rewarding, and makes me realize yet again the enormous potential in everyone – and none of it could happen without our remarkable and dedicated supervisors who have such an important role to play, while we all watch it all unfold.”