Real Life Stories Behind the Performances

We’re gathering lots of stories about everyone’s experience at Moorambilla this year. It all culminated in powerful Festival performances! Behind that are a lot more stories – about collaboration, community building, confidence, dedication, change, friendship and a new outlook on life.

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Hey MAXed OUT Team! I wanted to tell you how well you did on Saturday night…. It was off the chain! A lot of people came up to me and said… “You must be proud?” And it’s true, I am proud but more so I was honored to share the stage with you all… as a team! Look what we achieved with two weeks’ hard work; imagine what we could do with that kind of dedication always! Peace! Anton Lock, TaikOz, Ensemble in Residence


I had the most fun this year. It really helped me realise that working with youth is what I really want to do. This year Moorambilla picked me right up and I’m feeling great and ready to explore the world and its opportunities. It’s honestly saved me from a life of procrastinating, not thinking I was good enough, excuses and regrets. Michelle, I can’t think of any way to thank you or tell you how much everything Moorambilla has done for me really means. Thanks again, I really appreciated the opportunity 🙂 Justin Welsh, Moorambilla Voices and MAXed OUT Youth Mentor


My Hunter School kids had fantastic gigs and loved hanging and jamming with MAXed OUT. They got both performance opportunities and chance to “share” their passion and skills. The initial disappointment of the change of venue from the Dandry Gorge was quickly replaced by sheer joy. My students LOVED that first concert; it really set the energy/standard/variety for the rest of the festival. It was a great way of establishing mutual respect between my gang and yours. It also gave them some conversation starters. I get the enormous energy required to make a vision reality. Having chatted with lots of the MAXed OUT kids I can see the huge impact and change you have made in their lives. Sarah Reeve, Hunter School of the Performing Arts, ensemble in residence


I have been in MAXed OUT for five years and I have never seen a new group excel this quickly. We learnt our repertoire in four days and ran it twice on the last day with no trouble. You guys did so well it makes me tear up. I hope for generations to come MAXed OUT will have the same outstanding kids as you guys! Yue Liang, MAXed OUT


The thing I love most Moorambilla is that it’s really a massive artistic vehicle – with hundreds of creative minds coming together from all over NSW to create something incredible; in the middle of nowhere. That, along with the once-a-year catch up with friends, is why I came back for my second year in 2013; and is why I can hopefully come back in 2014. Nathan Bryon, MAXed OUT soloist, Dubbo

If you don’t go to Moorambilla or see it your life is not finished when you die. It was awesome, amazing – anything that you love [is] crushed with the new memories of Moorambilla. Pat Skinner, MAXed OUT,  Trangie


I’ve been a part of the Moorambilla Festival for seven years. Michelle Leonard, the artistic director, is a teacher, mother, artist, friend, wife, conductor, and musician and still has time to be a comedian! She takes the time to travel across this third of the state to audition students from all walks of life to be a part of a project involving music, dance, fun and family. What is there not to like about Moorambilla? In lots of schools, many students are ridiculed for being so interested in music and dance. At Moorambilla you are with everyone else just like you. This is the opportunity of a lifetime. You won’t leave the festival unhappy with your experience. All of Australia, even the world, should experience Moorambilla once in their life. Taylor Nasmith, MAXed OUT, Coolah



My daughter, Sophia Hayden was involved in the girls’ choir and I cannot thank everyone involved enough for how much the experience of Moorambilla has effected her. She is a really bright girl who does well at school academically but has always struggled a little socially – she is quiet and hopeless at anything sporting which can, in a country town, be a little isolating! When she was chosen to participate in the program Sophia was so excited and rang up all of the family. I was so happy for her. That is when the changes in Sophia really began.

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She loved the camp experience. I was worried about how she would cope because she didn’t know a soul. Sophia reported that she loved everything – the singing, dancing, art, and hot chocolate around the campfire, racing the other girls to get a warm shower…. and learning so many new things. She came back from the first camp with Alice’s practise CD and didn’t stop singing. Thankfully the music was so heavenly because her younger sister and I have heard the music so many times that we know every word! Though according to Sophia we are pronouncing ‘ground’ wrong and not reaching the notes correctly! She sounds like an angel singing those beautiful songs. I can’t really believe that Michelle was able to help her sing like that.

The performances were brilliant. The concert was inspiring. The carers at camp were absolutely lovely. I don’t have a word of complaint. I’ve been in education for a long time and know how hard it can be to manage such a large group of kids – even just getting them off and on stage in some semblance of order is tricky however you guys had the transitions perfected and the way all of the children were so completely focussed on Michelle’s conducting! So impressive. During the last school holidays Sophia started writing her own songs. She’s happy and confident – I cannot thank the Moorambilla team enough for helping my little girl discover more about herself and the endless possibilities that are available to her.  Jacqueline Murtagh, Assistant Principal, Trangie Central School

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“This was an amazing and wholesome festival experience. Michelle, your passion and verve are astounding and inspirational! Thank you for inviting us! Already looking forward to next year!” Song Company, ensemble in residence


While accompanying the Moorambilla Voices children’s choir (made up of hundreds of children from around the regional area) I couldn’t help but feel quite humbled to be able to share in what was I’m sure a very special occasion for the children, many of whom who were experiencing music for the very first time.

After a very successful Gala Concert there was celebratory function (complete with fire sculptures!), which gave us the chance to mingle with our colleagues from the festival, composers and performers, professionals and amateurs, all together – in a way encapsulating the very spirit of the festival. At the ‘Buck and Bull’ we met some colourful and cheery Irish folk living in Coonamble, who were fascinated to hear what a group of young classical musicians were doing so far from Sydney! Heading home at last. Exhausted.


From the Sydney Symphony Fellowship Blog

Leichhardt Espresso Chorus is so proud to have been the choir in residence at the Moorambilla Festival for the last eight years. Every year for us is a different experience, an certainly this year a highlight was working up close with the Song Company, experiencing the MAXed OUT performances, and going back to a community we have built strong links with. Singing in so many different venues and under pressure of a completely different nature to Sydney, makes as all such a better ensemble. And there’s no better bond up than a bus ride out west! Lliane Clarke, President.


Outback Arts is clearly making a big difference with its partnerships and collaborations. And the Moorambilla Festival and Voices were extraordinary.  Warm regards, Mary Darwell, Executive Director, Arts NSW

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None of us are afraid of cameras now – we were filmed the whole time!

We’re looking forward to the ABC documentary about Moorambilla Voices children and their lives released early next year.





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