17 Message Sticks: 17 Communities

Moorambilla Voices in 2017 is about unearthing the stories of our region with “17 Message Sticks: 17 Communities”.

We’re excited to prepare for our NEW SCHEDULE for Moorambilla Skills Workshops 2017!

The workshops tour starts on Wednesday 26 April (following ANZAC Day), and finishes on Wednesday 31 May. Read all about it here!

Yes! Our Artistic Director Michelle Leonard OAM will be touring across the region, with 96 schools invited to attend a massive 47 workshops in 52 towns.

Come to school and come along!  All workshops are FREE and all children at the school on that day are welcome to attend. You only need to attend ONE WORKSHOP.

Yes! SCHOOLS: Download the full  NEW SCHEDULE Moorambilla Skills Workshops 2017!

Yes! TEACHERS: we’re excited to be part of the BOSTES teacher accreditation scheme through the NSW Department of Education. Check out the registration details here! You only need to attend ONE WORKSHOP!

Throughout the year, we’ll be unfolding what it means to live in our region, focussing on 17 communities, with specially commissioned music and performance, dance and choreography, stunning photography, sculpture, exhibitions, stories, narrative journeys and more!

We are creating the first Australian-made taiko ensemble ever! And we’re donating it to the region! We’ve secured funding to build from scratch a stunning large-scale ensemble of Australian-made taiko drums for the region’s youth to play in performances that speak of the rich cultural legacy and capacity of rural Australia. Watch out for them in August!

We’re immersing ourselves in Gundabooka, near Bourke, in July, to discover, uncover and bring to life the stories and landscape of that region in music, dance and visual art. This immersion is facilitated by Phillip Sullivan in partnership with NSW NPWS

We’re recording! With the next generation of graduates from ANAM and our wonderful friends at AWO we are getting into the studio to record some new Australian Christmas carols in July for you!

We’re getting together in Baradine in August and then again in September to sing, sing and sing! And we will rehearse, learn, dance and build light sculptures!

We’re performing, not two, but three concerts at Dubbo Theatre this year in September 23 and 24, 2017.

We’re celebrating the region’s amazing creativity at Studio MV, a new space for a series of exhibitions, performances and creativity in Sydney. Clive Live was sensational on March 16-18! Next we present stunning watercolours by Tracey Loughlin, Sydney, and Annie Murray, Walgett, opening from April 13.

We are sharing our exceptional resources with researchers and educators. As a recognised publisher of online material of national interest developed from our program, we have been asked to contribute to the Pandora Archive at the National Library of Australia – forever keeping our achievements alive. WOW!

Artwork: Burnt wood emu callers, Peter Gordon, Brewarrina, 2006.
Photography: Noni Carroll.

Opportunities rich and rare

Moorambilla’s choral music program offers primary and high school children a unique chance to develop their own capacity in an outstanding creative environment. This year we have four music education professionals as interns in the primary program – two international and two regional – working alongside the artistic team.

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From left: Rachael Pennington (London UK), Jen McPherson (Narrabri), Jody Nott (Wellington), Michelle Leonard, Anna Williams (London UK).

With only three dedicated, tertiary qualified music teachers in the entire region, the program provides, for many students, the only music lesson they will access each year from someone who has the skills to unlock their vocal potential. The children read and write music, sing in parts and sight sing, and discover and develop their vocal capacity.

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Artistic Director Michelle Leonard with Moorambilla Voices boys choir.

“Our commitment is to provide this opportunity to every single student who has the potential,” says Artistic Director Michelle Leonard. “We also welcome community members into the workshops, as well as teachers whose active involvement serves as part of their professional development.”

Jen McPherson grew up in Ballata near Narrabri. After studying film making and completing a degree in teaching, Jen is now teaching choir in the region at Rowena and Wee Waa Public Schools. She’s also an incredibly accomplished singer herself.

“All of these children are in some ways disadvantaged by living in a rural area,” says Jen. “They are missing out on creative and musical opportunities. But Moorambilla gives those children with a natural ability an opportunity that would not otherwise be fostered.”

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Jen McPherson working with Moorambilla Voices primary girls.

Music education is proven to increase the development of neural pathways in children, and specifically benefits memory, concentration and listening skills. The benefits to the children overall are life-changing, and range from boosts in confidence and self expression, developing a willingness to explore and crucially to ask questions, and confidence in teamwork and sharing.

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“Engagement is a big word in primary teaching!” says Jen. “The children are asked to sing high and they just do it! They normally say it’s too hard! They’re doing it here because they are expected to do it. Every time they start making a sound they are encouraged to make it more beautifully. That’s what it takes to be a good choral singer. They have to find that space in their own voices.”

Anna Williams, a primary school music teacher from London in the UK, is on a Winston Churchill Trust Fellowship at Moorambilla to study primary music excellence. She’s in Baradine with intern Rachael Pennington from the UK, who works with her at the music education charity “Orchestras for All” in the UK.

“I was looking for an organization that demonstrated leadership and high expectations of what children can do with their voices,” says Anna. “So I googled ‘excellent practice in children’s singing’. Moorambilla Voices came up and here I am!”
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“The program is focused on the practical but also rooted strongly in music theory and music skills. The sol fa warm ups have really impressed me. Also drawing out the music that the kids are singing to a link to understanding stave notation has been really exciting to see in action.

“All the kids have music in front of them and they’re all expected to follow it. They may not know every note but the strong modelling in front helps them understand what they are doing when they look at the page. It encourages them to be really independent as musicians.

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Primary school teacher Jody Nott, on professional development to Moorambilla from the small regional Wellington Public School, sees this in practice.

“This program places the best in the business out in regional NSW. I particularly like the way that the Moorambilla program is cross curricula and the music sessions incorporate maths in the breaking down of the notation and the time signatures.”

“I love the way that Michelle has such high expectations of primary boys,” says Jody. “Don’t expect less because they are boys,” she says. “Expect more because they are boys!”

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Anna engages with “the power of pink positivity” message of Moorambilla Voices.  “The program’s message is that singing is a really normal thing to do. To do something well is a really normal thing to do. And to want to improve and make it as good as you can possibly make it, well that is normal. It’s a very empowering culture.” 

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Anna Williams is on a Winston Churchill Memorial Scholarship. Jen and Jody acknowledge the support of their primary school principals: Michelle Ether and Denis Anderson at Wellington Public School, Peter Caret at Wee Waa and Paul Cecil at Rowena Public School.

Text: Lliane Clarke
Photography: Noni Carroll.