Jana Mollison Music for Black Saturday Survivors Interview
The University of Melbourne ran a series of music workshops for teenagers in communities still recovering from the Black Saturday bushfires.
Six recent Melbourne Conservatorium of Music (MCM) graduates worked with woodwind and brass ensembles at schools in Alexandra, Healesville and Whittlesea, to support and enhance existing music teaching.
The students then performed alongside the University of Melbourne's Wind Symphony and the Royal Australian Navy Band in an afternoon concert at the University's Melba Hall on Sunday 16th of September.
The event featured performers from the Whittlesea Secondary College Concert Band, Alexandra Secondary College Concert Band, and Clarinet and Saxophone ensembles from Healesville High School.
Entry to the concert was by donation, with proceeds going to the Whittlesea/Alexandra/Kinglake/Yea (WAKY) Youth Music Network, which supports music programs for teenagers in the region.
The project co-ordinator at the MCM, Anastasia Russell-Head, said the program will be a rewarding experience for the students.
"Music is sometimes described as the 'best medicine for everything', and this program should give participants a strong creative outlet after what's been a trying few years."
"This gives the secondary school students a unique opportunity to be inspired and motivated by performing and working alongside professional and pre-professional musicians.
"In addition, the project brings together students and teachers from three schools, helping to unite and network school music programs from different shires."
She said more workshop programs and concerts would be held over the coming years.
"As part of our Regional Engagement program, we envisage that the schools and ensembles involved will have further interaction with the MCM, including touring projects with the orchestra and wind ensemble in 2013," Ms Russell-Head said.
The concert is proudly supported by CatholicCare, the University of Melbourne, the Royal Australian Navy Band, Arts Victoria and Hal Leonard Australia.
CatholicCare's Bushfire Community Recovery counsellor and event organiser, Aicha Brogan, said the experience would be invaluable for the students.
"Though the communities were deeply impacted, losing teachers, students and families to the fires, people have been looking forward to the future in terms of their rebuilding and the road to recovery," she said.
"This type of outreach enriches all involved," Ms Brogan said.
Interview with Jana MollisonQuestion:
Why did you decide to teach music in bushfire affected communities?Jana Mollison
: It was great opportunity to use my skills to help people affected by the bushfires. It was something small I could do, that communities might appreciate. Question:
Where and what did you teach the communities?Jana Mollison
: Nick Yates (saxophone) and I went to Healesville High School to tutor the Woodwind and Saxophone ensembles and work with students one on one. We discussed important issues related to playing in ensembles for example tuning, matching articulation, dynamics and stylistic considerations.
It was such a pleasure working the students. They were friendly, responsive and quick to apply new concepts and ideas to their playing. Question:
What was the most important part of this experience, for you?Jana Mollison
: The most important part was meeting and getting to know the students and being able to offer them some new ideas. Playing in the ensembles with them and watching them improve and develop their playing throughout the term was also a highlight.Question:
How did the children of the Black Saturday bushfire communities take to learning musical instruments?Jana Mollison
: The music programs in the affected areas were small and still developing. It was amazing to see the passion, hard work and commitment of their teachers and how much the students got out of the programs. It was great to offer these teachers and little bit of assistance and support because they do such great work.Question:
How did the concert performance at University's Melba Hall go?Jana Mollison
: The concert went really well. It was a great opportunity for the students to play in Melba Hall, as it is such a beautiful space. It was a great experience for the students to see the smiling faces in the audience of their friends and family, it really brought the community together in a positive way.Question:
What do you enjoy most about teaching the clarinet?Jana Mollison
: I love being able to share my skills and teach students something that is quite unique. There are so many positive experiences associated with playing an instrument such as playing in bands, orchestras and smaller groups.Question:
What originally inspired you to begin playing the clarinet?Jana Mollison
: I started learning the clarinet in year 7. An older family friend played the clarinet and I loved the beautiful rich sound of the instrument.Question:
What advice do you have for people who have just begun learning the clarinet?Jana Mollison
: I would recommend regular practice sessions focusing on warm ups, technique and pieces. I would also recommend joining an ensemble such as an orchestra or band. One of the greatest pleasures of playing an instrument is sharing the experience with others and feeling part of a community. Question:
How can Australians help the communities recovering from the Black Saturday bushfires?Jana Mollison
: Sharing your skills, time and money can all contribute greatly to these communities. It's an ongoing process.
Image: Kai Kin Tan, Fotoholics