How learning an instrument transforms young lives.
Aussie singer-songwriter Guy Sebastian spent years teaching music in schools, so he understands the simple joy it can bring to young lives.
“I was a singing teacher in numerous schools in Adelaide and I saw first-hand how music would light up a child’s face and lift them above all the things that weigh them down,” he says. “Every child deserves that.”
That’s the motivation behind Don’t Stop the Music, a new ABC documentary from Artemis Media that shows how a vibrant music culture can impact a school community and change children’s lives.
The first episode will screen on 11 November at 7.30 pm on ABC TV and ABC iview. It follows students from the Challis Community Primary School in Armadale (WA), as they start learning music, and includes a Just Brass program run by the local Salvation Army corps (church).
John Collinson teaching the children music.
Established by Salvos John and David Collinson in 2010, Just Brass now runs in more than 20 Salvation Army corps around the nation. It gives children the opportunity to learn a musical instrument at no cost.
John Collinson knows very well that when you put an instrument in a child’s hand, more than just music happens.
The Salvation Army’s Just Brass consultant has seen time and again the many benefits for youngsters who take part in the program—and he’s delighted that viewers around Australia will be able to see this on their TV screens.
John says Just Brass came on board with the series after Artemis Media approached Salvos Stores last year to be a collection point for instruments as part of the program.
“They’d contacted Salvos Stores, who told them about Just Brass—and that’s how we got involved in this huge project,” John says.
“Just Brass is always attached to a corps, so I looked up to see where Challis Community School was—and the Salvos’ Armadale Corps is literally across the road.”
That was the start of a great partnership, with a music teacher employed through the corps to teach weekly brass lessons to 40 children. Every Wednesday after school they make the short walk to the hall for band practice.
“We have film of the kids coming into the building and getting their instruments for the first time and sitting down in the band to play their first note together,” John says.
It’s been wonderful to see the amazing impact the program has had on the kids.
“Their journey has been tracked from the instant of them seeing an instrument to the finale concert in the Perth Concert Hall in May.”
Groups of children were also involved in choir and strings programs. High-profile mentors, jazz musician James Morrison and Guy Sebastian, provided encouragement, workshopped songs with the students and inspired them with stories of their own musical journeys.
“It’s been wonderful to see the amazing impact the program has had on the kids, leaders and volunteers,” John says.
“To see the children’s musical advancement, their socialisation and their level of confidence grow is lovely. In the series you’ll see one little girl who was so shy and who couldn’t get a note out at first—now, nine months later, she is bubbly and self-confident. It’s great.
“Just Brass is a band program, so it’s about doing music together and learning to work in teams. The educational benefits of doing music are extraordinary and that’s what the program shows. When Just Brass builds a connection with a school, all sorts of other things can come from that as we see how else we can work together.”
A national instrument donation campaign will be launched in conjunction with the series to ask Aussies to donate unused instruments at any of the 350 Salvos Stores around the country. Salvos Stores national director Matt Davis says these will be used to establish new Just Brass programs.
“This is a great example of The Salvation Army in Australia working together on a national scale,” he says. “This partnership between Musica Viva, Salvos Stores and local corps will strengthen our impact and ensure we are introducing music and its many benefits to the lives of children across the country.”
The series has joint funding from Screen Australia and Screenwest and is backed by Musica Viva and The Salvation Army.