A game-changer for music education

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Students from Holy Spirit College Lakemba, were one of 150 Sydney Catholic schools taking part in the Amadeus music education program. Photo: Natalie Roberts/Sydney Catholic Schools
Students from Holy Spirit College Lakemba, were one of 150 Sydney Catholic schools taking part in the Amadeus music education program. Photo: Natalie Roberts/Sydney Catholic Schools

Sydney Catholic Schools has launched a landmark new music education program which will not only help nurture the careers of professional musicians, but also lead to stronger overall academic results and student wellbeing.

Through the Amadeus music education program, 33,000 students in all 150 Sydney Catholic schools will benefit from quality music education, especially from learning to play a musical instrument by the beginning of 2024.

The Executive Director of Sydney Catholic Schools, Mr Tony Farley said the program builds upon the great tradition of music education in Catholic education, with benefits extending far beyond the music curriculum itself.

“We need robust music education in schools, and I applaud Sydney Catholic Schools for its commitment and investment in Amadeus.”

“There’s a strong correlation between excellent music progress in schools and improved academic outcomes across literacy, numeracy and analytical skills. So this was a moment when we could bring all that together and create a huge opportunity for all the students in our system”, he said.

The program provides students with classroom music lessons, ensemble lessons and small group tuition and will be led by more than 80 classroom music teachers and 270 specialist music tutors.

The tutors bring with them professional experience from orchestras and ensembles around Australia and the world, with strong support for the program from Sydney Youth Orchestra, the Sydney Conservatorium of Music and Opera Australia.

Students in the Amadeus Music Education Program from St John Vianney primary, Greenacre. Photo: St John Vianney primary, Greenacre
Students in the Amadeus Music Education Program from St John Vianney primary, Greenacre. Photo: St John Vianney primary, Greenacre

“The Amadeus program is visionary and of enormous value to the broader orchestral world”, said the Artistic Director of Opera Australia, Lyndon Terracini.

“We need robust music education in schools, and I applaud Sydney Catholic Schools for its commitment and investment in Amadeus”.

The program has begun with a successful pilot involving 13 schools in the Auburn-Lakemba network.

“It’s given me more skills and personal responsibility. I have to keep the instruments clean, loosening the bow before putting it back in the case and even showing up to tutorials on time.”

One of the schools involved, the co-educational secondary school, Holy Spirit College in Lakemba, said it is already reaping rewards from it.

Principal Mr Phillip Scollard said it has helped to greatly expand access to a music education for students from across all socio-economic backgrounds.

“With our Year 7s, even though it has been in place one year, we can see that it’s really helping them engage more effectively with their learning, including better concentration. Music is not a cheap endeavour and so a program like this is a real social leveller as well”, he said.

Year 7 student Elyssia Deeb took up playing the flute and said she has benefited greatly from the Amadeus program.

“It’s helped me to improve my memory as well, since I have to remember all the notes. It gives everybody the opportunity to play musical instruments that we may not otherwise have been able to access. It’s a wonderful program and we’re given constant support and guidance from our music teachers”, she said.

Classmate John-Paul Sukkar has also had a very positive experience from learning how to play the viola.

“The Amadeus program is visionary and of enormous value to the broader orchestral world.”

“It’s given me more skills and personal responsibility. I have to keep the instruments clean, loosening the bow before putting it back in the case and even showing up to tutorials on time”, he said.

Creative and Performing Arts Coordinator at Holy Spirit College, Ms Emma Hughes said the Amadeus program is starting to unlock a lot of previously untapped musical talent amongst the students.

“They’ve never had the experience of playing a flute or a cello or whatever it might be and some of the students never knew these instruments even existed”, she explained.

Students from Holy Spirit College Lakemba, were one of 150 Sydney Catholic schools taking part in the Amadeus music education program. Photo: Natalie Roberts/Sydney Catholic Schools
Students from Holy Spirit College Lakemba, were one of 150 Sydney Catholic schools taking part in the Amadeus music education program. Photo: Natalie Roberts/Sydney Catholic Schools

“So it’s been very exciting to unlock those abilities which you would never have known existed had it not been for this program”.

Principal at nearby St John Vianney Primary school in Greenacre, Mr Justin Coupland said lessons in the program shifted online during the recent lockdown, but face-to-face tutoring will resume soon.

“COVID did get in the way a bit, which made face to face instruction quite difficult, but the tutors continued posting online via Google Classroom”, he said.

“As we have our Year 3 students beginning and they move into high school, we’ll see music programs evolve in all of those schools, throughout the primary, but particularly the secondary schools …”

Through the program, students from Years 3-8 will have access to 52,000 different instruments by 2024 and classroom music lessons will start in kindergarten.

Executive Director of Sydney Catholic Schools, Mr Tony Farley said that will have many long-term benefits.

“As we have our Year 3 students beginning and they move into high school, we’ll see music programs evolve in all of those schools, throughout the primary, but particularly the secondary schools, we’ll have students who have benefited from four years of practice, of working in ensembles and bands who will then come into our high schools with real confidence and contribute greatly to music programs in our schools”, he added.