Founded in 1945, Musica Viva is Australia's oldest independent professional performing arts organisation. Musica Viva In Schools reaches 1,300 schools nationwide with 650 of those based in NSW alone.
The group’s professional development manager, Sue Lane, explained how Musica Viva In Schools has been opening the eyes of students and teachers to the creative, social and academic benefits of music education.
“One of our mottos is ‘music to inspire’, and the idea behind that is for students to develop a love for music so they can enjoy the many benefits associated with it,” Lane told The Educator.
“There is research that shows cognitive and social benefits of music education for students, and one area I push a lot with teachers is how music does not only inspire students but teaches them so much about the world – and themselves.
Lane said the organisation’s impact can especially be felt in Australia’s multicultural society, in which children can connect with their cultural roots and help them “find their place” in the world.
Musica Viva has also been educating – and inspiring – through the use of the program Dätiwuy Dreaming, a collaboration between Musica Viva and the National Aboriginal Islander Skill Development Association (NAISDA), which is Australia’s premier Indigenous training college.
The program provides students with an insight to Yolngu culture (the people of North-East Arnhem Land) through the eyes of Elcho Island cultural tutors.
Lane explained how the program teaches children – both Indigenous and non-Indigenous – about Yolngu culture through the use of dance, music and story-telling.
“We have set up cultural protocols around the use of the material in schools to ensure that children have been prepared appropriately,” Lane said, referring to the cultural sensitivities inherent in the display and practice of Indigenous ceremonial performances.
Lane said it was quite reassuring for teachers and schools to know that the program has been well-researched and negotiated.
“As part of the program, we meet with the teachers beforehand to discuss the protocols and show the materials to prepare them for the ensemble. Many of them, even including the Indigenous elders, were very intrigued,” Lane said.
“In one particular area of Western Australia, for example, they didn’t play a yidaki (otherwise called a didgeridoo) and, having watched the video, realised the dancers moved differently to how they moved.
“I’m not Indigenous, so I’ve learnt so much through this experience.
“The most important thing I’ve learnt from this is the importance of respect and acknowledgement, and understanding that these are the traditions of this rich culture.”
Musica Viva has many performing ensembles that visit schools all over Australia, presenting a variety of educational experiences for students. Lane said the live music experience is “what Musica Viva is all about”.
Lane said she visited a special needs school this week where an ensemble from Musica Viva played for students. She explained how the experience had a positive impact on everyone in the school – teachers and carers included.
“They [the students] were dancing, playing instruments and enjoying the experience. The joy on their faces was priceless,” Lane said.
“In that setting, it’s not just the experience for the students but also for the carers and teachers who are there to see the students having such a wonderful experience.”