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Band Camp boosts music education for Cape York students

Announcement posted by Good to Great Schools Australia 30 Aug 2021

More than thirty Indigenous students from remote Cape York primary schools will participate in an intensive week-long music camp in Cooktown next week.  

The annual Cape York Aboriginal Australian Academy (CYAAA) Band Camp is a unique opportunity for students from Hope Vale and Coen, to work with professional musicians, composers and directors to grow their musical talents.

Culminating in a public performance in Hope Vale on Friday 6 September, the camp’s program includes training for a science-themed musical and professional tutoring in an array of instruments including brass, percussion and woodwind.

The performance will include the CYAAA School Band followed by the world premiere of E = mc2 – The Musical, a theatre show developed especially for these students as part of the science curriculum at their school.

Band Camp’s director, Good to Great Schools Australia Director of Arts Chris Kohn, said Band Camp is part of a larger performing arts program the Cairns-based organisation has developed for students in Cape York.

‘The benefits of music education are huge – as important as literacy and numeracy – and all students should have the opportunity to access quality music education, no matter where they live,’ said Mr Kohn.

‘We believe that the Malpa Performing Arts program is the most comprehensive and high-quality music program happening in remote Indigenous schools anywhere in Australia,’ Mr Kohn said.

As well as an annual band camp, the Malpa program includes year-round in-school music teacher mentoring, an instrumental music program and community-specific live theatrical performances focused on the local culture and history.  

‘For example, at Hope Vale’s Academy, The Epic Story of the Guugu Yimithirr Peoples uses poetry, dance, theatre and song, in English and Guugu Yimithirr, to explore the rich history of the Guugu Yimithirr peoples,’ said Mr Kohn.

Facilitators at the Band Camp will include Yothu Yindi drummer Ben Hakalitz and other leading musicians from Cairns and beyond.

Mr Hakalitz said 2021 is his seventh year as a facilitator at the Band Camp.

‘The thing that really excites me most is to see Indigenous kids pick up an instrument, not only play it, but read the musical notations, that’s the thing that really gets me going,’ said Mr Hakalitz.

Watch the students perform from 6pm on Friday 10 September in Hope Vale.

Full interview with Ben Hakalitz:

What excites you most about working with these kids from remote communities?

The thing that really excites me most is to see Indigenous kids pick up an instrument, not only play it but read the musical notations, that’s the thing that really gets me going. For them to understand that – it’s amazing – it’s such a universal language to any kid, whether Indigenous or other different cultures or background or whatever, but music is such a universal language. To see them play and play it really well reading the notes, that’s what gets me excited.

Every year I say it’s going to be my last year and now it’s been seven years. You see them grow with the instruments and you get attached to them. That’s what gets me passionate about working in Indigenous communities, they are just amazing.

What’s your dream for the musically talented children from these schools?

You know my dream is to see some of them play in the orchestra. Some of those kids to go on and be part of the Melbourne Symphony or the Sydney Symphony, Youth Symphony – things like that where they can get that opportunity besides sports, because sports have been the extracurricular activity they’ve been doing more. But it would be nice to see Indigenous kids play together in an orchestra or create an orchestra of Indigenous students playing those instruments and maybe form an Indigenous orchestra – that’s my dream! Imagine that! I think that’s not impossible, I think that’s achievable. And you know, I’m so grateful of what Good to Great Schools Australia is doing and the years I have been working with them, I’ve been so attached to them it’s impossible to leave. I see the instructors come in, there’s new people, new direction, then I see the kids and I can’t bring myself to leave.