Girls Grammar teacher shares the joy of singing with the Goondiwindi community
Brisbane Girls Grammar School Curriculum Music Teacher, Mrs Stephanie Eaton generously gave a weekend of her time to facilitate choral workshops at the Border Rivers Sing event held in Goondiwindi in February 2017.
The event centered around a screening of the documentary, When we sing… ‘a joyful exploration of Zoltán Kodály’s revolutionary approach to unlocking musicality in teachers and their students, choir leaders and choristers through the work of Australian educator Dr James Cuskelly’.[i]
Border Rivers Sing organiser, Ms Benita Klowss organised a series of choral workshops and performances that were held on the weekend of the screening so the community could experience first-hand the joy of music and singing.
Ms Klowss invited Mrs Eaton to facilitate the workshops, comprising a community choir session attended by more than 60 people on the Saturday, and a workshop for 40 children and youth ranging in age from 7 to 15 on the Sunday.
‘There was a strong focus on bringing together the students in the region for a larger choral experience than they would normally participate in at school,’ Mrs Eaton said.
Students learned several songs including the complex choral piece, Out There by Sydney composer Dan Walker, a Torres Strait Islander circle dance, an Israeli folk song and created their own arrangement of the simple canon, Canoe Song. At the conclusion of the workshops, students were able to perform the pieces they had learned for their parents.
‘After only two and a half hours of time together, they demonstrated their absolute pleasure in learning and singing,’ Mrs Eaton said.
Both workshops were observed by fifteen music and general teachers who enjoyed a fruitful discussion at a question and answer session at the conclusion of the event.
The teachers were grateful for the opportunity to learn from Mrs Eaton’s musical expertise.
Giving back is an important part of the Girls Grammar ethos, and we strongly encourage our staff to share their knowledge and expertise with the broader community.
‘The opportunity to participate in local professional development for music education is non-existent, unless travel to major cities is undertaken’, said Ms Klowss in an interview with the Goondiwindi Argus.[ii]
Past student Dr Sue Masel (Hyde, 1987) — a general practitioner in Goondiwindi — attended Border Rivers Sing with her family and thoroughly enjoyed the event.
‘The highlight for me was in being part of the group energy which is born out of the experience of singing together, Dr Masel said.
‘It was a chance to step out of the everyday and enjoy the exhilarating tingle which you get when many voices join to generate a sound which is greater than the sum of its parts.’
Dr Masel’s daughter Ruby is currently in Year 10 at Girls Grammar and is taught music by Mrs Eaton.
‘I am amazed and impressed by the direction which the Music Programme at the School has taken since I last walked out the front gate, Dr Masel said.
‘I attended my second Gala Concert last year, and was left open-mouthed at the quality of the production and the galvanizing effect that the focus on music performance has had on the School.’
Mrs Eaton has taught curriculum music across all year levels at Girls Grammar since 2011, and also conducts junior choirs. She believes singing and music is an integral component of the curriculum at Girls Grammar.
‘At Girls Grammar singing is part of who we are, it requires no resources other than our bodies and it places us on a (musical) level playing field,’ Mrs Eaton said.
‘Singing should be fun — it is joy, but it is also discipline.
‘As with any musical instrument the learning process obviously requires a certain degree of rigour, which enables us to explore and experience the emotional content of our singing/music making in more profound and nuanced ways.
‘In the Girls Grammar classroom and in my choirs, singing seems to be a perfect example of the “pleasure of the rigour”… girls expressing themselves through song but also striving to be better musicians.
‘Above all singing is something that can be learned and improved upon — it is our hope that through their time at Brisbane Girls Grammar School each girl experiences the joy of singing and musical expression.’
[ii] Applause for Border Sing. (2017, February 20) [General News]. Goondiwindi Argus. p. 5.