Moving experience hits the right notes

17 January 2011

Students perform with the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra.

A group of NSW government high school students recently had the musical chance of a lifetime when they worked with members of the world-famous Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra.

Thirty-five students from 19 schools worked with the orchestra at the Sydney Opera House as part of the REMIX - Mahler program. The program is a partnership between the Berliner

Philharmoniker (Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra) and the Sydney Opera House in collaboration with the education department's arts unit.

Playing instruments that ranged from saxophones and trumpets to violins and electric guitars, and reflecting on the underlying themes of Mahler's first symphony, the students worked on group devised compositions with the orchestra during the two week project.

The project culminated with the presentation of student works in the northern foyer of the Sydney Opera House prior to the Berliner Philharmoniker's final Sydney concert last November. Hear and see part of their experience on the Sydney Opera House website.

It is hoped that students and teachers from NSW government schools will be able to access other opportunities as part of the Sydney Opera House's World Orchestras program in the future.

The department's arts unit principal education officer, John Benson, said "the program was a fantastic opportunity for students with an interest in composition to explore different musical colours, textures and forms in a group setting where everybody's contributions were valued and thoroughly developed."

During the program students received support from the orchestra's artistic director of education, Cathy Milliken, and four musicians.

Two teachers and two teachers in training also worked to help ensure the process was valuable.

"This professional learning opportunity was greatly valued by all who participated and the compositional techniques introduced, and the pedagogy demonstrated by Ms Milliken, has equipped these teachers with wonderful tools for the future," Mr Benson said.

The orchestra's music director, Sir Simon Rattle, said he was very touched by the performance.

"It was really an exploration, a different take on Mahler," Sir Simon said. "What's even more important is the journey that they made together, what they create and how they decide together."

Kirrawee High School student Jonathan Griffiths said the experience was different to anything he had done before.

"At first I thought it would be difficult, but it really wasn't," Jonathan said. "The groups worked together very well and all the ideas were discussed and tried out. It was a real collaborative effort."

The orchestra is keen to connect with young people and make their music widely accessible through their education program Zukunft@BPhil (Future@BPhil). It has also devised a number of Creative Projects which involve participating in training in a variety of musical skills.

Participating schools

  • Bega High School
  • Bellingen High School
  • Blaxland High School
  • Chatswood High School
  • Conservatorium High School
  • Cumberland High School
  • Forbes High School
  • Girraween High School
  • Gosford High School
  • Kirrawee High School
  • Ku-ring-gai Creative Arts High School
  • Narrabri High School
  • Newtown High School of the Performing Arts
  • North Sydney Boys High School
  • Northern Beaches Secondary College,
  • Manly campus
  • Oxley High School
  • Pittwater High School
  • South Grafton High School
  • St George Girls High School

Photo by Andrew Lasky





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