Music with a cause

The key measure of success at Penrith Valley Learning Centre is the number of students who leave, never to return.

"Our students come to us with behavioural problems," explained principal, Nic Danta.

"We aim to give them the skills and confidence to go back successfully to mainstream schools."

Since 2008 the centre has run a No Way! Music Program which has achieved a marked behavioural improvement in all the participating students.

The program has seen students playing instruments, composing songs and making videos.

Driving force behind the program Matt Tonks said that if teamwork isn't there, the music sounds dreadful.

"Working together is what it's all about," Mr Tonks said.

"A lot of our students have real problems relating but they can tell their stories through their songs.

"The overall effect is so much more than a music group."

Ebony will soon be leaving the centre to go back to mainstream schooling.

When she came to the centre she could play the drums, but now she's tried her hands at many instruments.

When asked if she liked the music program, she said firmly, "Yes, I do a lot!"

"We write our own songs on the iMac and then Matt helps us do things on the computer," Ebony said.

 "Matt somehow helps us put another spin on things."

Ebony and the other students in the program have performed at a number of events including:

  • the Special Education Leaders Conference at the Sebel Hotel in Parramatta
  • Kurrambee School
  • functions at the centre.

The students have recorded more than 16 songs and are currently preparing to perform at the Western Sydney Region Counsellors Conference in July.

Making videos is a joint effort at Penrith Valley Learning Centre.

"It's a combination of all of us brainstorming to get a giant idea," Ebony said.

 "We've won competitions where we've received equipment as well as money," she said.

Most recently they were named the Western Sydney Region winner of the secondary school category in the Great Schools Show Off (GSSO) competition.

Students scripted the short film on the theme 'It turns your life around'.

However, there is one downside to the videos.

"It's a bit embarrassing seeing yourself," Ebony said.

Principal Nic Danta said music had a profound effect at the school.

"Music can give you the tools to express yourself, to help you connect with the people around you"

"Through the program, the students develop emotionally and start to re-connect with their peers, their families and their communities," Mr Danta said.

Ebony says it the best.

"Everything depends on your attitude."

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