Tuning in to a universal lingo

Conductor Jonathon WelchThe power of boys singing together extends far beyond hitting the right notes.

The Boys Secondary Choral Program gave male secondary school students the opportunity to attend choral workshops coordinated by the department's Arts Unit.

"I think music, if it's the right kind of music, can engage some students in a way that formalised education can't," said Jonathon Welch, Choir of Hard Knocks conductor, who ran the workshops.

 "As they say, music is the universal language."

Before spreading his talents to encouraging school boys to sing together, Mr Welch, an Arts Unit ambassador, had created choirs for the homeless and disadvantaged and helped create choirs in women's prisons.

Life-long lessons

A long-time believer in the power of the voice, Mr Welch said singing could offer lessons beyond school.

"In a choir there are also huge social skills and benefits to be gained," Mr Welch said.

"You have to learn to listen to each other, and at the same time give of your voice."

Coordinator of the new program, Peter Hayward, was excited and impressed by what had been achieved.

"Jonathon conducted eight workshops, taking each group through a full day of singing activities," Mr Hayward said.

"The workshops were an opportunity for the boys to work together and explore the creative potential of their voices in a nurturing environment."

What Mr Hayward liked was Mr Welch's unique and practical way of coaching.

"Jonathon Welch is a fantastic conductor. As well as sharing his musical skills and experience with the boys in the choral program, he's been mentoring and acting as an excellent role model," Mr Hayward said.

Accessible to all students

"The program has proven to be accessible to students of all ages, cultures and learning styles."

Hurlstone Agricultural High School student Adam Herman loved having a whole day devoted to improving his singing skills.

"The thing I enjoyed the most was singing in a group, all together," Adam said.

"After practising, when we finished the song well, the feeling was amazing, it was just brilliant."

According to Mr Hayward, the workshops had a huge impact on the participants.

Photo: Conductor Jonathon Welch. Photo by Anna Warr.

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