Byline: Stories to Inspire

Geoff Day is a proud South Australian with a passion for creating positive change through mentoring, music, leadership, and positive education programs in disadvantaged schools. Seven years ago, Geoff partnered with Musica Viva to initiate the first of MVA’s Intensive Music Residency Programs at Playford Primary School in South Australia. Geoff gifted considerable time, effort, and financial support, developing a sustainable program that improves education outcomes in disadvantaged primary schools. Since then, this small experiment which began in South Australia has evolved into a nationwide program of 15 residencies with tremendous, far-reaching impact for over 3,000 students. Geoff strives to improve education outcomes through provisioning high-quality, intensive music education within disadvantaged primary school classrooms. 

An outstanding example of a true philanthropic leader, Geoff provides support directly and through peer-to-peer fundraising, encouraging collaboration between organisations by successfully advocating his cause within a range of local trusts, foundations, and corporate partners, many of whom, like Geoff, had no prior connection to the arts or the organisations working in the sector.  

The impact of the MVA Residency Program is far reaching. Residency alumna and Art Coordinator at Elizabeth South Primary School, Christine Isomonger states: “These programs have definitely helped students to increase results in other learning areas. Their confidence has improved, and they appear more willing to give other things a go. Playing within a group has also seemed to enhance the social dynamics within the classroom (of the students involved) and improved teamwork skills.” This was reiterated by Musician in the Classroom, Fabian Hevia: After three years of this residency, I came away believing that the program was very successful on so many levels. I really think that our work played an important role in enhancing the children’s learning environment.” 

Geoff garners support and changes attitudes towards the value of investing in arts education through meticulous research and a well-documented approach. Geoff commissions research by academic and industry leaders whilst taking a hands-on role, ensuring the program reflects best practice. Geoff’s own research has brought a strong focus on the arts, with specific emphasis on improving education outcomes through the residency program. This work has been key in Geoff’s advocacy efforts within Government sectors, where he has demonstrated the importance of Music Education, placing particular emphasis on the value of instrumental music lessons and instruments for residency schools so that students and schools have ongoing assistance in this area beyond the residency term.  

Since 2014, the residencies model has expanded significantly. Five schools have graduated from the program, with a further seven currently in progress. Geoff provides significant support for these residencies, whilst directly engaging potential funders to support the program’s expansion across the country. Geoff reduces the perceived risks in new projects by assuming a leadership role and co-funding, whilst simultaneously working to find philanthropic champions to take his place. Geoff states: “For strategic philanthropists seeking sustained outcomes in reducing disadvantage and increasing access to educational opportunities, the long-term residency model is a remarkably efficient and effective program.” 

Geoff’s influence extends across Australia, where his advocacy has played a part in establishing intensive three-year residencies in South-West Sydney and Perth. These residencies are entirely funded through private philanthropy and are already transforming the schools’ culture. 

A key connector, Geoff brings organisations together to realise projects with high potential for impact. One such example is ‘Music Match’; a collaboration of South Australian arts organisations that provide access to performances, professional development, and workshops for schools, teachers, and students. Geoff’s vision was brought to the attention of Carclew’s Jane Doyle, who saw the potential impact of a strategically combined, philanthropic approach that decreases the need for arts groups to regularly approach the same philanthropists for funding similar programs. 

Instilling a love and understanding of philanthropy within his own family led to the establishment of the Day Family Foundation; created with the help and expertise of Australian Philanthropic Services but operated by Geoff and his immediate family. An opportunity to ensure future generations of philanthropists, Geoff involves each of his children in financial decision-making, encouraging them to research best practice, pursue charitable endeavours and wholly invest in a family-wide commitment to more and better philanthropy.  

An active member of Philanthropy Australia, Geoff uses his presence at various events across the country to share his experiences and philanthropic journey. Geoff would prefer to keep his philanthropy private, however, in his words, “if all donors did that, from where would we draw inspiration? If by telling our story I inspire at least one person to establish a family foundation or take a stronger leadership role in philanthropy – then it has been very worthwhile”.  

Musica Viva Australia sincerely thanks Geoff and his family for their support. In a ringing endorsement of Geoff’s leadership, this project would not have been possible without his initial research, patience, willingness to entertain periods of trial and error, documentation, and personal advocacy.