Music speaks to every child in a unique way. Each year Musica Viva In Schools (MVIS) provides transformative musical learning experiences to over 280,000 students across Australia. This year marks 40 years since the program began connecting Australian students with the joy of live music – a milestone which feels particularly timely to celebrate given the pivotal development the program has undergone over the past 18 months.
In response to the myriad challenges of recent times, Musica Viva last year launched Musica Viva In Schools (MVIS) Online: a transformation which has connected thousands of students throughout the pandemic with joyful musical experiences at a time when they are needed most. Even with a gradual return to live in-school performances, this digital dimension continues to prove invaluable in reaching students across the country in a range of ways.
One powerful example of the flexibility of the MVIS program is the relationship with Jacana School for Autism in Victoria, where a tailored approach has resulted in enormously positive outcomes for both students and teachers.
Jacana School for Autism regularly engages MVIS ensembles to visit their school. Through the Equal Music program, Musica Viva has subsidised students’ access to a number of concerts at well below the usual minimum of 150 student participants. Most recently, MVIS Japanese drumming ensemble Taikoz, performed a series of concerts at the school which were delivered to take into account the specific needs of the students.
For children on the autism spectrum, too many people or too much noise or activity in their environment can be overwhelming so, for these students, fewer participants at concerts means that they can relax, focus and better enjoy the performances. Catherine Schmidt, music specialist and music therapist at the school, therefore suggested a hybrid approach by incorporating a live stream of the concert from the school’s performance space onto Smartboards in student home rooms, enabling students the option to participate in the concert in the quiet and familiarity of their own home rooms.
Following the performance Catherine wrote, “I just wanted to say thank you to the Musica Viva team and to Taikoz for supporting our students to have such a successful time at our recent concert series. I think one of the key factors for success was the opportunity to live stream the concerts into classrooms. Student voice, choice and agency are key themes at the moment, both at school and department of education levels, and with the live stream we were able to give students the option and choice to remain in the familiar classroom environment and watch the performance with the sound turned down low. Some students chose this option because they were nervous of how loud the sound of the drums was going to be, and some middle years students chose this option because they didn't think the concert would be interesting. However, the second group of students ended up attending the concert because they decided it looked awesome on the live stream and they wanted to see the real thing!”
The additional live stream mode of delivery allowed for maximum engagement with the music, with heart-warming student feedback including, “Thank you for your music. I am a bit afraid of the noise so I was happy I could watch from my classroom”, and “My favourite part was when Ryuji played the shinobue because it sounds like the kung fu panda flute.”
Drawing by a student at Jacana School for Autism after seeing Taikoz perform
As Catherine puts it, “Inclusion doesn't mean that all students do exactly the same thing. At the end of the day, our students were able to access the Taikoz concert experience in a variety of ways, and also to feel some control over how they accessed the concert, and I am grateful that Musica Viva allowed us this flexibility!”
Musica Viva’s Student Learning Journey resource kits were also adapted last year for greater useability during remote online learning – something which has also proved key to continuing to connect to meaningful musical learning experiences not only throughout lockdown, but beyond. As Catherine says, “Another change from previous years was the fact that the resources were repackaged last year to be user-friendly for students at home during remote and flexible learning, and this also meant that they were easier for classroom teachers to use.”
Such was the overall success of this new tailor-made format at Jacana School for Autism, that performances by MVIS ensemble Rhythm Works later this year will adopt the same approach of an in-school performance being internally live streamed to classrooms, allowing students to participate flexibly at their own level of comfort. Jacana’s recent experiences highlight the exciting scope for creativity and adaptiveness of our MVIS programs, which ensure that even more children throughout the country can experience the joy of live music and benefit from meaningful musical education programs now and into the future.
If you’d like to find out more about Musica Viva’s education programs and how you can support this important work, contact Caroline Davis, Individual Giving Manager, on 02 8394 6619 or at CDavis@musicaviva.com.au.