Subject Spotlight: Music program strikes a chord

Whether it’s acoustic guitar, trumpet, or something in between, learning a musical instrument has wide-ranging benefits that stretch way beyond the classroom.

“In terms of wellbeing, there’s a lot of current research into the benefits studying music has for brain development, right from an early age,” Blackfriars’ Head of Performing Arts Lucy Pope said.

“Social and emotional wellbeing, cognitive control, attention and memory, teamwork, organisation and responsibility. That’s a pretty good package – whether you’re in Primary School or Secondary School.

“So, I feel like learning an instrument, such as piano as a foundation instrument, right from Reception just sets you with some super developmental skills. If you’re a music student, having those foundation skills are really beneficial to take you to that next level.”

Music has had a proud history at Blackfriars since the school’s first band was formed in 1971. Today, students can learn an array of instruments, from piano and guitar in the younger years, to clarinet, flute, saxophone and drums from the Upper Primary years. There are also choirs and vocal groups across the year levels.

    • Flute
    • Clarinet
    • Alto saxophone
    • Tenor saxophone
    • Baritone saxophone
    • Trumpet
    • Trombone
    • French horn
    • Acoustic guitar*
    • Electric guitar
    • Electric bass
    • Piano*
    • Drums (no hire available)

* Please note, for Junior Primary students (Reception to Year 2) piano and acoustic guitar are available.

“In Primary School, typically, I would always recommend piano as the starter instrument,” Ms Pope said. “Everything we do in music theory, and classes even, from the start right through to high school, we base it off that keyboard. Whether it’s a visual or just learning the notes, that’s the best starting point.”

And it’s never too late to start. Blackfriars students can start learning an instrument at any time – not just from the start of the school year. Tuition forms are available here.

Welcome to the Music Department

Blackfriars’ Music Department, in the school’s old chapel, is a special place with a special feel.

“There’s that sense of community,” Ms Pope said. “There seems to be instant friendships when you’re in the building. I really try to instil in the kids that this is a community; that they need to be supportive of one another.”

And Blackfriars music students typically fill leadership roles elsewhere in the school. This year’s Head Prefect, Reuben Calleja, is also Music Deputy Captain, 2022 Head Prefect Dean Heath was Music Captain, as was 2020 Deputy Head Prefect Harry Catley.

“Pretty much every year, in Stage Band 1, Concert Band 1, we’ve usually got a handful of Prefects in there. And that’s been very consistent since I have been here,” Ms Pope said.

“I guess, if you go from playing an instrument to playing in a band or ensemble, because that’s the end game, I find there are so many benefits from that, whether it’s social skills, organisation and responsibility, having to practise your part because you are part of a team. Typically, we would have more senior students who are leaders in those areas.”

Many Blackfriars old scholars have gone on to have great success in the music industry, including guitarist Keyan Houshmand (BPS’17) and brothers Luca (BPS’99) , Dan and Marc (BPS’95) Lucchesi, from Vaudeville Smash (catch them at the Adelaide Fringe).

Last year, Sunsick Daisy, a band that counts old scholar and former Music Captain Kevin Mach (BPS’21) among its members, was a finalist in the Triple J Unearthed High competition. And Townhouse, whose members are 2022 graduates Dan Heath (Music Captain), Cooper Smith and Matthew Burgess, has also been part of Unearthed High.

Old scholar John Schumann (BPS’69), the lead singer of iconic band Redgum, was last year appointed a Member of the Order of Australia (AM) in recognition of his “significant service to the veteran community, to music and to the community”.

Find out more about Blackfriars’ music program here.

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