Wednesday, 29 Jan 2014

APRA AMCOS has teamed up with the Australian Government to deliver a new innovative mentoring program ‘SongMakers.’ It will bring some of Australia’s best songwriters and producers into 50 schools nationally to work with senior music students on the creation and recording of new, original songs. The aim is to help students understand the fundamentals of songwriting, give them a chance to work with industry professionals and foster the next generation of Australian hit-makers.

The full launch of the program follows on from last year’s successful pilot. APRA AMCOS Ambassadors Lior, Rai Thistlethwayte (Thirsty Merc), Robert Conley and producer, Lachlan Carrick, mentored music students at six regional schools in Victoria and New South Wales.

Students in years 8 – 12 enjoyed intensive two-day workshops that produced songs like ‘Snap, Snap, Snap,’ a cautionary tale about fame, public scrutiny and the paparazzi, as well as anthems about social change and other subjects close to the students hearts.

Teachers, mentors and the students were blown away by the high standard of the songs they created, that ranged from power pop ballads and soul, to hard rock.

Ruth Ellevsen, a music teacher at Wollongong High School of the Performing Arts in NSW was a part of the ‘Song Makers’ pilot: “This program is about total student engagement from the moment the guys walked in the door. After day one I had more students begging me to let them in. It was also valuable professional development for the staff.”

The experience was just as rewarding for the mentors. All agreed the most difficult part about leading the workshops was breaking the ice and getting students to share their ideas openly. However seeing students overcome their fears was worth the challenge.

One boy sang in public for the first time, another shared an original song he’d written. One girl wrote a song about youth suicide and despite a shaky, nervous voice her mentors and peers applauded her natural talent and willingness to share.  All in all, the sessions provided students with a supportive environment where they could express themselves, get feedback from the mentors and overcome self-doubt.

“The music tuition I was exposed to during school had no background or help with songwriting,” said Rai Thistlethwayte, lead singer of Thirsty Merc. “Ironically, songwriting has become the most important part of my music career in many ways. I feel in these classrooms there is the potential to uncover the next Australian superstar songwriter, and that’s something I’m really excited to be a part of.”

Now SongMakers teaching materials are being developed to fit within the Australian curriculum. They will be made available to students and teachers in every school; including those not lucky enough to host a workshop. The program will also have a website to promote the student songwriters and their songs.

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