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Music, Drama and Art

Exploring and nurturing creative expression

We’re fortunate at Mylor Primary to have specialist teachers with a lifelong passion for, and interest in, the expressive fields of music, drama and art.

Students are divided into small, manageable groups, with each group spending a set block of time exploring a particular discipline—one intensive afternoon a week, for three weeks—before rotating onto the next. This innovative structure allows the program to evolve organically throughout the year, according to the developmental needs of the students and their growing capabilities.

As with all other learning areas at the school, parents are kept informed as to their children’s progress through regular posting of work—and other ‘evidence of learning’—on our secure ‘Seesaw’ app. And presentations are frequently organised at the completion of projects to showcase the students’ work to the broader school community.

Musical expertise

Our Music teacher is a former lead vocalist for a South Australian band, performing at restaurants, weddings, festivals and private bookings.

She is also an accomplished choral soloist, has worked as Choir and Vocal Instructor at a regional high school, and assisted in the coordinatation of music outreach programs for several South Australian rural schools.

Her aim here at Mylor is to allow our students to experience a wide range of musical styles and skills, using a variety of instruments and technologies.

This, however, is not the limit of the musical opportunities the school provides. We also offer children: private instrumental music lessons; participation in the Festival of Music choir (with Scott Creek Primary); and participation in the Mylor Music ensemble, which brings together students who are learning instruments privately.

International acting and puppeteering experience

Hailing from the UK, our drama teacher initially studied theatre at university and amassed a great deal of experience and expertise in the area prior to his career in teaching.

He has previously established two separate street theatre companies—one in the UK and the other in Italy—which were engaged to perform at many large events. These included Liverpool’s Millennium Eve celebrations and the Liverpool International Street Festival, as well as others in Italy and Switzerland.

He also set up a specialist puppet theatre company in the UK, in which he was puppet-maker, deviser and a puppeteer. His performances with this troupe included many high-profile events, such as the Queen’s Jubilee Celebrations in London, the Manchester Commonwealth Games, and the renowned Glastonbury Festival.

In addition, he’s toured throughout Europe as an actor with a major theatre company, been assistant director on a 30-minute short film (with a cast and crew of 35), and conducted countless theatre and puppet-making workshops for children.

Art

Our Art teacher has had a lifelong love of the craft, and regularly takes professional painting classes herself in both oils and acrylic.

Working in Mylor’s dedicated art space, she introduces students to a broad range of art forms, including mosaics, sculpture, lino printing, painting, line drawing, still-life and photography, and regularly exposes them to innovative artists’ work for inspiration.

Children are also given the opportunity to apply and hone their art knowledge and skills during Project Based Learning units and Science weeks.

 

Meet Mylor’s muses

A quick Q&A with Mylor Primary’s resident art teacher, and Rembrandt-in-training, Ms Kylie Kuchel.

How did your interest in art first show itself, Kylie?

 

Growing up on a farm, there were always lots of things to get into, including the paints in the tool shed, which I’d take to paint rocks, or put murals on cubby houses.

 

I can also remember my mum always having pens and scrap paper in her handbag, and whenever I needed to be occupied she’d give them to me and I’d draw pictures of family members.

 

In my teens the ‘playing with art’ became more focused, as I was given jobs to do for family or the community, such as signwriting for the family farm, and painting Christmas displays. My siblings also used to ask me to do some fun things, like painting cows on our silos, and bandaids over the dents in our ute!

 

What forms of art were you most attracted to initially?

 

Probably drawing people and animals, because that was my everyday life. These started as cartoon in style, after influences such as ‘Garfield’ and some cartoon character lessons in primary school, but became more realistic as I entered high school.

 

By the time I reached year 11 and 12 I guess you’d say my art was more interpretive, as I used it to express myself and present a message.

 

You’ve obviously chosen to pursue teaching as your career, but have been taking professional painting lessons since 2011. What prompted you to take that step?

 

I’ve always had a yearning to paint just one amazing picture, and when I met an oil painter a few years ago and mentioned this she encouraged me to keep working at it and offered to give me some lessons.

 

It’s been great to learn how to do it ‘properly’, rather than just watching tutorials on Youtube!

 

Have the lessons provided any personal benefits for you?

 

Yeah, it’s been fantastic from a self-confidence point of view. It’s quite daunting going to the classes, as I’m in an environment where many people have far more experience than I have, and come from completely different backgrounds.

 

So I think feeling that nervousness, but still following through and doing it anyway has been a real growth experience.

 

Does your ongoing training reflect a belief in lifelong learning?

 

Definitely! There’s so much to learn with painting, and it takes a lot of practice. It isn’t a skill you just have naturally, and instinctively know what to do.

 

I really want to show my students that it’s OK to take risks—that that’s how learning actually happens right throughout our lives. For example, a year 4 student recently asked me about doing silk painting as part of a PBL [Project-Based Learning] project. I have no idea where to start, but instead of saying, ‘No, that’s too hard’, we’re going to do our research together, get the materials and give it a go.

 

The most important thing is to not be afraid to just give things a go.

 

Has being an art student yourself influenced the way you teach the kids at Mylor?

 

Yes, re-experiencing how daunting it is to try something new—and being afraid of what other people will think of my work, or that I’ll ‘get it wrong’—has really reminded me that students probably have very similar feelings in the classroom every day. It’s definitely amplified my awareness of the need to constantly support and encourage.

 

Do you think learning art brings any other significant benefits for children?

 

I think that by exploring, playing and experimenting, students are learning to be creative, to think creatively, and to express themselves. They may not want to actually become an artist, but they’ll be able to use those skills in other ways.

 

One example of that in my life was when I did a painting of my niece as a baby. I just felt moved to do it for her, and it’s probably the piece of work I’m most proud of, because it was something I could give her to show my love.

 

It’s now hanging up in her house, and is something I hope she’ll have for always.

 

So do you have any other artistic goals that you’d like to pursue in future?

 

I’m still trying to paint that ‘amazing’ picture. I just want to do something that, in my estimation, is of a high enough standard that I can think of myself as ‘an artist’.

A quick Q&A with Mylor Primary’s resident music teacher, and passionate songstress, Mrs Abbie Jones.

 

Were you a musical child right from the start, Abbie?

 

Oh absolutely, I’ve always loved music. I can remember from the age of about five I used to use my plastic cassette recorder to secretly record myself singing little pieces of my favourite songs.

 

Although I would’ve been mortified if anyone had ever heard the tapes!

 

What sort of music were you into?

 

I’ve always had very broad musical tastes; never really falling into any particular categories. Artists that combine soul, blues, raw ballads and R&B have always been my favourites, but I love discovering new music from all kinds of genres.

 

When did you first approach singing seriously?

 

I started getting lessons when I was 12, but I refused to let even my close family hear me until I was chosen to sing in my high school’s senior band at age 13.

 

The first time anyone other than my voice teacher heard me sing was at a school Jazz Night, with an audience of 300.

 

How did you get started singing in a band?

 

There was a seven-piece instrumental Jazz Band at my high school—with saxophones, trumpets and the whole deal—and I was asked to front it for a number of school promotional gigs when I was 14.

 

As it happened, there was a chef in the audience at one of those gigs and he offered us a weekly spot at his restaurant on the condition that I sang permanently with the band.

 

We worked there for tips every Saturday night for around two and a half years, and used the money to record an album of covers. It was never released, though—the mixing was awful!

 

What’s the most awesome gig you ever played?

 

I loved performing at weddings, as it always felt special to perform for people as they walked down the aisle, or had their first dance.

 

But the best gig was probably when we were chosen by then State Premier Mike Rann to open the Bakewell Underpass on Henley Beach Road in 2008. He’d heard us at a function in the Adelaide Hills and even joined in as our drummer for a practice.

 

It was an odd occasion to perform at, but the whole Underpass was closed and the acoustics under the bridge were unbeatable!

 

How long were you in the band?

 

We were together for a little over three years. But even after we went our separate ways I continued to perform at private functions with smaller, more acoustic accompaniment.

 

Did you learn anything from your band experience that’s now reflected in the way you interact with your students about music?

 

It really reinforced for me that having differences in musical style and taste are incredibly valuable assets when working as a group. If everybody has exactly the same taste and style, nobody is challenged to develop new skills or rise to new levels of ability.

 

This idea can be transferred into any group situation. There needs to be a level of diversity in order to learn effectively, otherwise you’re just going in circles and not growing.

 

When did you embrace choral singing?

 

I originally joined a choir in school to support my musical understanding, and I just loved the way that we could come as we were and create something amazing. I worked hard to understand the inner workings of voices so that I could replicate the different sounds in different styles of music.

 

What sorts of occasions have you performed at as a choral soloist?

 

All kinds! Lots of school events, including international school visits, presentation nights and assemblies, nursing home visits, weddings, community events, rural school outreach programs—and lots more.

 

Do any of these performances stand out for you?

 

The highlight would have to be performing solos in front of 1,000 people with a 50-piece backing choir at the <Event Name> in <Year>. The adrenaline rush was amazing!

 

What music outreach programs have you coordinated?

 

When I was 15 I helped to set up and coordinate the outreach program between Heathfield High—where I was studying—and Wallaroo Primary School, after the Wallaroo school was burned down in an unfortunate incident.

 

They had to completely rebuild the school and were making do with the whole school working in one community hall. We went over with a busload of instruments to support the community and provide a moral boost by running three-day music workshops with the kids to prepare them for a community performance at the end.

 

I helped to coordinate the program for four years. That was over a decade ago now, and as far as I know the program’s still running.

 

Did you find this to be a rewarding experiences?

 

Hugely! The Heathfield-Wallaroo program was what helped me to discover a passion for teaching and using music to connect with others.

 

The kids in that first year of outreach were able to lose themselves in music despite their difficult personal circumstances at the time, and I found that to be incredibly powerful.

 

Did it inform your present-day teaching in any way?

 

Yes, definitely. I learned that the way you relate to students is the most important part of helping authentic, long-term learning to happen. Being able to build rapport and trust, and meet students at their level, has immeasurable value.

 

How would you describe the value for students of learning music?

 

There are plenty of studies highlighting the positive impact of learning music for developing brains, but to me the most significant value comes from the fact that music is accessible to everyone.

 

It helps people of all ages and backgrounds connect and express themselves in an authentic way that words sometimes don’t allow.

 

Are there any musicians you particularly admire?

 

Plenty! Ray Charles, Beyonce, Sam Smith, Etta James, Adele, Sara Bareilles… I could go on for ages. I admire any artist who overcomes the odds to have their music heard without compromising their message or style.

 

Do you think you’ll you ever pull on a sparkly frock again and return to the stage?

 

Ha! I’d by lying if I said I didn’t miss it at times, but I feel like I’ve got different priorities to work towards at the moment. I’ll never say never, though, because there are a few GREAT frocks being neglected in my wardrobe!

A quick Q&A with Mylor Primary’s resident drama teacher, international thespian and peerless puppet maker, Mr Matt Fraser.

 

Were you a born performer, Matt?

 

I guess you could say I was always the entertainer of the family. One particular memory I have is from when I was around 17 or 18, when a friend and I would drive around and act out our own radio show as two elderly women.

 

Occasionally we’d have guests—other people travelling in the car—and sometimes they’d join in. But quite often they were just bemused and thought we were crazy!

 

What forms of drama were you most into?

 

Over time I really came to enjoy physical theatre—telling a story through the body and face, not just using voice.

 

I’ve always loved slapstick comedy; the likes of Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton, Laurel and Hardy, and the Marx Brothers. My mum says that when I was young I always managed to find their old movies on the TV. Although that can’t have been hard, as there were only a few channels back then!

 

I love the simplicity of the humour, and still laugh out loud at kids’ movies when a nice bit of slapstick happens. As my daughters will tell you, my favourite part of the first Harry Potter movie is when Ron Weasley gets hit in the face with his broomstick!

 

I do still value great acting, though, and enjoy a whole variety of movies and theatre.

 

When did you start approaching acting seriously?

 

I started going to weekend drama classes in second-year at high school, and when I was around 13 or 14 entered some regional drama festivals, competing in solo, duo and group acting classes.

 

In my first competition, I pretty much came last out of about 40 people. I was nervous, forgot some lines and generally made a mess of it. But I returned a year later and won my class with the top mark in the festival.

 

After that I was hooked, and won several other solo and duo competitions over the next few years. It’s one second placing that I remember most clearly, though. My duologue partner and I did a piece where he was giving a sort of lecture, and I mimed out a representation of what he was saying.

 

We nailed our performance, but were bumped out of first place on a technicality—the judge argued that it wasn’t a duologue because I hadn’t spoken!

 

What prompted you to start a street theatre company, rather than work in more formal ‘stage’ theatre?

 

I did a physical theatre unit at university, and it was my favourite part of the entire degree. During that unit, one of our lecturers told us about a six-month program that paid young actors to perform and train in physical theatre. So I auditioned and managed to gain a place.

 

We got to work with some fantastic theatre practitioners from all over England, and created and performed four different pieces of theatre over a six-month period, one of which was street theatre.

 

Close to the end of that particular performance, the organiser of Liverpool’s Millennium Eve celebrations approached our group and asked if anyone would be keen to create something for the evening. A friend and I jumped at the chance, and formed our company to do it.

 

What was the most awesome performance your company ever did?

 

It was actually that Millennium Eve street theatre show in Liverpool, simply because we were so new to the whole thing—and the way the night panned out was close to unbelievable, it was so good.

 

We created two alien characters who had beamed down to Earth on Millennium Eve and joined in the party. We later ended up on stage with Echo and the Bunnymen [Google them, kids!] counting down the final seconds of the millennium.

 

It was an absolutely fantastic experience.

 

After a few years you then started a puppet theatre company. What took you in that direction?

 

The thing that really attracted me to puppets was the making of them. My actual puppetry skills were never fantastic, but I do love to work and be creative with my hands.

 

I really enjoy the process of making something come to life. I still enjoy playing with a few puppets I have around the house, and often animate my daughter’s stuffed toys.

 

Was there a highlight among your puppet theatre company’s performances?

 

Actually, there were several. We performed at the Queen’s Jubilee Celebrations in Liverpool, the 2002 Manchester Commonwealth Games festival, the Glastonbury festival, and many other amazing events.

 

You’ve also co-directed a short film—what can you tell us about that experience?

 

The film was called ‘The Landlord’. It was about 30 minutes long, and was filmed in 2002 across various locations in the north-west of England.

 

I’d originally auditioned to act in it, but didn’t get a part. Then I had a phone call the day before the project began, and was asked to come on board as a second assistant director. I knew the director through other friends and she thought I would be good to work with.

 

After a little while the first assistant director left the project, though, so I ended up supporting the director by myself.

 

Was this a rewarding experience?

 

Yeah, it was fantastic. It taught me so much about making movies. I had very little idea beforehand; I’d acted in a few different advertisements, but this was completely different.

 

We had a cast and crew of about 35 people and I was involved in pretty much all areas. It really gave me some great insights.

 

So did it inform your current drama teaching in any way?

 

Not so much my drama teaching. Although the experience obviously gave me an understanding of acting for film, I still teach drama as if it’s for theatre. That’s just because theatre acting requires all the skills you need for film, plus a few more.

 

From time to time, though, I do use my film skills when teaching in other areas. For example, I recently worked with the students in my PBL [Project-Based Learning] group to help them create their own movies about influential people from different periods in history.

 

I’m not sure I would’ve had the confidence to take on a project like that if I hadn’t been exposed to the film-making process in my past.

 

How about your theatre experience then—how has that influenced the way you teach drama?

 

One thing I’ve definitely learned, and that I try to convey to the kids, is that performing is a team effort. If you work together, and no-one tries to steal the limelight, you’re always going to get a better result.

 

How would you describe the value for students of learning drama?

 

I think drama has a very important place in all children’s learning; not because they learn how to stand on stage and deliver a line, but because it gives them an opportunity to be creative and imaginative, and not be embarrassed about it.

 

I really try to impress upon my students that life’s too short to be embarrassed. If something feels good on stage, they should do it.

 

Creativity is an essential part of life, and drama—especially improvisation—has very few rules, which allows children to discover themselves and their abilities in a non-imposing environment. It can do wonders for self-confidence, and help them to understand that they have just as much right to have their views and opinions heard as anybody else.

 

Do you think you’ll ever tread the boards again?

 

Hmm… It’s unlikely. But if Scorsese came knocking, who knows!