Foundation for Rural & Regional Renewal

Unlike most other youth music programs, CRASHENDO! Bairnsdale is not only about the tunes. Modelled after Venezuela’s National System of Youth and Children’s Orchestras and Choirs El Sistema Global, CRASHENDO! uses music education as a vehicle to help children develop their self-esteem, resilience, and social skills.

To support the purchase of new instruments and to help cover tuition fees, the CRASHENDO! team successfully applied to FRRR’s Strengthening Rural Communities program, receiving a $10,000 grant funded by The William Buckland Foundation (managed by Equity Trustees).

They sent us a detailed plan outlining how they planned to use the funds over the course of two years, and how excited they were to get on with their music classes, events, and other activities.

What they couldn’t have known, however, was that the years that followed – 2019-2020 – would be some of the most challenging years their community had ever experienced.

The CRASHENDO! program, which supports around 120 children in Bairnsdale and surrounds, had a great start to the year in 2019, with in-schools tuition, pre-orchestral, orchestra and early years programs in full swing. They also hosted several special events such as the Latrobe Orchestra Workshop and the Christmas Street Parade, both of which brought much joy to the community. 

But as Christmas drew closer, so did the devastating bushfires that were already tearing through parts of NSW and VIC. And when the semester was set to begin again in the new year, the CRASHENDO! students had no school to return to.

The facilities, including all their instruments, were destroyed in the fires. Several families in the community had also lost their homes.

But despite these unimaginable challenges, children and tutors alike demonstrated once again the resilience and fighting community spirit we so often see in rural and regional Australia. The classes were moved to another school, and the children found some relief in returning to something familiar and normal – their music practice.

With support from their wonderful and engaging tutors, and by working together in groups, the children continued to develop both their musical skills and interpersonal skills.

But as we all know too well, 2020 brought with it its own set of challenges.

Soon after the COVID-19 virus reached Australian shores, life for the Bairnsdale community was once again turned upside-down. The community went through two remote learning periods (April – June and July – September), which meant all programs had to be moved online.

During this those unusual times, CRASHENDO! Bairnsdale Youth(ful) Orchestra (CBYO) reduced their sessions, halted expansion plans, and cancelled concerts and community performances.

The future was looking uncertain and bleak. But the CRASHENDO! team – both children and staff – were not about to give up that easily. They already knew the strength they had within them, especially when working together, so they kept their heads high, their Zoom cameras on and their smiles BIG – as they found new and engaging ways of delivering their programs.

Instead of having concerts, they produced videos. Instead of cancelling all Special Events, they scaled down the delivery time and incorporated video compilations. The creativity was flowing and proved to be a great learning experience across the board.

Watch a clip from the adorable video performance here.

“Although extremely challenging we have been extremely excited about the opportunity to learn new ways of delivering programs, administration and promotion,” Hilary Rigg, Crashendo! Bairnsdale Coordinator said.

She explained that while the number of participants decreased during online delivery, it also allowed them to widen the scope of musical styles and instruments on offer in the program, as well as the geographic area in which participants lived (across wider Gippsland and Melbourne). As tutors could dial in from anywhere, CRASHENDO! also grew their pool of highly skilled tutors, from areas including Melbourne, Geelong and even interstate.

“We have widened networks, forged new or deeper collaborations with other local musical groups and personnel, and kept musicians connected and playing. Hence, most importantly contributing to the well-being of our community!”

Hilary Rigg, Crashendo! Bairnsdale Coordinator

Did you know that one of the best ways to measure the health of a river is to look for microscopic water bugs? The Great Alpine Gallery has created the ‘Living River Water Bugs’ art installation along the Poets Walk at Tambo River to draw attention to these important little critters and engage the community in understanding how important they are.

When the Poets Walk was being updated for a relaunch, Gallery staff saw an opportunity to work with local artists and the local P-12 College to create an art installation that celebrated the micro bugs that make their river healthy.

They also wanted to educate the town about the importance of making sure that the river water was clean and healthy. They hoped to engender community participation and ownership in keeping the river free of agricultural chemicals and other pollutants. This is particularly important for people to understand as agriculture is a major industry in the community.

A $5,000 grant from the William Buckland Foundation and Equity Trustees meant that the Gallery could commission artworks from nine local artists, with a mixture of established and emerging artists working together to create the installations. This created an opportunity for mentoring for emerging artists in the community.

Local school students took water samples from the river and identified the water bugs as part of their science program, and then gave this information to the artists. They worked together to design and create the water bug installations, using a combination of basket weaving techniques with local sourced materials, eco dyed fabrics and other sustainable resources that are native in the community. 70 local community members also engaged in workshops to learn more about the importance of river-care and help to create the sculptures.

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Heavy, and desperately needed, rain was forecast for the night of the launch, so the bugs were lit up and displayed in the gallery space. A river soundscape was played and a sideshow of photographs from the river were shown.

Tracey Johnson, President of the Great Alpine Gallery, said of the project;

“Living River Water Bugs has raised river-care awareness among the community. The engagement of the community in the joyous and fun-filled occasion of the launch was one of our proudest moments, along with raising awareness of the Poets Walk among the community as a wonderful asset they can enjoy now and in the coming years.”