Poor schools set to miss out on music program with gov funding cuts

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Despite the success of SongMakers, without government funding, the program administrators will need to charge a fee — meaning only wealthy schools will likely benefit from the program.

SongMakers pairs Australia’s leading musicians with high school students to create and record new music.

Over the past four years, funding for the two-day program has been a partnership between industry organisation APRA AMCOS and the Federal government through the Department of Education and the Ministry for the Arts – but SongMakers’ coordinator, Tina Broad, says “The state of play at the moment is, frankly, looking a little uncertain.”

The program has visited 200 schools since it started four years ago, but without funding Ms Broad says their reach will be severely limited. “Without government funding, we would only able to go to wealthy schools that can afford to have the program. It will kill the ethos of the whole thing,” says Ms Broad.  

'They just came in and blew my mind,' says Nepean student, Katie.

The Feed has contacted both the Department of Education and the Ministry of the Arts but neither department confirmed whether or not they will continue funding the program.

The Ministry of the Arts says, “APRA AMCOS is in discussion with state governments, the Commonwealth and the sector about the sustainability of the program.”

The Department of Education says the Government “will invest an extra $24.5 billion in schools that states and territories and non-government schooling systems can use to back programs based on the evidence available on their effectiveness, including those focused on music education.”

The last workshop under government funding was held in Western Sydney’s Nepean Creative and performing Arts High School in June.

Aria nominated rapper, L-Fresh the Lion, who is from Western Sydney says opportunities like SongMakers workshops are rare in the area.

“Programs like these that really allow young people to express themselves – so what message are we sending young people if we cut these opportunities?”

Member for Lindsay, Emma Husar, who visited the workshop at Nepean, says kids in Western Sydney are being overlooked.

“There is a huge disconnect to what’s available out here for Western Sydney kids compared to kids in the inner city schools,” she says.

“I think [SongMakers] are only up to lobbying the Federal government, they actually haven’t started talking to the opposition yet. But I will absolutely be making the case when I get back [to Canberra].”

For the students who take part, SongMakers is a glimpse into an industry they know little about.

Students are mentored by musicians who, between them, have 20 ARIA Awards, 30 APRA Awards and a Grammy.  They include Ilan Kidron(The Potbelleez), producerJP Fung (Daniel Johns, Art vs Science, Cold Chisel), KLP, Lior, Megan Washington, Rai Thistlethwayte (Thirsty Merc),producerAnna Laverty (Paul Dempsey, Meg Mac, Desert Divas) and Robert Conley (Dean Lewis, Montaigne).

Jamie Galea, a music teacher at Nepean, says the benefit of the program for students goes beyond just music. “There is a huge collaborative process. They feel more comfortable voicing their opinions and their ideas,” he says. 

But Katie, a student at Nepean, says it best, “They just came in and blew my mind.”