Where to look for the Spice of Life…

When walking to the fridge is the sum total of your usual daily exercise, a concert tour to China not only proves to be physically taxing but adds that taste of spice so often missing at home!

And so it was for five specially selected choristers from the Australian Youth Choir. They joined the World Peace Choir under the direction of Gerald Wirth (Artistic Director, Vienna Boys Choir) for a choir tour of China in August this year.

The taxing part came from the climb down the wall (the “Great Wall” that is), we managed to get up by chair lift but it was on-foot all the way to the bottom and the welcome relief of the bus! Walking around the Olympic stadium in the beating sun was pretty tiring too and did you know that it is almost 1 km from the north door to the south door of the Forbidden City? We didn’t before we started, but we knew by the end!

In addition to the hours spent exploring the shopping opportunities that China has to offer, we sang our way through a plethora of different customs and traditions, languages and introductions, food and protocols.


Performances included meeting with and performing for many Chinese choral groups from many different schools. The welcome was always very warm, with gifts exchanged, thousands of photos taken, and much admiration of the costumes they went to so much trouble to design and wear for the occasion.

Performances took place in Beijing, Jinan, Chongqing, Chendu, Jai lu and Shanghai returning to Beijing for the final concert. The Australian Youth Choir spread the story of “Waltzing Matilda” with the help of their co-singers in the World Peace Choir who were representing 5 other countries: India, Estonia, China, Malaysia and Austria.

Music is indeed a universal and inclusive language crossing cultural and language divides. We made some great new friends, performed some wonderful music and experienced both ancient and new sights, smells and tastes, all whilst working our vocal muscles to the max.

The tour reinforced the philosophy of the World Peace Choir, providing “valuable experiences and beautiful memories for each and every participating young individual”. In this way, we made a small contribution to better understanding and peaceful relationships…indeed we shared the spice of life.


World Peace Choir

By Christine Grey


A Singing Reunion

Starting to sing again after 40 years…How many years? 

Forty years! Are we mad?

A group of ex-students from Kew High School are meeting each week to rehearse for a show. After a life of careers, marriage, children and even grandchildren, most ex students have not sung a lot!

Joined by some current talented Kew High School singers we are celebrating the 50th anniversary with a selection of songs representing a number of eras at the school – Gilbert & Sullivan, Broadway, The Beatles.

Returning to our school after 40 years, we found the rolling lawn at the front of the school replaced by a theatre, drama studio and music rooms.  What a fabulous tribute to the long standing tradition of music created at Kew High in the late 1960’s and continued today.

School reunions are often great opportunities to renew friendships, but the chance to recapture our wonderful singing moments has provided an even better experience and reignited our amazing memories of performances.

But what do you do if you haven’t sung for decades? Just like a car you need to use your voice as often as possible. Leaving a car in the garage for years on end will flatten the battery and tyres. Likewise this will happen to your voice!  A few minutes every day of gentle humming and singing along to your favourite songs will slowly rejuvenate your voice.

After 10 weeks, our voices have really started to change.  We are a team again! Our memories have been revitalized as we busily remember words and movements and more importantly we are smiling & having great FUN!

Hooray for our fantastic singing days at Kew High. Just like riding a bike, singing does not leave you.  The joy of singing has returned and everyone is so positive.

ImageClass of ’71 on the Rolling Lawns of KHS.

Julie McKenna (nee Holah). Student at Kew High School, 1966 – 1971.

8 Best Fictional Vocal Groups

Everyone likes a good countdown, right? And nothing beats a great choir or vocal group. Today I’m gonna combine those two good things to make one awesome thing!  I have compiled a list of the 8 Best Fictional Vocal Groups. These are all made-up groups from TV shows and movies. Some songs have even become chart-toppers in the real world!

Number 8. If you saw Pitch Perfect last year you’ll recognise these two groups at number 8.  It featured Aussie comedian Rebel Wilson doing a spot of mermaid-dancing and starred Anna Kendrick as the girl thrown into the world of college a cappella groups. Pitch Perfect gave us two amazing vocal groups – the all-girl Barden Bellas and the all-male Treblemakers.



Best Musical Moments:

Number 7. At number 7 comes Homer Simpson’s Grammy Award Winning Barbershop Quartet – The Be Sharps. They feature in the fifth season of The Simpsons in the episode Homer’s Barbershop Quartet.Image

The four members of the group are Homer, Principal Skinner, Barney Gumble and Apu Nahasapeemapetilon. The episode is about the group’s formation, rise to stardom, split and reunion. Music fans will notice that the Be Sharps career path looks suspiciously like that of The Beatles.

Best Musical Moment:

Number 6. Gleeks get ready to freak out! Two groups from Glee are at number 6. Say what you will about Glee but when they get a song right, it sounds amazing. My favourite vocal groups from the show are The Dalton Academy Warblers (actually voiced by the real-life a cappella group The Beelzebubsand The Trebletones (made up of female members of New Directions).



Best Musical Moment:

  • The Warblers singing Teenage Dream. This cover actually made me like this song. This arrangement works so well and Darren Criss’ voice is just marvelous.
  • The Troubletones singing Rumour Has It/Someone Like You. Is this my favourite mashup ever? Quite possibly. You really can’t go wrong with Adele.

Number 5. At number 5 are the Dreamgirls. The talent in this movie alone is enough to make it great, but then you add the costumes, the cinematography and of course, the music, and it becomes magnificent. Originally a Broadway musical based on the career of 60s girl group, The Supremes – it was made into a movie in 2006.


Best Musical Moment:

  • I love ‘And I’m Telling You I’m Not Going’, but it’s the title song ‘Dreamgirls’ that really showcases the girls as a group.

Number 4. Get ready to shake a tail-feather for The Blues Brothers at number 4! With their signature suits and stylin’ sunglasses, The Blues Brothers are two cool cats. They first appeared on an episode of Saturday Night Live in 1978, and finally made their way to the Big Screen in 1980 in The Blues Brothers movie. It featured many fantastic musical guests like: Aretha Franklin, James Brown, and Ray Charles to name a few.


Best Musical Moment:

  • Definitely has to be The Blues Brothers and Ray Charles singing ‘Shake a Tail Feather’I especially love the dancers outside Ray’s Music Exchange.

Number 3. At number 3 it’s St. Katherine’s Choir in the movie Sister Act. The movie follows the story of Deloris, a lounge singer who hides from some dangerous people in a San Francisco convent. For her safety, she pretends to be a nun, and teaches the choir parish a thing or two while she’s at it.


Best Musical Moment:

  • While St. Katherine’s rendition of ‘My Guy’ is pretty darn amazing, it’s their final song ‘I Will Follow Him that blows everyone away.

Number 2. It’s time to play the music! It’s time to light the lights! It’s time to meet The Muppets at number 2. If you haven’t heard of The Muppets or at least Sesame Street, I suspect you’ve been living under a rock. I jest! If you haven’t been introduced to the wonder that is the Muppets, go YouTube them right now! You’re in for a treat. In 1979 a brilliant little film called The Muppet Movie was released. Featuring some familiar faces like Kermit the Frog, Miss Piggy and Fozzie Bear, the movie follows The Muppets as they road-trip to Hollywood to make it big.


Best Musical Moment

  • Has to be the beautiful song ‘Rainbow Connection’. Whilst the solo version by Kermit the Frog at the beginning of the movie is absolutely gorgeous, it’s the reprise at the end that makes me tear up. Who am I kidding? I cry at both. This song was nominated for an Academy Award the year it was released.

Number 1. Drum roll please! It’s time for our number one fictional vocal group! In the number 1 spot, it’s The Von Trapp Family Singers from The Sound of Music! I find it quite impossible to not sing along with this movie. Possibly the most well known of the Rodgers and Hammerstein musicals, it is based on the real-life story of the von Trapp family in WWII Austria.


Best Musical Moment

  • Maria taught the von Trapp children (and in turn, the world) about solfège [pronounced soul-fej] with the song ‘Do-Re-Mi’. As well as being informative, this song is accompanied by one of the prettiest movie montages ever (just look at all that scenery!).

Author – Isabella Pirie


Isabella currently works in the NIYPAA office and has always had a passion for music. She has been playing piano and singing in choirs since she was small.

She currently sings soprano in the Melbourne Gay & Lesbian Youth Chorus and is teaching herself the ukulele.

The ‘Light bulb’ Moment

There is nothing greater than seeing the sense of accomplishment from a child when they take that brave step and sing on their own for the very first time! I feel that I’ve been able to mentor and guide someone in the same way someone guided and passed on their enthusiasm to me.

Last term I was able to pull off what I call a “light bulb” moment; that glorious few seconds when a child leaps from “I can’t do this” to “I have done it! And finally sings on their own! It may only be for a few seconds but the courage and emotion that has gone into taking that plunge is enormous. The reason I love teaching is for moments like these! I have been teaching a child who is very shy. She understands all the concepts being taught, but found it difficult to sing and speak in front of the other children.

A semester into First Note, she is singing on her own in front of the others and happy to take the lead in games and activities. This kind of education is about developing life long skills and memories. We want them to remember, “yes, I may be shy but I can sing on my own, and stand in front of a group and speak. What I have to say is important enough for people to listen.”

Given the right amount of trust, respect, nurture, and a spoonful of self belief, we can all give our kids this boost in confidence and a new skill to boot!

susan neilsonSusan Neilson – Conductor – NIYPAA

Susan is a former chorister of the Australian Youth Choir one of the original members, commencing in 1984.  She went on to study a Bachelor of Music majoring in Voice and Drama at the Melba Memorial Conservatorium of Music. She then studied for a Graduate Diploma in Education. Susan commenced her teaching career in Australia before travelling to London where she taught for four years. On her return to Australia, she was welcomed back to the Australian Youth Choir as a Conductor and this year implemented the First Note programme with youngsters aged 4 – 6.  


Boom radio invades the Australian Youth Choir rehearsal



Boom Radio 97.3 FM  breakfast announcer ‘Paul’, of Bree and Paul fame showed his  true musical calling when he joined the Australian Youth Choir  in Perth on Monday evening.

Paul was on a mission – he needed to follow his secret passion and find out what it was like to conduct a choir!

It didn’t matter that he had no experience,  it didn’t matter that he had no conducting  technique, it didn’t matter that he might be afraid of children, it didn’t matter that he didn’t read music and didn’t know the repertoire (what’s  repertoire?).  It was something he had always dreamed of doing and he had his mind set on giving it a go.

Well – Monday was his lucky day. Who better to give him a few pointers than Mary Pollard, Australian Youth Choir Conductor and of course the kids in the Australian Youth Choir Perth?

Paul was brave! He led the choir through some of the songs they have been preparing for their upcoming concert, he hadn’t heard most of them before but he didn’t let that bother him. He came into his own with the timeless classic, ‘This Old Man’ – a particularly difficult piece (as we know) that benefitted greatly from his incredible ability to pick up and conduct the dynamics with great energy.

The choir also initiated Paul into the world of solfa (he admitted that he’d never seen ‘The Sound of Music’!) and he was astounded that they could learn to sing in sol-fa , using hand signs. Using this method, the choir learned a quick jingle featuring the name and slogan of the radio station – “Boom Radio: Not Just Noise”.

Bree and Paul present the breakfast program on Monday’s and Tuesday so listen in next week.

Paul was “stoked”…dream fulfilled?  Absolutely!

“Boom Radio in Maylands was a blast!”

Sam McSweeney – Artistic Staff Australian Youth Choir

Brought to you by National Institute of Youth Performing Arts



Sing and Dance Australia

Sharing life’s experiences – singing dancing and growing up!

Tis the season to be blogging! Sing Dance blogs 2012.


The year is coming to an end and Sing Dance Australia is looking back over some of its blogs for 2012. We’ve looked at a lot of great performing arts topics from audition tips, music and the brain, the benefits of group activity, dance warm ups and health and performing! We would like to take this chance to re cap! Take a look at some of this year’s fantastic Sing-Dace blogs!

Happiness on a high note – bring back the choir:
Susan Neilson, one of NIYPAA’s conductors, discusses singing and the simple happiness that it can create in a child. Susan talks about the benefits of early music education. Building confidence, new friendships and enhancing brain coordination are just some of the positive outcomes.

Singing and Dancing – a performance a day keeps the doctor away:
This blog is about the physical and mental benefits of the performing arts. It is proven that singing and dancing strengthens the immune system and the heart by elevating stress. Christine Grey challenges us to find any drug at the pharmacy to help with such problems quite as well.

“I wanna be like Michael Jackson”: Top 4 tips for young dancers:
To be a great dancer, one has to show great dedication and be willing to practise and sweat until its right. Milu Sherman, gives us four great tips on how to be the best!

It’s show-time! 6 tips for preparing for your next gig:
If your next performance is coming up, this blog is for you! Here you’ll find some tips that will calm the nerves and help you clear your head so that you can tighten up your routine or piece. This blog will pat you on the back and leave you smiling and ready to blow them away!

Sport or art – which is most important?:
The ultimate head to head debate! Chris Grey gets to the bottom of this ever looming question for parents. Christine investigates the benefits of creative arts and sports culture, weighing up all the pros and cons. You’d be interested to read what she found out!

Training your brain: giving our kids the best start in life:
Here Sing-Dance Australia dives into the scientific studies of early music education and its effect on the brain. Children as young as one year old can benefit from music education, with studies showing that these children smile more and show better progression in communication skills.

Butterflies in your tummy? Five quick tips on how to calm the nerves before an audition:
Got real problems with nerves before an audition? It’s totally normal to stress out under the spot light. This blog will talk you through it. With these tips about breathing, practise and though process’s, you’ll be on your way to wowing them all.

Stretch yourself! Seven warm-up tips for dancers and a warm-up video!:
Dancers! Get reading! Here we have some warm up tips to help improve your technique. It’s always great to get some new ideas! There is even a great warm-up video featuring the Australian Youth Dance Theatre for you to take a look at.

Team spirit – How children benefit from group activities:
We can achieve great things as a team! In this blog Julie McKenna, NIYPAA’s Director, elaborates on the benefits of group activities. The social confidence, group awareness and encouragement to learn and improve are increased ten fold when working in a team. No matter what kind of group, whether it’s creative, sport related or other, there are so many positives for kids who get involved in collective interest.

There are plenty of other great blogs on Sing Dance Australia’s Blog. If you missed out on any, take a look! We welcome all the new subscribers and say thank you to our followers throughout the year. We wish everyone a Merry Christmas and a Happy new year! Happy blogging!

Benita Sullivan

Benita 1Benita’s early back ground in music and performance stretches from musicals, to choir, singing and instrumental training. She has been managing and playing with Melbourne bands for the last eight years. She is a singer song writer, developing her latest band Elliot Friend. She looks forward to a successful career in creative arts administration and music.

Brought to you by National Institute of Youth Performing Arts

Go to www.niypaa.com.au

Sing and Dance Australia

Sharing life’s experiences – singing dancing and growing up!

The ever flexible, optimistic, good humoured performer!

Triple J 2

Performers need to have their wits about them and be ready for anything that gets thrown their way (literally and metaphorically). This was the case for twelve NSW members of the Australian Youth Choir last Friday. Triple J radio invited the choir to perform on their show, how exciting right? Well, of course we were keen as beans for a chance to strut our stuff!

Further details revealed that the show was themed and entitled ‘The End of the World Show’. The choir was to perform in a bunker crammed with lots of other artists as they waited for the looming “apocalypse!”  We were required to sing whilst the weather was read for each state. Knowing that Triple J likes to keep it light and spread the laughs, we saw the funny side and couldn’t wait to get in front of a microphone!

Opportunities like this can teach us a great deal about performance.  Not every show is about the spot light, not every performance has to be serious and it’s good to be able to relax and take the opportunity to enjoy a laugh.  Being a performer demands that we are open minded and ready for anything even dressing up in a life vest to sing! The inevitable interview accompanied the performance with deep and probing questions such as “How did you find out that the world was ending?” and “Where would you want to be when the world ends?”  We had to think on our feet and supply answers that impressed our audience with our clever wit. It was a great chance to talk about some of the great highlights of being in the AYC as well, like the singing at the “Arias” and the NRL grand final.

The Choir had to peel through our repertoire to choose songs that would suit the theme. We performed Evanescence’s My Immortal, Better Be Home Soon by Crowded House and Amazing Grace. This was a performance that provided little opportunity to rehearse so we had to make sure we knew our stuff!

‘The End of the World Show’ was a great success! We got to meet some great musicians: Blue Juice and Tim Minchin, and we hung out with some of the county’s most famous music show presenters Alex and ?? and we got to sing on national radio. We were even complimented on our ‘post apocalyptic cult-like’ robes….you have to laugh!

If you want to check out the show you can download it as a pod cast. Follow this link

To see some great photos from the show click here

Benita Sullivan

Benita 1Benita’s early back ground in music and performance stretches from musicals, to choir, singing and instrumental training. She has been managing and playing with Melbourne bands for the last eight years. She is a singer song writer, developing her latest band Elliot Friend. She looks forward to a successful career in creative arts administration and music.

Brought to you by National Institute of Youth Performing Arts

Go to www.niypaa.com.au

Sing and Dance Australia

Sharing life’s experiences – singing dancing and growing up!