Case Study: “Ring the Bells” – Spring Head Lutheran School
This case study was prepared as part of collaboration between Music: Count Us In and the Music in Communities Network. A Music Australia initiative.
Set in the beautiful Onkaparinga Valley in the heart of the Adelaide Hills, Spring Head Lutheran may be a school of just 95 students, but it is one of only a few in Australia that can boast its own hand bell ensemble. This point of difference that has seen its students forge musical connections within and beyond its local community.
Kathy Juers is Spring Head Lutheran’s classroom music teacher, music coordinator and special needs learning support. When she arrived at the school, her starting point was to make the most of what she had around her even though at Spring Head, she admits, that may not look like a lot.
“There’s only a church and the school here, sitting in the middle of a farming area.”
Kathy wanted to drive a stronger link between the music her students were making at school and their community, so she began at the most obvious point of connection for the school: the church. She set out to encourage students’ musical involvement with an ‘everybody’s welcome’ philosophy and an understanding that contemporary instruments were they way in.
Schools Halls Supporting Music
Spring Head Lutheran School in South Australia received funding for a school hall as part of the Building the Education Revolution program, where they now host the inter-school Hills Music Festival. “That’s been amazing – it’s very multi-purpose and something we would never have been able to afford”, says the school’s music teacher.
“I suggested to the principal that having the organ playing in church all the time wasn’t very modern for the kids. We formed a worship band and it just evolved from there.
“I try and include as many kids as want to be involved. If you’re passionate about your singing or playing the guitar, then why can’t you be in it? I never have auditions – if they want to be in it they can.”
For Kathy, performance opportunities in the community help students see the connection between their music practise and outcomes: “You’ve been having lessons, now you’ve got a reason for those lessons.”
Spring Head Lutheran draws heavily on the musical resources of its wider community to help the students learn. From the pool of local musicians who come to teach, there is one stand-out whose contribution has set the school on a unique path and opened up opportunities unimagined for a little school like Spring Head Lutheran.
“We’re very fortunate that we have a lady who comes in and teaches hand bells. Our Year 6 and 7s do that. It’s a very unique thing. All the kids love it, even the Year 7 boys. That’s taken us to places, as far as the Adelaide Festival Theatre.”
For Kathy, it’s one of the delightful by-products of making the most of what you’ve got. As well as gaining real world experience performing as musicians and singers, there is a broader life experience unfolding for the students, she says. One of the things we do is to take the children out there – and that’s really important.
“We’ll take a bus load of students out with all the music – guitar ensemble, choir, bells. We’ll go to local kindies, aged care facilities. I think music is just something across the ages. Babies love it, older people with dementia can sing along – I reckon it binds everyone together.
To have the children interact with the older people and see how much joy they can bring them – it’s lovely. And music is the way in.
It also acts as the community connector for the Spring Head Lutheran-hosted Hills Music Festival. The annual gathering has seen up to six schools at a time congregating under one roof.
“We put it on in our new hall, thanks to the BER grant we received. And that’s been amazing – it’s very multi-purpose and something we would never have been able to afford.”
“(The festival) is a great initiative for our area, a good opportunity for kids to come together and meet and sing with children from other local schools – because once again, music’s something you can all share in.
“I use music to forge a relationship with the community wherever I can.
“You don’t have to do a lot but it’s really important to get out there and do what you can because you’re part of a community.”