Since 2014, APRA AMCOS has been running a mentoring program that brings industry professionals into secondary schools to help kids write and record songs. Called SongMakers, it is aimed at students who already have some experience in songwriting and gives them two concentrated days of in-school workshops. The way it works is to take 16 senior music students, normally in years 10-12, and to the school’s resident music teacher on hand to help steer students through the experience.
SongMakers is open to government and Catholic secondary schools in any state or territory. In the period it has been running, it dozens of schools across Australia have participated in the program. For example, in 2018 it visited more than 20 schools in Townsville, Brisbane, Western Sydney, Canberra, south-west Victoria and Tasmania. Each year it has around a dozen industry professionals on hand to serve the mentoring role – mentors in past years have included Lior, Katie Noonan, Guy Sebastian and Megan Washington.
Tina Broad, who runs the program, was campaign director of Music Play for Life and organiser of Music Australia’s Music: Count Us In during its start-up phase. She describes SongMakers thus: “We take in these high-profile musicians and producers into secondary schools and they work really intensively with students over a couple of days to write and record music. We turn them on to all the different career paths in the contemporary music industry.”
“It’s all very well getting them to learn to play other people’s stuff, but particularly in the contemporary music industry you’re going to have a sustainable career if you’re writing your own material.”
Broad says that partnerships between schools and industry are crucially important in building career paths for young people.
“We shouldn’t rely on TAFEs and universities to usher well-prepared new entrants in to the industry because a lot of young musos – including, it seems, many that bnd early international success – bypass Uni or TAFE on the way to their careers.” she writes in The Industry Observer. “That means secondary school can be a sensible stage at which to invest in some pre-emptive support.”
SongMakers has just announced a partnership with Tasmania’s Department of Education that runs in the first half of this year. Latterly, the program has also joined up with JMC Academy, a long-established private college that offers courses in music and the creative industries in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane. This allows participants in SongMakers to be eligible for diploma course scholarships at that college.
See details here for how to if you are interested in registering your school for SongMakers.
Note that SongMakers is different to Songmakers Australia which presents concerts in Melbourne of leading vocal and chamber artists.