A Front Runner in School Based Music Education: Topology

Image credit: Topology Facebook
Graham Strahle
| April 23, 2019

Aside from being known as one of Australia’s premiere ensembles in the indie classical space, Topology has particularly well developed educational program that we want to explore here. Top Up is its name, and this program has been running for almost as long as the Queensland group has existed – it began just a year after they formed in 1987. In that time it grown into a multilevel educational package that sets a new benchmark for how a small group – in this case consisting of five members – can bring musical enrichment to a great many young Australians.

Top Up’s uniqueness stems partly from Topology’s home state being so large and demographically decentralised, and the fact that Top Up services not only regional Queensland and but also schools in the Northern Territory. Schools in disadvantaged areas are given priority, so if they have an ICSEA (Index of Community Socio-Educational Advantage) value of less than 1,000 (which represents the average), they can access Top Up at no cost.

It means the group visits a lot of schools each year. With them they bring a suite of four programs that cater both for students and teachers.

First is Curriculum Delivery Support, which offers professional development for teachers and workshops for students in performance and the more specialised areas of composition and improvisation – these being more difficult for schools to teach by themselves.

New Music In Schools is series of in-school workshops for young composers to develop their skills and bring new works to fruition. It culminates in their pieces being performed in a community setting by school students and members of Topology.

A four-day Creative Boot Camp allows young composers and songwriters to take their skills further by writing and recording their work with Topology and industry friends. In 2019 this happens on 3-6 October in Indooroopilly: see here for details and how to register.

Fourthly is a new addition to Top Up called Launchpad Mentorship. This gives emerging composers a one-year scholarship that consists of high level creative development, ongoing mentoring from Topology, and a public performance of their work. Four of these scholarships are offered each year. Find more about Launchpad here.

The whole Top Up program is described in summary here.

Top Up was a State winner in the category of Excellence in Music Education in the 2015 APRA AMCOS Art Music Awards.

Topology’s members are John Babbage (composer, saxophone), Robert Davidson (composer, bass), Bernard Hoey (composer, viola), Christa Powell (education director, violin) and Therese Milanovic (piano).

The group’s current show, Queensland at Home, is another example of how it works with great imaginative flair across artform boundaries. Vintage black and white footage depicting everyday life in the early twentieth century Queensland is married to a new score composed by Davidson. See it in Stanthorpe on 21 April and 4 May, and from there in Rockhampton, Emerald, Barcaldine, Cloncurry, Mt Isa and Richmond through May – details here.

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