The FLAME Award Winners

Each year, the FLAME Awards for music education in schools were awarded based on a theme. Winners are listed below. If you want to bring more music into your school, why not register for Music: Count Us In, our national music education program?

2011: ‘Creative and engaging ways of delivering music education’

The winning schools were picked from a pool of twenty three national finalists in the Awards which set out to highlight schools using creative ways to engage children in music making and singing. The 2011 National Judges were: Suzanne Rogers, National Councillor, ASME; Bradley Merrick, Chair, ASME NSW; Jane Law, Music Australia’s music education Councillor and Tina Broad, Music: Play for Life.

NATIONAL WINNER:  Parkhurst State Primary School (QLD) $10,000 cash prize

This school involves all 270 students in an innovative music and multimedia program.


“Instead of banning MP3 players and mobile phones, here is a school which is embracing 21st century technologies to help students unleash their creativity, learn to make music and then apply it as a tool across the curriculum. The school’s Music Innovation Centre lives up to its name, as an e-learning environment where students create ringtones, make CDs as gifts, compose soundtracks for their own presentations and write and record songs for podcasting or to accompany story books. No dreaded recorder lessons here: students can’t wait to get to class to create their own upbeat backing tracks on which they then record their own recorder playing. The school shares its approach with neighbouring schools, bringing other students and teachers in five times a term. Parkhurst builds its music program on rigorous evidence about what works for its students and demonstrates a real commitment to using popular culture and community trends to deliver an impressive music program which gives students a rich, rewarding and contemporary education. Well done!” Judges’ citation.

2011 RUNNER-UP AWARD:  Boggabilla Central School, (NSW) $2,500 cash prize

Situated in one of the lowest socio economic communities in NSW, this school has found creative ways to engage its almost entirely Indigenous student population in classroom music.

“Although fledgling and without a specialist music teacher, this program exemplifies the unique difference music can make to students’ lives across a range of areas, from academic success to improved self-esteem. Through its music program, Boggabilla has found creative ways to improve the ambience of the school, which provide flow-on effects to families and the whole community. These include a new student-created School Song based on its social values program and the use of student compositions as the ‘bell’ to end break times. Team skills have come to the fore as students prepare for the first-ever school musical, with classrooms ringing with drums, bass, guitar, keyboards and children’s confident voices.” Judges’ citation.

2011 RUNNER-UP AWARD: Ernabella School, (SA) $2,500 cash prize

Built on a tradition of community singing it blends Western and local Anangu music in its curriculum.

“Ernabella is commended for its commitment to providing a sequential, continuous, developmental music program which is integrated across the whole school and wider community. Drumming programs designed to help at-risk students heal, cultural sessions led by community members and an Award-winning choral program all make a contribution to this school’s positive ethos. Ernabella says its music keeps it happy. Hooray to that!” Judges citation

2011 Judges’ SPECIAL MENTION: North Lakes Senior Campus (WA)

“This program uses a ‘virtual classroom’ to link its migrant and refugee students across two different sites, encouraging collaborations which make creative use of digital technologies and which improve students’ musical and life skills while building a positive and inclusive school culture.” Judges citation

2010: ‘Innovation, Impact and Inclusion’

Both winning schools were picked from a pool of 24 national finalists which, in 2010, set out to find primary schools using creative ways to engage children in learning to play musical instruments. The 2010 National Judges were: Suzanne Rogers, National Councillor, ASME; Antony Hubmayer, ASME SA Chapter Chair; David Loveband, Primary Principals Association; James Albert , Australian Youth Music Council; Tina Broad, Director, Music: Play for Life.

2010 NATIONAL WINNER: Padstow Park Public School (NSW) $10,000 cash prize

This diverse program involves all 340 students regardless of age, family background, intellectual or physical ability:

“Picture an ensemble made up of recorders, violins, didges, laptops, African drums and weird and wonderful instruments made from recycled materials and you have a sense of the eclectic and audacious music program created at Padstow Park Primary School.  Commendable aspects  of the program include the fact that teachers join the kids as fellow learners; older or more capable students teach others; it happens in normal classroom time and outside it, draws on the cultural backgrounds of its students; provides lots of performance opportunities for students and  permeates many areas of school life. We were moved by the testimony of teacher, Kay Taylor’s colleagues and her principal, who spoke of the transformative power of music at Padstow Park, such as this from teacher, Chris Graham: “ Their self worth increases and they see a different future. To take a child from the horrors of another life to performing on the stage of the Sydney Opera House is astounding’.” Judges’ citation.

2010 INNOVATION AWARD: Basket Range Primary School (SA) $5,000 cash prize

This program revolves around a unique musical playground, built out of recycled materials including scrap aluminium, ag pipe, wrecked MAG wheels and old chemical drums.  Teachers incorporate more rhythm work and music into the classroom, and use the instruments for science as well as maths and literacy.

“The program at Basket Range Primary School is innovative, with strong community support. We appreciated the emphasis on the flow-on learning that takes place through music such as the development of team skills, recovering from mistakes, leadership. The program came about because the school’s governing council was determined to give students exposure to rich musical experiences, even though the school has no music specialist and limited resources. This musical playground is a great solution. And, as pragmatic school principal, Andy Bedford, says: “it’s comparatively cheap and it’s indestructible!” Most families were involved in the construction and ongoing use of the playground, it engages every student in the school and it brings the whole community 24 hour access to music. To quote one of the dads after an early performance: ‘this is (expletive deleted) awesome!’  Judges.

2009: ‘Schools that Sing!

National winner and Victorian State winner: Melbourne High School, VIC

“Here is a selective State secondary school where all 1358 students – boys – sing. The school shows that communal singing can be at the heart of important rituals and ceremonies for young men – all the more potent in that this is a secular school. Melbourne High deserves reward and recognition for the ways in which it provides such a rich and varied program to engage and stimulate its students. We were impressed by so many things at this school, including the student-run ensembles which help develop students’ sense of responsibility, the broad range of musical styles on offer, from Barbershop to pop, and the fact that singing is such an integral part of school culture. Over many decades, Melbourne High has made a decision to harness the power of music and let it infuse the lives of these young men, for their lifelong benefit.”

State and Territory winners:


“This school covers a lot of bases with its singing program! There are weekly outreach sessions to local nursing homes which help create powerful connections across the generations. There is a high level of involvement in the program by students with special needs and there are mentoring programs which encourage children to be self-directed and develop responsibility for themselves and their learning. We like the way in which this school focuses as much on musical intent as musical skill. There’s a caring and compassionate musical heart beating at this school.”


“Students are closely involved in commissioning, writing, performing and recording new works and there is a commitment to reaching out beyond the school gates with the singing program – most recently, for example, in collaboration with a government primary school in Broken Hill on a new Opera. There are boundless opportunities for all students at this school, whatever their musical inclinations or abilities. It would be easy to say that MLC can do all this because it is an extraordinarily well-resourced private school. But that’s only part of their story. We chose MLC as the State winner because this is a school where the commitment to the musical education of its students is palpable. As the school says; singing is the second language at MLC, with a music program designed to enrich girls and empower them to take control of their own learning.”


“We like the way singing is integrated into the daily learning program as an activity in its own right as well as a tool for learning in other subjects across the curriculum. The students’ own testimony revealed a real joy of learning and a sense that singing helped build confidence and helped kids apply themselves to their school work.”


“This is a wonderfully student-centred program. Kids are encouraged to compose and perform their own songs from very early on; there’s a highly successful boys-only singing group, BOSS; the school makes regular music tours across the State and it forges close musical ties with its local high school to help ensure its students continue their musical involvement once they hit secondary school. This is an energetic and comprehensive music program which the students so obviously love being part of!”


“There’s a philosophy at Port Lincoln Primary to ignore disadvantage and make the most of what it has. Consequently music permeates the entire school. There are lots of creative strategies used to get kids singing, such as Idol-style contests, come-and-try singing sessions that let students explore group singing without the pressure of having to commit to ongoing choir involvement straight away and songwriting projects for senior students. Port Lincoln Primary impressed us because it clearly recognises the flow-on benefits to students when music is integrated into school life.”


“We are impressed by the strategies used at this school which see students encouraged to develop many important life skills via the singing program. For example rehearsals are run by year 6 leaders, student initiative, creativity and team skills are nurtured in the development of new school song and generally there is a real sense that this school uses musical involvement to empower kids to step up and grow.”


“This rural primary school clearly has a big commitment to enriching its students’ lives with singing. It is the hub for a local community choir, the Circle of Song, it helps get more boys singing by providing ‘safe’ voluntary rehearsals for those having difficulty and by providing plenty of percussion activities to go along with the singing! We were also pleased to see a recognition at this school that active music involvement impacts positively on students’ academic achievements and behaviour.”

2007 theme: Primary schools

For the first time, the 2007 Awards focused on primary schools only, to pick up on a priority area highlighted in the  National Review of School Music Education. Judges looked for programs which were inclusive, innovative and impactful. The entries were shortlisted by a panel of representatives from ASME, the Australian Society of Music Education. All had considerable expertise in music teaching and curriculum development. The judges were Graham Abbott, ABC Classic FM presenter/producer, Dr Richard Letts, Executive Director, Music Australia, Jane Law, Vice President, NSW Primary Principals Association, Kathryn Marsh, Member, National Review of School Music Education, 2005 .

National winner and Victorian State winner: New Farm State School

Music infuses just about every aspect of life at this 285-student school. 100% of students take part in classroom music; 100% of students in years 2 – 7 take part in choirs, including a boys’ vocal ensemble (set up at the boys’ own request) and almost half the years 5-7 students participate in the instrumental program. There is a repertoire of songs in languages other than English and links with Chinese community events to help engage students from culturally-diverse backgrounds. The cross-curriculum use of music is significant. For example, songs about the environment are used to enhance learning about science and nature. An initiative to teach each Year 1 student to play glockenspiel using a number system has reinforced the classroom number work.

“For a small school, we generate a big sound,” says music teacher, Carolyn Carey. And student academic achievement is improving because of music. In the nine years since the music program was developed, our numeracy results for year 2 students sit well above the State average since 2000.”

“It is a culturally inclusive program, it involves the staff in performance and has a commitment to professional development in music and it has developed creative ways of financially supporting the program – such as through inexpensive instrument hire schemes – so that students from disadvantaged backgrounds can participate,” says FLAME Award judge Dr Richard Letts. “This is a school that understands that studying music helps literacy and numeracy and other academic achievement. We hope many other schools follow its lead and make the link.”

State and Territory winners:


This Glen Waverley school was purpose-built to meet the needs of students whose physical disabilities include Cerebral Palsy, Rett Syndrome and Muscular Dystrophy. There is a wide range of intellectual ability across the school. With a philosophy to provide a dynamic environment to maximise each student’s learning, music is centre-stage at this special school. There are music and dance therapy sessions for each child and adapted music equipment and technology such as sound beams, banana keyboards (for children with limited movement), karaoke machines and percussion equipment allow for every child to experience the joy of making music while at the same time extending his or her learning. Principal, Elizabeth Green, says the children’s involvement in music has far-reaching impacts. For example, the commitment to music is such that the school choir regularly performs publicly in combined events with neighbouring schools: “It is often difficult for them to sing with such big smiles on their faces, as they are accepted into mainstream events.”


This WA regional school fosters a lifelong love of music among its students by integrating it across the whole school, via curriculum, resources and timetabling decisions. In years 1 and 2, music spans the curriculum, including in an innovative literature-based program where students are guided in song-writing and recording activities based on characters they are reading about in a featured class book. Things get more structured in Year 3 and 4 where all students learn keyboard and guitar, when the school makes good use of its volunteer network to ensure each child gets the best access to instruction and equipment. In years 5-7 students participate in an innovative Circus program which combines traditional circus activities with musical activities involving mandolin, drums, keyboards, guitar and ukulele.

“Our school philosophy of access to quality instruments and tuition, opportunities to learn and play, whole school community support, music across the curriculum and promoting the joy of music sees a very musical and talented primary school,” says Performing Arts Specialist, Brad Snelling.


In this tiny school, music is being used as a vehicle to preserve the local Kaytetye language as well as to improve the students’ English literacy. This one-teacher school is situated 170kms north of Alice Springs on the Neutral Junction Pastoral Station where non-indigenous people, including the school teacher, live. The school has 20 students aged between 4 and 12, all of whom are indigenous. Having secured a language maintenance grant from the Institute for Aboriginal Development in 2001, a group of community women began making resources and teaching a one hour lesson in Kaytetye each week. Singing quickly became a crucial part. In 2004, the school ran a music workshop with philanthropic organisation, Music Outback, to write Kaytetye songs and teach music skills. The music activities have had a major impact on children’s literacy skills in English (through English song writing) and in Kaytetye for both community teachers and students. There has been increased student attendance levels, pride and confidence and the creation of meaningful employment in the community.

“We feel our school language and music program is having a positive impact on detrimental social issues in the community and building of individuals’ confidence,” says then Teaching Principal, Rosemary Kerrison, in her submission.


This R-7, coeducational Catholic school says parents send their children here because of its commitment to music education – and it becomes a strong driver for parents closely scrutinising their subsequent high school choices for their children. All students undertake classroom music and, of the 320 children in the school, 72% are currently involved in the additional optional programs in choir, drum corps, rock bands and instrumental tuition. This is a massive increase on the 30 students accessing such programs in 2004. The school provides opportunities for children to choose musical forms of expression within a ‘negotiated curriculum’. This acknowledges that children learn in different ways and those with ‘academic’ learning difficulties – ie those that are not ‘maths or linguistic’ learners – nevertheless can shine musically as their self-esteem and confidence develop. There is innovative and far-reaching use of technology as children compose music and record soundtracks to their own movies and documentaries, for example. There is even ‘Dominican Radio’ which broadcasts to a footprint of 2km around the school.

‘Enrolments are increasing, students walk with pride and the school has a celebratory culture,” says Deputy Principal, Noel Browne.


Deepwater Public is the home base for the Small Schools Marimba Ensemble. The program, which involves 12 schools from four regions around the New England area of NSW, is an innovative solution which allows students from tiny isolated schools to participate in musical performance and access a quality music program that their school alone would simply not be able to provide. Each school rallies its parent community to make percussion instruments such as Marimbas and new stringed/bowed inventions called ‘echocellos’. The construction of the instruments is an ideal way to engage parents in the program and the regular performances help retain the parents’ involvement through the years. The percussion aspect of the program appeals to boys who are equally involved as the girls.

While each school runs its own individual music program, it is the coming together which has such profound and positive impacts on the schools and students themselves, says Deepwater Principal, Danny Spillane: “Important social networks have been set up between schools as a result of this program. These are incredibly important as some of the schools have as few as four students and the development of larger peer groups is a key issue. In over 25 years’ teaching, I have yet to see a more effective school program that develops school spirit, harmony and an abundance of self-esteem. This is particularly applicable to small schools.”


There is a strong commitment to providing music education to every student at this integrated Mainstream/Special School, where 110 of the 430 students have a disability, or multiple disabilities. In years 1-2 music is core curriculum and has been the focus of the Integrated Learning unit, where students study note representation, musicians, instrument making and the links music has with maths, science and technology. There is a marimba band in years 3 and 4 – open to everyone – and school bands in years 5 and 6. There is a school percussion band, choirs and three bell choirs, involving students and staffmembers. There is a Special Education Music program which involves units such as music and movement, making music, music at play and music as therapy. 25% of students in the school also take advantage of the parent-paid tutor music program, in piano, violin or guitar.

“Through music, we have developed another language for sharing,” says Principal, Jan Day.


Our students went from a ‘music sucks’ attitude to each and every child performing at our Final Year Assembly in 2006 and recording a Christmas CD that raised more than $1500,” says music teacher, Eliza Brown. When she joined the school in 2006, Eliza saw the need to meet the challenge of minimal musical resources and a musically ‘unfriendly’ culture, with some drastic action. ‘I needed to engage the students in a way which didn’t use instruments, so we lived by the musical motto: the best instrument we have is our body and voice.” Today, the lower primary students perform African chants, Latin style pieces and square dance. Children make instruments out of recycled household items – the Rubber Glove Hooters are favourites. Bicheno has gone from a school without a choir to one where one third of the student population is involved and where there are equal number of girls and boys. The local community has donated a marimba and other materials to make one at school. This year, the school has been donated a piano. Students have learnt and performed pieces in Auslan and Makaton sign language. Students are also beginning to write their own songs.

The program has had a major impact on the school culture: “Our students have become engaged and interested as they needed no prior musical background to excel in music,” says Eliza Brown

2006: ‘Community Connections’.

The 2006 Awards focused on imaginative school music programs which involve the wider community in music-making, once again picking up on a priority area of the National Review of School Music Education. As always, the Awards were open to government and independent schools. “The National Review of School Music Education looked at the ways in which involvement by parents and the wider community could really help music programs flourish and that’s one of the key things we were looking to uncover in this year’s entries,” said FLAMES National Judge, Dr Richard Letts.

NATIONAL WINNER: Tatachilla Lutheran College, McLaren Vale, South Australia

Singing nuns, barbers, Taiko drummers, Elizabethan feasts: South Australia’s Tatachilla Lutheran College has won the Australian national FLAME Award for its extensive and imaginative music program. The 900-student school (years K – 12) is home to generations of music makers and is the hub of musical life in its community of McLaren Vale, near Adelaide.

Tatachilla’s junior classes sing for residents at local nursing homes; itsTaiko drumming group regularly performs at cultural events; the biennial stage musicals feature staff and parents performing with students – sometimes whole families, across three generations, take to the stage together. The college has also established a local Community Orchestra with 75 players, a mix of college students, students from other schools and local adults.

“Tatachilla is doing all the right things as a focal point for music in its community – and it’s doing things that any school could emulate, regardless of resources. It’s fantastic,” said the Music Council of Australia’s Dr Richard Letts.

As the FLAME Awards National Winner, Tatachilla Lutheran College received $3,000 from the Australian Music Association, to spend on musical equipment and $3000 prize-matching cash from NSW philanthropist, Dr Noah Gordon. It also played host to a concert staged and broadcast by ABC Classic FM next month. Eight State and Territory Finalists each won $1,000 to spend on musical equipment, along with a selection of music CDs and magazine subscriptions.

State and Territory Winners:








2005: Inaugural FLAME Awards

Virginia State School, a 300 student primary school in outer suburban Brisbane, won the inaugural FLAME Award for the most inspiring and engaging school music program. The Awards were run in partnership with ABC Classic FM.

“Virginia is a wonderful example of an inclusive and balanced program which is strongly entrenched in the school,” said Dick Letts, member of the FLAME Award national judging panel. “Parents and teachers are involved as learning role models for the children; there are creative initiatives like the Musical Madness Mornings where the children dip into all sorts of musical styles. They’ve even managed to get themselves a recording set-up so that children can learn recording and audio technology. All this in a State primary school. Terrific!”

Virginia impressed the judges with the depth and diversity of the musical activities at the school, the ways in which parents and staff were encouraged to learn music with the children and the school’s commitment to sharing its skills and creativity through tours to communities in regional Queensland. Virginia manages all this with limited funds and no dedicated music block or hall. All the children in years 5, 6 and 7 do singing classes every week – that’s all the boys, too. More than half the upper school is involved in the 65-piece concert band, which also has eight parents and two teachers in it. The school has a 12-strong flute ensemble, a French horn trio, a clarinet ensemble of 13, a brass ensemble of 26 and a 9 piece percussion ensemble. There is also a stage band of 25 which acts as an extension program for the children who show extra promise.

flame_winner_2005State and Territory winners:

Canberra Girls Grammar School, ACT

Marryatville High School, SA

Launceston Church Grammar School, TAS

Blackburn High School, VIC

Dulwich Hill Public School, NSW

Moil Primary School, NT

All Saints’ College Junior School, WA

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