St Patrick's Primary School in Walcha will commence a music ensemble program in 2020

St Patrick's Walcha Principal Belinda Burton, staff and students with Gift of Music Rural Aid founders Wayne and Robyn Thomson and Monsignor Ted Wilkes.
St Patrick's Walcha Principal Belinda Burton, staff and students with Gift of Music Rural Aid founders Wayne and Robyn Thomson and Monsignor Ted Wilkes.

The gift of music was delivered to two schools in the Northern Tablelands this week - St Patrick's Primary School in Walcha and St Joseph's Primary School in Uralla .

Both schools were visited by Rural Aid's Gift of Music project founders Wayne and Robyn Thomson and New England Conservatorium of Music (NECOM) program manager Corinne Arter on Monday.

Wayne Thomson said his project aimed to help the often forgotten victims of drought - children. Both Wayne and his wife Robyn live in Brisbane, and he said when they made the first Gift of Music deliveries earlier this year to towns in western NSW the stories of the children made a significant impact on him.

"One little eight-year-old girl had to help her father count the dead livestock before going to school in the morning," he said.

"How is a kid supposed to switch off and focus on schoolwork after that? Another girl had to help feed livestock every evening, so she was unable to do homework. The school had to make time for her to catch up during the day."

Mr Thomson said teaching children to play a musical instrument was providing them with a means of escaping the everyday for a while.

"Unless you have ever played a musical instrument, you may not understand what I mean," he said.

"Whether it is just playing for themselves, or their parents - we give children the chance to learn an instrument, be part of an ensemble, build self-esteem and self-confidence, develop a skill and a love that may last a lifetime."

Music is a catalyst with the power to heal, to encourage, to help overcome social, emotional, physical, learning and behavioural problems. Music brings joy. Music creates pride. Music requires discipline. Music changes lives.

Wayne Thomson

Tracy and Charles Alder founded Rural Aid in 2015 on the back of the very successful Buy a Bale drought fundraising campaign which began in 2013. Mr Thomson is a friend of Charles Alder, and he formed the Gift of Music Rural Aid initiative in January 2018.

St Joseph's Primary and St Patrick's Primary schools join Ben Lomond Primary School in being the first recipients of the program in New England. Ben Lomond received its instruments back in July, and the students will perform publicly for the first time next month - less than six months later.

NECOM is providing the teachers and music curriculum for the schools to make the most of the instruments.

St Patrick's Primary School received more than $12,000 worth of musical instruments. The students and staff were overwhelmed when they took delivery of three flutes, three clarinets, two trumpets, two saxophones and five recorders as well as some Lego.

An emotional school principal, Belinda Burton, thanked Rural Aid and the Thomsons in front of the entire student body that had assembled in the library on Monday morning.

"This has been a dream for a while now," she said.

"St Patrick's is working with NECOM in Armidale to extend our current music program, and 2020 will see the introduction of a school band."

"The band will provide students with the opportunity to learn and play an instrument. Research is increasingly verifying that music plays an integral part in enhancing health and wellbeing - both socially and personally. It also has a positive effect on learning in English and science.

"Rural Aid has offered St Patrick's such a wonderful opportunity - thank you so much."

St Joseph's Primary School received more than $5500 worth of musical instruments and Lego.

Mr Thomson said anyone who would like to know more about the Gift of Music initiative or make a donation can go to https://www.giftofmusic.org.au