One of the more rural and remote schools in New England lies about halfway between Guyra and Glen Innes, 12 kms west of the New England Highway. Ben Lomond Public School currently has a student population of just 16, and given their location, it can be difficult for the school to be actively involved in the kinds of programs and events offered to the larger regional centres. In 2018, the team from ABC North West in Tamworth travelled up to Ben Lomond PS to perform an afternoon concert for students and parents, and such was the reception from the students, the NECOM CEO made a pledge to the School Principal, Kirsten Reim, to start a small band program from the start of 2019.
After running an initial instrument-testing day at the school in February of this year, Mr Bauer was able to determine which students were best suited to flute, clarinet, trumpet, trombone or euphonium. From there, applications were made to the “Gift of Music” foundation, which is an arm of Rural Aid. The organisation generously donated new and near-new flutes, clarinets and trumpets to the small school, and in June the excited students had their first lessons on their chosen instrument. A further grant from the Association of NSW Regional Conservatoriums means that the school has all lesson fees covered by NECOM instrumental specialist Wendy Champion, right up until mid-November.
Mr Bauer said that this project had quite personal connections for himself. “Growing up in a small rural QLD town, I may have missed out on the opportunity to make music my career if there hadn’t been an old upright piano in our home”, he said. “The students and families of Ben Lomond PS do it pretty tough, with drought and the threat of bushfires magnifying the challenges that already exist in living quite far from larger centres. The boys and girls are so enthusiastic and grateful for the opportunity to create their own band within the school. We’d all like to say a huge thanks to Robyn and Wayne from ‘The Gift of Music’, and to the committee from the Association of Regional Conservatoriums. I look forward to following the progress of these young musicians who are just starting out on their musical journeys”.