Watching the Year 4 students at Kuyper Christian School sitting in a circle under the shade of gum trees on a hot November day, calmly performing the items they have been preparing for the school's end-of-year celebration to the chorus of cicadas in the background, it's hard to believe that most of these children had never played an instrument prior to 2020.
It's harder to believe that they have developed such competence and confidence playing together as a group in a year of lockdowns and long lists of banned activities due to COVID-19.
Every student in Year 4 at Kuyper learns to play an instrument as part of the Band Program.
"Music makes a contribution to children's development that no other subject can match," said Rob Weule, the School's Year 4 Teacher and Head of P-12 Performing Arts. "Research shows that playing music improves concentration, memory and the ability to express feelings. It is a powerful tool for learning."
Students at the school participate in an instrumental tutorial and whole band session each week, as well as being involved in regular individual rehearsals at home.
The Year 4 Band Program is built into the curriculum at no additional cost to parents and provides a pathway into the School Concert Band.
The highly successful, home-grown program is in its fourth year at Kuyper, and 72 students across the school are now actively involved in learning instruments.
During this time the School Concert Band has also grown to a 53-piece ensemble and performed their first Band Tour.
Mr Weule said the band program faced unusual challenges this year.
"When the lockdown first hit, we sat down together as a team and said: well, here's all the things we can't do any more, but what can we do," he said. Building on that 'can do' attitude, the Performing Arts team established a Band Room on Kuyper's School@Home google classroom platform and designed an online program to keep students engaged with and learning their instruments at home.
Tutors provided instructional videos for each instrument so that learning could continue away from school. Students had to produce their own videos or recordings, and check-in with Mr Weule each week to chat about their progress.
He said the results of this initiative have been astonishing with increased participation in the program and students playing better than ever. "Support from home is an integral part of the learning environment," Mr Weule said. "Our online platform has fostered a culture of learning across the whole school community."
The Year 4 Band will be performing in the School's online end-of-year celebration, Limelight@Home on Tuesday, December 7.