Sydney Catholic Schools is looking for passionate and enthusiastic classroom teachers to join our growing Amadeus Music Education Program team.

The Amadeus program is one of the biggest, most comprehensive and ambitious investments in quality music education ever undertaken in Sydney’s schools, placing 52,000 instruments in the hands of Year 3 to 8 students.

The program has already seen successful launches at more than 98 Sydney Catholic Schools, and its availability will expand to all 147 schools by 2024. 

At the heart of the program are talented, passionate music educators who are helping our students unlock their potential. 

Laura Jane Aulsebrook is one such educator—here, the St Gertrude’s Catholic Primary School Smithfield teacher describes her experience of the Amadeus program. 

What is your background in the arts and how has this led you to the Amadeus Program? 

I possibly come to the role of Amadeus Teacher from a different background than most. I was a classroom teacher for more than a decade before the Amadeus Program started and I was approached to take on the role to introduce it at our school. I grew up with a background in musical theatre and take pride in the fact that this passion and training in the Arts actually came from my time as a student in Sydney Catholic Schools and the Arts opportunities I was able to experience. 

Throughout my classroom teaching career I have run school dance troupes, choirs and public speaking groups and have always utilised music, dance and drama into my lessons, whether it be from creating a song to remember all of the ships of the First Fleet to the structure of a narrative or Maths procedures, I have always organically infused creativity and music into my lessons with a big focus on confidence building. 

It seemed like such a natural progression to turn this into specialising in teaching music, dance and drama full time, but like anything it is not in isolation and I think that the students respond to our Amadeus lessons so well because they are so integrated. I bring elements of their English, History and Mathematics units into the Amadeus units being taught each term so that students can see the links and infuse creativity into their learning. Nothing is in isolation when it comes to education and that is why I am so passionate about the Arts, it is not about creating the future musicians and creatives of the future, although they are definitely in our classes, it is about instilling confidence, joy and the ability to think critically and creativity in any situation.

Can you tell us about your role at St Gertrude’s? 

At St Gertrude’s I am the Marketing and Engagement/Creative Arts Coordinator and I teach the integrated Music, Dance and Drama Programs as the classroom Amadeus teacher to the whole school. 

What I love is that I have created a very integrated Creative Arts curriculum. The students know that when they come to Amadeus with Miss Aulsebrook they learn Music, Dance and Drama – that there is a lot of singing, music making, movement and confidence building – but and to quote students directly – “It is really every subject in one – Maths and English and Religion and History are all in Amadeus!” I think that the beauty of the Program is that it allows for integration and the ability for students to approach their learning through a creative lens, embedding techniques developed in Amadeus into all aspects of their learning.

I believe that the effectiveness of the integration of the Creative and Performing Arts curriculum is that it allows for students’ communication skills to build, their confidence to develop and their ability to think critically and creatively across a range of situations grow, developing empathetic reasoning and confidence in any situation. All this from teaching music, dance and drama lessons!

What has the feedback been like from students about the program?

The students at St Gertrude’s have responded with tremendous positivity towards the Amadeus Program. I think one of the benefits has been seeing some of the students who in the past have been quite quiet or not very confident embrace the opportunity to try something new. From my classroom perspective, I think that the benefits have been in being able to integrate the program into real world situations that are relevant to their own experiences. 

Early this year we held an Open Day and in the lead up we were creating Social Media content to promote the day. Year 6 were looking at the idea of “Performance for a Purpose” which also linked into their English Persuasive Writing Unit. We were studying how commercials, whether through jingles, calls to action or creative drama scenarios engaged the audience and made them respond in only 30 seconds. 

To put this into practice they were tasked with creating their own 30 second promotional video for our Open Day, many of which we then used in our school’s advertising campaign. To be able to have a real world task that saw an end product actually being used for its intended purpose made the learning experience authentic for students, but also addressed that things are not in isolation, echoing my statement above when students have responded to the fact that Amadeus involves so many learning areas. 

Students have loved the performance opportunities that have come about from the Amadeus Program and this has created lasting memories. It is also the small everyday feedback that has been rewarding to see – from students making connections between learning to those that study the wall displays from other grades in the classroom and make reference to them or decide to go home and do further research or practice.  I think that there is no doubt that there is an overwhelming sense of positivity to the Program from students and parents alike. 

What is like being able to see the progression in your students? 

The confidence building in our students has been amazing. From the engagement of students in their classroom lessons to their genuine excitement for the Program it has been a rewarding experience and makes all of the planning and organisation worthwhile. When the students take responsibility for progressing their own learning you know that the benefits are profound. Last year we had two students, who had never picked up an instrument prior to this, love their violin lessons so much that they went home and studied YouTube videos of ‘My Heart Will Go On’ from Titanic and ended up playing it – by ear – at our school Christmas Concert. The pride and joy that they expressed in being able to do this was infectious.

On its surface it is easy to say that music isn’t for everyone and it is true of any subject that we all have areas that we favour over others, but I think the beauty of the Amadeus Program is that it does offer something that everyone can find engagement in, it is not just learning to play an instrument! That said, it has been great to see how many students who have taken such a passion to learning to play an instrument that they have shared goals for how they wish to improve. 

One of our Year 4 students who started learning the saxophone last year repeatedly tells me that he is going to become so skilled on the saxophone that he is going to be hired to play in Taylor Swift’s band. I am not sure if that came about by the well known fact that his teacher is a Swiftie, but I like his goal setting and hope that he remembers me if that does happen!

Why is the Amadeus Program proving so important for students? 

Confidence, the ability to express themselves and the skills to communicate with others are some of the core skills we wish for all students to embrace along their education journey. Particularly coming out of such an intense and isolating Covid experience, these skills are perhaps more vital than ever before. I think this is one of the reasons why music and the Amadeus Program is so important for our students as it provides them with the means to do this. We have a very diverse student population at St Gertrude’s and music is also a way of showcasing both our diversity and our unity. 

In one of our units this year, Year 4 were looking at ways we celebrate and how music, dance and drama come into this in similar and different ways around the world. We looked at the “Happy Birthday” song which may seem simple, however that day, the students themselves showcased that they knew this song in over 14 different languages. They were able to teach each other how the song was performed in their cultural background, from the lyrics to the musical accompaniment and the way clapping was brought into the song in different ways in different cultures.

It was such an engaging experience because it came from the students and they were able to take ownership. It also happened to be our Principal’s birthday that day, so at the end of the day the whole grade actually performed for her, singing Happy Birthday in a variety of different languages that they had learnt that day. Being able to have that performance aspect of a class task was a perfect celebration of their learning and gave it an end purpose.

What are some of the things you personally enjoy most about the Amadeus program? 

As a teacher I love being able to teach the Creative Arts on a daily basis and see the confidence in my students grow. I think that the benefits of the Amadeus Program lies in the fact that it has the three parts that contribute to an overall quality music education. The integrated classroom program is essential for establishing a core curriculum and foundation in the Arts and the opportunity for students to learn to play an instrument in small groups and as part of an ensemble really is world class. I know that I would have loved to have learnt to play an instrument at school this way! There is a popular meme that sometimes pops up on social media in relation to the usefulness of learning to play the recorder at school, but I think that the real response to this is the true benefit that music education provides, from the skills of communication, of listening and being able to contribute to a team, of being able to learn another language, to the real world application of mathematics and ultimately building an appreciation for the Creative Arts. 

Music is something that we cannot live without, and music, dance and drama as a source of entertainment is something that I challenge anyone to deny that they do not engage with daily. Is there a day that goes by when you can deny that you have not listened to the radio, streamed a television program, podcast or playlist? Bopped along or jammed to an earworm of a tune? The great thing about the Amadeus Program is that it allows all students the opportunity to learn about, appreciate, experience and build their capacity to engage in this artform, enriching their experience beyond the classroom.