Sydney Catholic Schools’ creative and performance artists have been enjoying phenomenal success in the wake of COVID-19, and the opportunities for students with an artistic flair to flourish are only increasing.

Singer-guitarist Chrystal Ruz from SCS’ ViVA Music 1 class of 2020 was recognised on the Encore Honour Roll for exemplary performance in the Viva Voce (Musicology) component of her HSC Examination.

Our Lady of the Sacred Heart College Kensington student Jessica Wilson placed third in the state in the 2020 Music 1 HSC, while Bethany College Hurstville student Shae Acevski placed fifth in NSW in HSC Dance.

Student Crystal singing at a HSC showcase

Singer-guitarist Chrystal Ruz of Bethany College Hurstville

And 12 SCS students were chosen from 9,000 entries to have their works displayed in the annual ArtExpress HSC showcase exhibitions.

Now SCS looks to debut a Sydney Catholic Schools Eisteddfod. Students can also audition for the first Sydney Archdiocesan musical, Fame, as well as SCS’ annual film festival.

“Not only are we celebrating outstanding HSC results, we are offering so many new opportunities for students to perform and create,” said Eva Spata, SCS’ Specialist: Creative and Performing Arts. 

2021 is an exciting year for the arts at Sydney Catholic Schools” –  Eva Spata 

Excitingly, SCS has already this year launched a comprehensive music education program titled Amadeus in 14 of its schools, providing students with orchestral instruments, as well as classroom and ensemble music lessons led by specialist teachers.

Plus, Southern Cross Catholic College Burwood is for the first time offering full-time courses for students in Years 9 to 12 seeking a specialised education in the performing arts. 

The college’s 2021 program includes the NESA board developed Music, Dance and Drama courses (all levels), as well as a Certificate III in Community Dance, Theatre and Events.

“The Certificate course is aimed at triple threat performers, who can sing, dance and act,” Ms Spata said.

The year that was

“The year 2020 has seen the most HSC bodies of work included in ArtExpress for the (Sydney) Archdiocese,” Ms Spata said.

She said the number of Archdiocesan inclusions had more than doubled compared to the previous year.

Read more: Students shine at ArtExpress

Bethany College Hurstville graduate Chrystal studied Music as part of the part-time ViVA program at Southern Cross Catholic College Burwood, under Vita Greene. For her 2020 HSC she performed one song, submitted one composition, and did two Viva Voces.

“Viva Voce (Musicology) students are required to research a topic of interest and aurally analyse pieces of music according to the concepts of Music,” Ms Spata said.

“On the day of the practical exams, the examiners lead a 10-minute discussion with the student and ask questions related to the chosen topic Chrystal’s Viva Voces were deemed exemplary and were nominated and selected for inclusion in the honour roll for Encore.”

Chrystal went on to be awarded the National Excellence Scholarship to study the Bachelor of Music, majoring in Composition and Music Production, at the Australian Institute of Music.

“I am extremely proud of all the hard work of the 2020 Year 12 students, along with the support of their teachers in such a difficult and unusual year” –  Eva Spata

“As with the rest of the state, students had a period of time in (COVID-19) lockdown where many did not have access to all the art materials they normally would at their schools within their homes,” Ms Spata said.

Bronte Stark from De La Salle Cronulla in front of her painting of firefighters

Bronte Stark’s Artwork artwork was included in ArtExpress.

“Whilst teachers were mentoring over zoom, there were still challenges, as nothing compares to personalised teaching and learning in the classroom.”

Their hard work paid off, with the number of Band 6 results alone speaking volumes.

HSC creative and performing arts results – 2020

  • Bands 5 & 6: Creative and performing arts subjects achieved the most Band 6 results of all key learning areas in Sydney Catholic Schools with 24.7% of all results, and the most Band 5 results at 49% of all results.
  • Dance: 80% of SCS Dance candidates scored above the state mean, and 11 candidates (18% of the SCS cohort) received a Band 6 with four out of six SCS schools who offered Dance internally receiving at least one Band 6. 
  • Drama: 43% of SCS Drama candidates scored above the state mean, and 33 candidates (19% of the SCS cohort) received a Band 6. 

“All 2020 HSC Drama candidates from Aquinas Catholic College Menai received a Band 6” Eva Spata 

  • Music 1: 82.6%, or 154 of SCS’ candidates, were in the top two bands, with 39.5% placed in the top band. Schools that received all Band 6 results were: Southern Cross Catholic College Burwood; St Ursula’s College Kingsgrove; and Brigidine College Randwick. In total, 85% of SCS schools undertaking the Music 1 course (23 from 27 schools) achieved marks above the state average. 
  • Music 2: 44.4% of SCS’ Music 2 candidates scored above the state mean and 37% received a Band 6 and were Distinguished Achievers. They all attended St Mary’s Cathedral College Sydney.
  • Music Extension: 100% of students at SCS who undertook this course achieved in the top band (E4). All three SCS candidates – two from Southern Cross Burwood and one from St Mary’s Cathedral – were named Distinguished Achievers. 
  • Visual Arts: 84.4% of SCS’ Visual Arts candidates scored above the state mean, and 89 candidates (20.8%) received a Band 6 and were Distinguished Achievers. Of those, four were All-Round Achievers.

Read more: Sydney’s First Catholic Performing Arts High School

Sydney Catholic Schools’ Year 5 and 6 students also swept the pool in the 2020 Christmas Story Art Exhibition and Competition, held in conjunction with the Dioceses of Wollongong and Bathurst. 

Alfio Cavaleri, from Year 5 at St Michael’s Catholic Primary School Meadowbank, won the coveted Archbishop’s Choice Award, Gergo Orgovanyi from St Patrick’s Catholic Primary School Sutherland placed first  in the Year 5 category and Georgia Xanthos from St Luke’s Catholic Primary School Revesby took out first prize in Year 6. 

Why are the arts so important in schools?

Arts education is important for all young people,” Ms Spata said. 

“Besides the intrinsic benefits such as students finding a voice to express themselves, having empathy, exploring their imagination and creativity there are instrumental benefits.

“They include cognitive development, ‘learning how to learn’, and improved academic performance.

“There are also attitudinal and behavioural benefits, such as self-efficacy and self-discipline, along with improved attendance at school.”


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