The Caroline Springs School of Music is the largest music school in Melbourne’s West, with a large number of students, some as young as toddlers, while others elderly retirees. The school has received a number of awards, such as the Australian Enterprise Award for Excellence in Music Education in 2017.
This incredible music school didn’t start off this way, however. It was founded in 2002, emerging from a small group of music teachers with the simple goal of teaching a wide range of instruments to kids. It now boasts a huge range of professional teachers, instruments, and the best music exam results in all of Australia, teaching everyone music no matter how young or old.
Founder and accomplished guitarist Brendan Hains spoke to us about The Caroline Springs School of Music, and the role of teachers in shaping the next generation of young musicians.
Brendan is very passionate about teaching the basics. “We make sure everyone has a thorough grounding in the fundamentals. The basics include everything from hand position, to posture, to knowing the correct way to hold an instrument. Technique is the primary focus for new students”, he explains.
“But it’s a lot more than just techniques”, Brendan emphasizes. “It’s not just about how to approach the instrument, but how to approach the person. Every teacher takes an exhaustive approach to making sure they can guide each student along the right path. That path can take students far and wide, as evidenced by one talented student, Josh Rasquniha from the band Wilderglow, who is now a teacher of the school”.
The band Wilderglow which also features the school’s drum teacher, James Wingard, released a single that recently became a hit on ABC Radio’s Triple J Unearthed.
Mastering technique is a fairly important skill. “If you don’t focus on technique first, bad habits form later”, Brendan stresses. “Many of the students who are new to the school have spent years learning an instrument with improper technique, and it can take as long as six months to retrain them. Even a musical genius needs good technique and it doesn’t come naturally to most people. Comfort does not always equal correct”, Brendan explains.
Brendan believes that the fault lies equally with students who want fast results immediately, and the teachers who cave into this pressure and fail to spend enough time laying the groundwork. The Caroline Springs School of Music’s core principle is to make sure students have the foundational skills they need to excel.
The Importance of Music
Music is more than just a hobby, to Brendan, it’s a lifelong pursuit. “I never stopped learning. Music isn’t just twelve notes – there are billions of ways to express yourself”, he exclaims.
The culture of learning a musical instrument is a lot different today than it was ten years ago. As Brendan says, “a lot of kids lack motivation when it comes to practice and encounter obstacles in their learning. There are a lot more distractions than when I was younger – technology really does have an iron grip on kids”. In order to counter laziness in his pupils, Brendan has a simple motto which was passed down from one of his great teachers: “By all means be lazy, but practise your instruments whilst you are being lazy!”.
Since music teaches perseverance, patience and discipline, he believes that music can help kids improve in other areas because it boosts cognitive thinking. Some of his youngest students; toddlers between the ages of 1-4, take special classes. To them, music is just a game that’s fun, but as Brendan points out, “toddlers understand rhythm and beat, they have an instinctive grasp of music, some of them even understand basic theory. The good thing is that whether the students are young kids or adults, they’re all very enthusiastic and want to learn”.
Choosing the Right Music School
Brendan even has a few tips for parents looking to choose a music school for their child. “Look for the qualifications”, he insists. According to him, although an unqualified teacher might still be excellent, a lack of qualifications can pave the way for frauds. “Some frauds essentially pose as music teachers when they don’t really know anything about music. Qualifications don’t necessarily guarantee the best teachers, but they mean that someone has a certain basic level of musical knowledge that can help determine their suitability”.
“Another tip is to make sure they have exams. Exams aren’t just there to be an unnecessary stress; they act as an audit to assess the levels of teaching. A school that doesn’t have exams might be afraid that their standard of teaching doesn’t measure up, and that’s always a bad sign”, Brendan points out.
Brendan understands that exams can put a lot of pressure on some kids, though. “Our school has exams, but they are not compulsory”. Still, 70% of students at The Caroline Springs School of Music still choose to undertake them. Exams can be a good indication of progress, as well as giving students a sense of accomplishment. “It’s an impartial, unbiased person assessing you, and it often gives students a sense of personal achievement”.
Turn Up The Music
As The Caroline Springs School of Music shows, even a humble organization in Melbourne’s West can grow to accomplish great things. What started as one guitarist wanting to give his students a wider experience blossomed into a huge and thriving community of passionate, informed educators and students.
Whether you’re a child or an adult, there’s always time to pursue your passion and unlock your musical journey. All you need to do is take that first step.
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