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Don't Stop the Music (ATOM Study Guide)

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Research shows that children who play a musical instrument do better academically and socially. But in Australia, 80 per cent of kids are missing out on this opportunity, especially those who need it the most. At Challis Community Primary School in Armadale, a disadvantaged outer suburb of Perth, Principal Lee Musumeci is determined to bring a topnotch singing and instrument program to her school.

However, the obstacles are huge. Although Music is a core curriculum subject, Challis CPS, like most public schools, has few instruments and no money. Though no fault of his own, the school's music teacher Simon Blanchard has not received training to prepare him to teach music competently. Aided by top musical educator Micheál McCarthy from the Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts (WAAPA), Edith Cowan University, Simon is put through a music boot camp as he learns new skills in how to teach music effectively.

The Year 4 students are given the chance to learn an instrument. Thanks to the support of The Salvation Army's Just Brass program and instruments gifted by Musica Viva Australia, children who thought playing an instrument was something others do on television, are now able to do it for themselves. The effect is electric. Talent is unleashed, absentee rates plummet, morale soars and that is only the beginning.

Australian singer-songwriter and former music teacher Guy Sebastian mentors the children, inspiring and encouraging them to practise and joining in their performances. Music educator Dr Anita Collins explains the incredible benefits of music to children's development as she shares her expertise with the staff at Challis CPS.

As the program is implemented, the children's lives are transformed by the power of music. Kids such as Cody, who until now practised on a broom, is able to play a real guitar. Samuel, who was inspired to play the violin when the University of Western Australia's Symphony orchestra visited the school, is thrilled to be given the chance to learn, and very quickly his school attendance improves. Trombone student David's reading levels begin to skyrocket. And while this is not a talent show, Anastacia, an exceptionally gifted singer facing major personal challenges, gets a special opportunity that opens the door to a career in music.

The climax is an inspirational concert where the Challis CPS students perform alongside some of the best performers in the country – Guy Sebastian and jazz legend James Morrison – and with the support of students and teachers from the University of Western Australia Conservatorium of Music and WAAPA.

As well as depicting the uplifting beauty and joy of music, Don't Stop the Music shows its power to affect lifelong change for some of the most vulnerable members of our community.

Curriculum Links:

Don't Stop the Music is a recommended resource for upper primary students and secondary students at all year levels. The Don't Stop the Music study guide provides information and suggestions for learning activities in English, Media, Music and cross-curriculum projects. The documentary can also be used as a resource to address the Australian Curriculum general capability – Personal and Social Capability given the opportunities it provides for students to reflect on their experience of school, and manage their learning and wellbeing more effectively.

Don’t Stop the Music provides opportunities for students to discuss:

  • their relationship with music;
  • their experiences of music education;
  • the importance of music education;
  • how students learn;
  • student wellbeing;
  • the daily challenges of school for staff and students;
  • equity in education.

Teachers are advised to consult the Australian Curriculum online and curriculum outlines relevant to their state or territory for further information about curriculum links.

The study guide offers opportunities to consider the events, ideas and issues explored in each episode.

Teachers may select from the information and activities to support students' viewing and close analysis of the documentary series. Teachers are also able to determine whether student responses will be presented as written, spoken or multimedia texts. A number of worksheets have been provided to allow students to demonstrate their knowledge and understanding of the series. Primary teachers may need to modify some of these tasks to accommodate the literacy levels of their students.

It is recommended that teachers preview the series prior to classroom screenings. In managing discussions, teachers should remind students that the focus is exploring the ideas and issues raised by Don't Stop the Music. While students are able to comment on their own educational experiences, they need to do so in constructive and respectful ways.


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