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Indigenous Music Workshop at NMIT

14 Mar 2007

The traditional songs of Indigenous music are often not well known in the musical culture of this country.

But the sounds of these ancient songs will echo at the Fairfield campus of Northern Melbourne Institute of TAFE (NMIT) on Friday 23 March between 10-12pm when three Indigenous Australians join with members of the Australian Art Orchestra for a workshop for NMIT's new music degree students.

The Australian Popular Music degree, introduced at NMIT this year, includes a subject called Australian Music & Culture, and the workshop will feature traditional songs of Indigenous music and provide an opportunity for students to experience first hand the cultural heritage of Indigenous Australians.

The Australian Art Orchestra together with the three Indigenous Australians, will rehearse at NMIT's rehearsal studios next week for a concert project 'Crossing Roper Bar' to be performed as part of the FINA World Swimming Championships at Birrarung Marr on Saturday 24 March at 3.45pm and Sunday 25 March at 7pm.

The concert is a collaboration between the orchestra and the Indigenous musicians who come from the Ngukurr region in the Northern Territory. Their music belongs to the Wagilak people of South East Arnhem Land.

NMIT music degree lecturer, Adrian Sherriff, is also a member of the Australian Art Orchestra, and asked his fellow musicians to provide the workshop for the students.

'The workshop will give students an insight into Indigenous music and culture and also a direct insight into cross-cultural collaboration,' Adrian said.

'They will listen to the music and have the opportunity to ask questions and engage with the musicians.'

Adrian added that Indigenous music had often been marginalised in this country in the same way as the people had been marginalised and it was important as Australians that we understood and experienced Indigenous music and culture.

'The students will learn from their direct experience of the music.'

The concert project was organised by Australian Art Orchestra director Paul Grabowsky and is co-directed by Julien Wilson and Indigenous musician Benjamin Wilfred, who will joined by two Indigenous Elders for the performance, Andy Peters and Roy Wilfred.

Julien said the orchestra had developed a focus to integrate education in its performances and it was important for young aspiring musicians to understand the music of Indigenous culture.

'The orchestra has collaborated with the traditional owners of song in Australia as they have a rich and amazing heritage where song can be used both in ceremonies and for entertainment and education.

'The songs are part of Indigenous culture and education where stories are passed on through the songs.'

He added the orchestra had performed with Indigenous musicians in the Northern Territory and Queensland and this would be the first performance in Victoria.

Interview / Photo Opportunity

Media enquiries should be directed to the NMIT Communications Officer, James Gardener, on 03 9269 1579, 0413 483 182 or

NMIT (Northern Melbourne Institute of TAFE) – Situated on six campuses and six training centres throughout Melbourne’s north plus a regional campus at Ararat, NMIT delivers vocational training, higher education and lifelong learning capabilities for a global workforce.  NMIT forges partnerships with community, industry and government to produce practical, solution orientated graduates capable of making meaningful contributions to their chosen field of endeavour.