How it all began

I was on the phone to a lady the other day who was enquiring about our singing dance and drama program and I found myself telling her our story from the very beginning, Beccy and I are opera singers when we aren't teaching but our kids were never really stage kids. They love singing, they are always singing but the aren’t those kids that just have to be on stage under the lights with the costume. They never really had the desire to be centre stage they just wanted to be involved. We wanted to find an outlet for their love of the theatre but it was really hard to find something that wasn't really strict, that didn't require a uniform, that was a no pressure environment. The big bug bear for me was the end of year concertand the awards. As parents we once attended a drama program’s end of year concert that went for 4 hours. I’ll say that again 4 hours. I was dying. 

at the end of the night they gave out awards. There were 30 kids and 20 kids got an award for something or other. My kid of course was one of the kids who came home empty handed. 


That’s why we decided on no hierarchy and really really mercifully short concerts. Regular Yes but short. If your experience is a good one you don't mind regularly attending. Even though I create kids concerts, I still hate going to them. I can sometimes dread them for days. That’s because they are too long. If you have to have an interval in a kids concert then the concert is too long. I would just have a couple of smaller concerts on different nights so you don’t have to watch everyone else. When putting on a concert you have a responsibility to your audience to make it run really smoothly to cut down the time that person is sitting there. 


Friends of our suggested we start our own school. We shrugged it off at first but when our kids found out that it was a possibility there was a sense of excitement in the air. To be quite frank the idea of creating a program for kids in the local area was scary. I would have much rather done it in an area where no one knew us that way, if it failed we could have disappeared without a trace. But we created it in Balwyn where we live and a lot of kids who knew us came and it was kind of exciting.



I used a lot of props when we first started laser lights and smoke machines, story books with pictures that kind of thing. That had it’s place but over time I realised that it’s really about the imagination. More and more I asked the kids to create things in their minds. 


We also played a lot of musical games then which we don't do so much of now. I often ask myself before I plan a song or game “ DO I want to sing this? Does this game sound fun to me?” It really is trial and error. Some activities seem so utterly lame and i’ll try it and the kids love it . 


We play this game sometimes called Battle of the air bands. It’s like an air guitar competition but with a whole band.  Kids form bands and come up on stage and the group that rocks out the best wins. It’s one of those activities where if there are parents in the room I wonder what they are thinking. Imagine “where’s the educational value in this…”  The value is in standing up and making a twit of yourself in front of people and getting applause. 

We have been going for 4 years now in Balwyn

So we started Extraordinary Kids 4 years ago because our kids wanted an outlet for their enthusiasm for musical theatre but we couldn’t find anything that wasn't stagey or hierarchical that taught all 3 disciplines, singing, dance and drama without horrendously long end of year concerts. 

We did the old “ if I were to start a school i’d do this… “ My particular thing was “ Not have long concerts” so we made them short. We approached it from the point of view of the parents as much as the kids and threw out the notion that we are going to make you a star.



So 4 years on, we are still at the Deepdene Uniting Church Mondays and Wednesdays. We still have the same ethos. Over time we have started to theme each of the terms. (This year there’s a fairy tale theme. ) There’s a lot of Disney and some songs from Sondheim’s Into the woods!


We have started to use microphones for the songs and skits in the concerts too. we have built up a whole system that we now use for our own gigs. In case you didn’t know Beccy and i are performers our selves - Opera singers by trade. 


When we started there was a huge percentage of kids from Deepdene Primary school. That’s probably because our kids go to Deepdene Primary and a lot of parents and friends got wind that we were starting a performing arts program and decided to tag along. 


Now we have a broad cross section of kids from a lot of local schools: Kew East Primary School, Kew Primary, Doncaster Primary school, Birralee, Balwyn North Primary, Balwyn Primary, Ringwood Primary, Mont Albert primary school,Kew East, Boroondara Park Primary ,Ivanhoe Primary, Camberwell girls grammar school, Deepdene PS, OLGC, Deepdene, Kew East Ps, Mont Albert primary, Our Lady of perpetual help, Mont Albert Primary School, St Gregory the Great, Greythorn Primary School, BALWYN NORTH, Xavier ,and Chattham Primary School to name just a few. That is an incredibly broad cross section of schools.

We actually have a lot of kids that come from Richmond West primary and Richmond primary.  There’s also a couple of kids that come from Ivanhoe as well.



I honestly don’t know how they found us because schools are very protective these days and wont endorse extra curricular activities and lets face it theres a lot of drama programs, dance programs singing school, musical activities in the South Eastern Suburbs.  I think this is only going to grow as the population grows. It’s fantastic for kids whose English is their second language too. We have a lot of gorgeous Asian kids who attend at the moment. It’s a real cultural melting pot. 



It is very rewarding to see all of the kids coming on their own and being creative and having fun with a whole lot of kids from different schools. There’s something about the performing arts that breaks down boundaries. The games we use are usually ice -breakers and we spend a lot of time laughing. Its a great bonding agent.


It’s great to hear the singing come out of the singing studio too. The kids go ape over Into the woods. The great thing about that for me is I love the show. It’s really sophisticated Musical theatre at it’s very best. It’s one of the first shows i was exposed to when I was a student at the Western Australian Academy of Performing arts. If we don’t churn out stars ( thats certainly not the aim) One thing I sincerely hope is that we do create great audience members and patrons of the performing arts. 


I can honestly say that my life has greatly been enriched through the performing arts. I’d like to see the kids get the same benefit