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





Face front and the clutch

““Face front. Face the front. Cheat it out. We need to see your face. We got your back for most of that you have to face the audience. You don't need to look at him. I know it sounds weird but you don’t need to look at him when you speak to him.” Then theres “ I didn't hear any of that . Don't forget that there’s an audience if we don't hear that word the joke won’t make sense.. Say it into the microphone. Yes good but say it clearly into the microphone. Yes but face the front.  If this was on TV that would be perfect. Perfect.! But we are in a theatre so it’s got to be a lot bigger. Think of it as sharing the conversation with the person at the back of the room. GO! Face front, speak clearly, share it with the room, Into the microphone. Keep up the pace. It’s got to be quick or you’ll loose them.” 

I drive my car I every day. I get to a place and don't remember the journey. But remember learning to drive?. Speed limit. Lights. Parking. Indicate, no one in your blind spot. Starting on a hill. clutch. Oh my, the clutch!  I fired my first driving instructor for lack of patience. My foot shook on the accelerator for a year after I got my license. It takes time. They are doing their best. You have to be patient.

Scripts Middle group




A: How did you go in your end of year exams 

B: I got an A, B and a C

A: Well done!!!

B: Thanks. 

A: And what other letters do you think you will learn next year






Teacher : Imagine you were in a world of dinosaurs. and they dinosaur was going to eat you. What would you do?


Kid : Err.. stop imagining?





Element of surprise


Teacher: Right. get out your physics books everyone. Ok Jenny can you give me an example of an element? 11311


Jenny:  RAAAAAAAAAAA!!!!!!!!!!


Teacher: ahhhhhhhh! what. was. that? 


Jenny. “That” was the element of surprise.




Mean but fair


Mum: Hi how was your first day how would you describe your teacher.

Kid: She’s mean and cruel …but fair 

Mum: Meanand cruel but fair? what do you mean by that?

Kid: SHe’s mean and cruelto everyone.



Abstract noun


Teacher: AN abstract noun is something you can think of but you cant touch. Can you give me an example of an abstract noun.


Kid: Dads car.











scare his parents


Dad:  Can I see your report card?

Kid: No. My mate borrowed it.

Dad: Your mate borrowed your report card? why did he do that?

Kid: He wanted to scare his parents






Teacher : Do you say your prayers before dinner?

Kid: No I don’t have to.

Teacher and why not?

Kid: My mum’s a good cook






Life after death

Kid: Excuse me miss, Is there life after death?

Teacher: Hmm well err…. Why do you ask 

Kid: I need the extra time to finish all ofthe homework you gave us.





Teacher: never use “A” before a plural. For example you don't say “a cows.”

Pupil: but why does the preacher say Amen!





teacher: what does your history book tell you about the civil war

Kid: It didn't tell me anything. I had to read the dam thing!






Teacher: What are you drawing Nelly?

Nelly: Im drawing a picture of god?

Teacher: Oh dear Nelly. NO one knows what god looks like..

Nelly: well, they will in a minute.







Mom: What did you do at school today?

Mark: We did a guessing game.

Mom: But I thought you were having a math exam.

Mark: That’s right! A guessing game



Teacher: “You know you can’t sleep in my class.”

Boy: “I know. But maybe if you were just a little quieter, I could.”



Teacher: What do you call a person who keeps on talking when people are no longer interested?

Student: A teacher?




Teacher: Tell me a sentence that starts with an "I". 

Student: I is the....

Teacher: Stop! Never put 'is' after an "I". Always put 'am' after an "I".

Student: OK. I am the ninth letter of the alphabet.



Teacher: “You know you can’t sleep in my class.”

Boy: “I know. But maybe if you were just a little quieter, I could.”


Why don't we teach humour in school?

Why don't we teach humour in schools? In some ways I think humour is one of the most important commodities around. If you make the receptionist laugh you’re much more likely to talk to his or her boss.  The best advertising campaigns i can think of all were really funny. Humour stays with you . You remember funny things for a long time. I know I’m constantly trying to preserve my funniest memories because i don't want to loose them. Don't you just hate it when you come up against some one who just has no sense of humour?  I don't remember a single lesson in school, even drama that talked about the awesome power of humour. 


My daughter said to me yesterday, there are so many activities out there, isn’t it strange that we choose do an activity like singing or dance or drama…. I guess it is but we are always going to do something. In another sense, why not. If you were a kid again what activity would you choose?


It secretly amazes me when we form a circle at the start of an Extraordinary Kids session and I look around the hall and see 35 kids who choose to come week after week. They must be getting something out of it. I’m always taken over by a tremendous sense of gratitude. I think “ this couldn’t happen without you and you and you….”  Its also a little bit like a snow ball the more kids the better the atmosphere. There seems to be a sort of critical mass to make the classes really great. I see that as around 12 - 16 kids. Thats why we cap the classes at 16. When we first started  if the classes were too small we would  sometimes combine them. 


In the drama skits i make sure the kids get an equal go.  But lately I have been putting kids in the background of scenes as extras. so they get to shine in a scene and be an extra in another. I have started, where ever i can to put every kid in the group into the scene. its a really fun challenge. we may have a busy office skit. easy have 12 busy workers that all at some stage say “hi boss”

If there’s a pirate scene put the whole group on the boat.  A monks retreat - have a bunch of meditators. Its amazing how bodies can create scenery. a human set! But its also so uplifting to see how willing kids are to be part of the set and how much they will volunteer great ideas. There are also such valuable stage craft lessons to be learned here. 


I said to this kid who as an office worker in the background chose to get herself electrocuted to stop up staging. I said “Sally your up staging “ she came further downstage and kept convulsing in the most distracting manner possible. “ Sally you’re upstaging still. she came even further forward until she was standing infont to the kid delivering the punchline still convulsing. at that point it struck me and i was doubled over laughing. and when i finally gathered myself i had to explain that upstaging means to draw unwanted attention to your self in a scene and it doesn't mean that you are standing too far upstage. 


I had assumed she knew what upstaging meant . Why should she automatically know that ? and isn't it reasonable that in an office you would get electrocuted? She was having fun. And as i asked in my last blog entry are ever really conscious  of what we learn….


We recently, last few months, have introduced microphones into our microconcerts. What a head ache but in the end it pays off. But it is a trade off. Firstly kids love microphones. KIds LOVE microphones. As soon as the mics arrive they are excited. 

The mics we use are the shure  beta 58s, that's the chordless We have a few chorded mics too which we have used for the last couple of concerts.

We looked into an amp for a long time. I asked a few of my opera australia mates until I asked my friend Shanul who said "You've got to get an L1, man..."

By L1 he meant the Bose L1 which is basically a wooofer with a tall speaker. It comes apart and one person can easily carry it to and from a car.

What a godsend that was. It throws the sound around the room because it is comprised of small speakers at different angles. It s amazing. We use it for our corporate and private party gigs. see

THere's alot of management involved of course with kids and microphones. They have to be worded up on how expensive the equipment is and they love to tap them which is undesirable but uderstandable. But when they hear themselves they love it. You have to imagine a dot in the center of the top of the  microphone and you need to sing into that. I'm always correcting the angle for kids. The mic needs to be at around a 45 degree angle to the body. the temptation is to hold it parallel and sing at the side of it. You often see the CEO do that too after a corporate gig. The other temptation is to shy away when your voice is suddenly the voice of god. I said to the kids " this is designed to make you louder. If you sing less on the mics or if you don't sing on the mic then it defeats the purpose.:)