19 April 2022

Canberra's popular program shines spotlight on passionate performers

| Evelyn Karatzas
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Members of the Mixed Ability Program

Members of the Mixed Ability Program enjoy their first showcase of the year on 2 April at Ainslie Arts Centre. Photo: Ariana Odermatt.

It doesn’t matter if you’re aged 16 or 60 or beyond, Music For Canberra’s Mixed Ability Program could be for you. You just need a love of performing.

The Mixed Ability Program (MAP) hit the stage in early April for the year’s first showcase of singing, dancing and performing – the annual ‘Big Jam’.

The program, which has been running for almost 20 years, provides a unique music experience for adults living with a disability to develop skills in coordination, concentration, social interaction and self-confidence.

MAP tutor Tom Sherringham said the program gave participants the opportunity to express themselves through musical activities.

“We create an open and welcoming atmosphere in the groups and often you’ll see our participants make new friends with each other and encourage one another to get up and perform,” Tom said.

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“There are currently 80 participants involved within the program and our enrolments are already filling up for term two, so we’re looking at opening more classes.”

MAP runs eight groups a week, with participants from Queanbeyan, Yass and around the ACT.

“Our groups are made up of participants as young as 16, right up to people in their mid-70s,” Tom said.

“Some of them have been here ever since the program started.”

MAP participants often bring their support workers to the groups and encourage them to join activities.

Big Jam showcase

The Big Jam showcase launches into action earlier in April. Photo: Ariana Odermatt.

The Big Jam had been delayed a couple of years due to COVID, but it was worth the wait.

“Big Jam is a showcase of all the different activities we do in the groups so that others can see and understand what the program is all about,” Tom said.

“It was a big accomplishment for a lot of our participants because they had the courage to get up and sing in front of so many people which made us really proud.”

Tom said some of the parents and families of participants told him “it’s a real highlight of their weeks to come and do these groups”.

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MAP is run by Tom, fellow tutors Karim Camprovin and Evan Buckley, and their artistic convenor Ariana Odermatt, who supported and helped organise the Big Jam event.

“We [the tutors] are all active in the Canberra live music scene and use our experience to bring new songs and activities to the groups,” Tom said.

“These include Indigenous Australian lullabies, traditional African folk songs, R&B/soul dance routines and songs our participants ask for – a lot of ABBA and even mindfulness and meditation so it’s a pretty diverse mix.”

Canberra Youth Orchestra

The Canberra Youth Orchestra performs at the Magic and the Masters concert, conducted by Louis Sharpe: Photo by Peter Hislop.

Music For Canberra also held the Magic and the Masters concert at Albert Hall with performances by the Canberra Youth Orchestra and the James McCusker Orchestra.

“[Music For Canberra] runs the largest program of instrumental ensemble, choirs, orchestral tuition, musical experiences, workshops and performance opportunities out of any other arts company in the ACT,” Canberra Youth Orchestra conductor Louis Sharpe said.

“Anybody, at any age, can come to Music For Canberra and find what they’re interested in which is something that makes the institution really proud,” he said.

“If there’s an instrument that someone wants to learn, we can find a way to offer that for them. It’s what we love to do for the community.”

If you’re interested in joining a class and becoming involved in the Mixed Ability Program, visit Music for Canberra

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