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Music: Count Us In program puts arts back on the education agenda

Students at St John the Apostle School in Florey love nothing more than escaping to their music room and rocking out on the ukulele with Ms Monaghan.

Melanie Monaghan is a dedicated performing arts teacher, working three days a week, teaching music, drama, dance and media arts.

She calls her music room "a safe place" where the students can come and be themselves.

"Most of the children love coming up here," she says, "Here it's not about being perfect, it's a place to come and have a go and have fun."

Ms Monaghan says it's important for children to be exposed to music as often as they can and the school has thrown its support behind the Music: Count Us In initiative, where students across the country sing the same song, on the same day, at the same time.

This year the country will reverberate on November 3. It is not too late for schools to register for free and become involved.

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While there has been a recent push for STEM education, focusing on science, technology, engineering and maths, STEAM education is gaining  prevalence, with people recognising the arts have a crucial place in the curriculum.

Music: Count Us In ambassador John Foreman OAM, the musical director best known for his work with Melbourne's Carols by Candlelight, says it is crucial that children are exposed to music.

"There are many schools that are really lucky to have a fantastic music teacher and often those teachers can make a huge difference to the students at those schools," he said.

"Sometimes all it takes is for one teacher to turn up at a school and all of a sudden they have a choir or a band or a combination of those things, or an opportunity for students to express themselves through songwriting, or performance.

"Then there are other schools where there are no music teachers at all, or the generalist primary school teachers have had very little exposure to the world of music and don't necessarily feel confident standing up in front of a class and singing or teaching the students to sing.

"And that's a sad thing."

He remembers his formative years at primary school in Newcastle, rattling off teachers' names more than 30 years down the track.

"My very first music teacher was my dad who taught me how to play chopsticks on the piano," Mr Foreman says.

"And then I was very lucky right through my schooling to have fantastic music teachers. Miss Williamson in Year 1, who identified that I loved music and had me playing the organ for the infants' school choir. Mrs Jane Norman, in second class, who had a great love of music and was a piano player herself. Mrs Watson, who ran the recorder ensemble – many people of my age group would remember the ubiquitous recorder ensemble – she brought great energy and passion to the school. Mrs James, who ran little musicals and plays.

"I'm glad you asked that question because you've forced me to think out loud about my early childhood and I was very blessed. That helped me have a sense of identity, a sense of belonging. It's a very important thing for children to have that."

Mr Foreman collaborated with television personality and musician Jay Laga'aia and talented students to compose and record the song "Let It Play".