|19 May 2022|
2022 is a big year for Loreto anniversaries; together our community has marked the 200-year jubilee of Teresa Ball, 125 of Loreto Normanhurst and 50 years since our Music Festival was founded.
An initiative created by Sr Deirdre Browne IBVM, the inaugural Music Festival held on 14 July 1972 was met with much excitement and enthusiasm. Quite different to our contemporary format, the first Music Festival was the 'grand finale' to several rounds of the competition. There were 14 different entry categories, including folk song and variety, piano and vocal acts, composition and creative ballet. Just like today, House choirs rehearsed together in the lead up to the event and performed together on the night. This inaugural Music Festival was the first time the school houses competed outside of a sport setting; the occasion also resulted in the creation of house music leaders and roles for student conductors and accompanists.
This year, on Friday 25 March, we gathered together at the ICC, Darling Harbour to celebrate a night of music, felicity and house-spirit. The rain certainly did not dampen the occasion; this year's theme 'A Journey of Empowerment' shone through in each song selection, and all performances demonstrated the talent and hard-work of our girls.
A big congratulations to Kendall (best choir) and Kuring-gai (Spirit Cup) houses for their award-winning choral performances, and to all students for their involvement.
To mark the evening's special anniversary, our program and displays paid tribute to previous Music Festivals. We were also delighted to have had the opportunity to hear from Sr Deidre Browne IBVM who shared her thoughts on the occasion.
As well as being a key opportunity for our talented music and dance students to showcase their skills, the Music Festival plays an important role in the Pastoral Care program for Loreto Normanhurst. Our Director of Pastoral Care, Sally Munro, shares her reflection on Music Festival 2022:
I am not aware of any other School event like Music Festival, that encompasses a competition of such high quality whereby you do not need to have any experience, expertise or talent. In the case of the House Choir competition, musicality was not a pre-requisite nor was participation dependent on an individual’s ability. We could easily assume the Music Festival is primarily about music although when you sharpen your focus and look carefully you will see that the underlying motivation behind a competition that says, ‘come as you are’, is one of belonging to our community.
As a key protective factor for resilience and wellbeing, most individuals yearn for a sense of belonging and social connections with others. The Loreto Normanhurst Music Festival is but one platform that aims to achieve this; where relationships are formed as students come together and work towards a common goal based on the notion that everyone has something to contribute and everyone’s contribution is valued. This sense of belonging is an essential factor in shaping our relationships and contributing to a safe, supportive and inclusive whole-school climate. The evening of the Music Festival showcases weeks of practice and rehearsal to remember the words and to sing in tune, although I am hopeful what was also tangible was that the success of each choir was the culmination of increased familiarity with each other and the growth of relationships that had formed only nine weeks earlier. Although it is not just through significant events like the Music Festival that we aim to establish connections.
Social and Emotional Learning, in particular the development of social awareness and relationship skill competencies, are essential in creating social norms that enable belonging and inclusion. Developing their skills to navigate changing relationships helps young people have increased respect and tolerance for diversity which fosters healthy school communities. The theme for a recent House Time session; The Freedom to be me and Know I Belong, reminds us of the importance of each individual feeling accepted and respected.
Seeking feelings of belonging is in our biology although its importance is amplified in adolescence because of a young person’s developing social identity and an increasing reliance on and attachment to their peers. Young people who feel a connection to their community will have improved mental health and wellbeing, are more likely to establish respectful relationships, have regular attendance at school and an enhanced engagement with their learning improving their academic performance. We are fortunate that the Loreto Normanhurst Student Growth Model places equal emphasis on quality learning and quality relationships as it enables the establishment of structures that foster connection and belonging. It is within these structures that each student feels safe and secure, is known as an individual, is valued for the gifts they share and is provided with opportunities to connect with others in meaningful ways.
The last two years of persistent lockdown and time away from each other physically are a reminder of the importance of prioritising connections and the importance of re-establishing the relationships we know are so fundamental to our students' sense of belonging. The Music Festival achieved this beautifully. In fact, on speaking to someone who attended it for the first time, they stated that they “have never seen anything like it before in their lives”. By bringing the community together in Term One for Music Festival, we were blessed with the opportunity to remind our students that they are a part of something bigger than themselves, and with shared beliefs, goals and identities, they truly belong.
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