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Top brass on show at Balga variety concert

Some of the 46 children who are part of the Just Brass program performing at the concert at Balga Corps in Perth.

Perth’s Balga Corps hosted a variety concert on 14 October, celebrating the 15th anniversary of the Balga Salvo Community Band and fundraising for the Just Brass program.

The event featured music from popular films, media presentations, and musical guests, including Just Brass Founder John Collinson, Sofia Watts from The Voice and Alice Bollen, an emerging Perth brass musician.

Just Brass Coordinator Phil Jennings and the team helped coordinate the event to celebrate those who’ve been playing for years and to raise funds for those young people in the community who are just starting to learn.

“The event was a variety-style concert,” explains Jo Ineson, Director of Early Learning Centre and Children Family Health Services. “The community band are well known for putting on a big, impressive performance. The Community Band builds relationships with those who have played brass in the past or have been in corps bands. The Community Band then provides teachers and fundraising support for Just Brass, too.”

Just Brass is a music program that develops young people and provides free brass music lessons to children from disadvantaged schools. Just Brass is run by The Salvation Army in partnership with schools and communities and has operated in Balga since 2017. Members of the Community Band provide much-needed instruction and mentoring.

“Just Brass had 46 kids perform at the concert,” says Phil Jennings, Just Brass coordinator. “There are just over 50 young people in the program, with a handful learning only a few weeks. Just Brass uses funds for a teacher in the schools, resources, instruments, and the most important part for many of the kids: afternoon tea.”

Research demonstrates that music education can improve a child’s overall academic performance and general wellbeing. Students can receive free weekly individual and or group music tuition in their schools through Just Brass and have ensemble rehearsals weekly at The Salvation Army.

“Almost all of the kids in the program are from the local community suburbs,” Phil explains. “We have a relationship with the local primary school, and people hear about it through the different ministry expressions. It helps the whole person to master a musical skill, but also how they relate to one another.”

Suburban challenges

The Salvation Army’s Social Justice Stocktake reveals that Balga is situated in an electorate facing many challenges around mental health, housing affordability, alcohol and drug misuse, and homelessness. One of the common themes from respondents living in the area was a sense of disempowerment.

“Balga and the surrounding suburbs are classed as lower-socioeconomic,” explains Jo. “There’s cost of living challenges, unemployment, addiction, homelessness, you name it. Getting music into the school has been a key thing.”

The local primary school principal has spoken about the difference the program has made in the lives of young people in both school results and social development. Fifteen-year-olds who started with the Just Brass program at the beginning are still involved and make their way to Balga Corps each week.

“It’s all about connecting,” Phil says. “We teach the kids music, but it’s not about the music. It’s about the child and their full potential, and we extend that into the families. The music is a way to expand their horizons as we input into their lives.”

Balga Corps’ Just Brass program is looking to expand, to provide scholarships for students in high school to study music, for more of the Just Brass children to attend Creative Arts Camps, and to continue to grow its new junior youth group connections. The most important thing is that Just Brass continues as a space to learn and a place to be loved (and to serve afternoon tea, of course).

“We love the children as Jesus would love them,” Jo says. “We create a safe place for them, to make sure they’re well, they’re healthy, seen and heard and valued. Their potential is increased when they’re supported. When a life crisis happens, they are more resilient. Our ministries do support transformation in their lives and the lives of the parents.”

The Balga Community Band on stage during the concert.


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