DON Spencer OAM will return to Taree for the second Rotary Manning Valley Schools Spectacular in August. Here, he gives us an insight into his role with the Australian Children's Music Foundation and his excitement for this year's concerts, being held on August 27.
o Why did you originally start your charity the Australian Children's Music Foundation (ACMF) and what inspired you to do this?
I know how much music helped me when I was a child. Through bad times it was always a comfort and solace and certainly fired my imagination that life could be different and I thought as I had had a career in music for so many years music may help other kids on the wrong side of advantage and we could help kids through music. I didn't think of starting a foundation to begin with. I just went to a JJC (juvenile justice centre) and started a program and it was successful. Kids started to enjoy themselves and be more engaged in other schooling areas and before I knew it I started the foundation.
o How effective have the programs been in the past 10 years?
The proof is in the fact that they are all still going and we have hundreds of schools on our waiting list. I think we have a wonderful reputation around Australia with the federal Education Department and Arts and everyone else we are involved with. What we are doing is getting great achievements and helping a lot of troubled kids get into a better position and give them hope and a chance to dream.
o How do you implement a program in schools?
We first discuss with the principal what the school requires, they may have a specific thing, they may like to have a school choir or school band but most importantly give them a music education and then we source the right teacher. It always progresses where it starts and develops. They are all long term so the programs always progress into further education.
o What can the Taree community do to help support the ACMF at a local level?
Buy tickets to the Schools Spectacular on August 27. It will be a fantastic concert like it was before and that would help because we are a charity of course and we are always looking for funding. We have to pay our great teachers the wages they deserve and we also have to buy instruments. They can buy tickets to the concert or they can make a donation to the ACMF and the money donated will stay in the Taree ACMF music programs.
o You are coming back to perform in the Rotary Schools Spectacular, tell us what you thought of last year's concert?
I thought it was absolutely wonderful to be there and see how the children perform. To see how they have progressed from when the programs first started was just a lovely feeling and a happy fun occasion. So I am looking forward to it very much.