Yeronga State High School has partnered with Opera Queensland to develop a stripped back opera to spotlight the remarkable stories and vocal abilities of its diverse student body.

The project began with weekly workshops in mid-October 2018 and culminates in a premiere performance of Songs of Belonging at Yeronga State High School on Thursday 29 November. Guest composer Helen Franzmann, opera singers Jason Barry-Smith (baritone) and Jessica Low (mezzo soprano) and musical director Trevor Jones have worked alongside 18 performing arts students to develop Songs of Belonging over six weeks. At the core of the production are the students’ personal stories of “belonging”. With Yeronga State High School home to a high percentage of migrant and refugee students, feelings of identity and belonging resonate strongly with the students.

Yeronga State High School is arguably one of the most multicultural schools in Queensland, with more than 70 diverse cultural groups represented by 64 countries in a school of approximately 750 students. Sixty-five per cent of students are born oversees and approximately 40 per cent of students are refugees, special humanitarian entrants or seeking asylum. The school’s International Student Program, English as an Additional Language or Dialect (EALD) Program and the entire school community have outstanding outcomes in fostering intercultural alliances and promoting the benefits of cultural diversity.

Opera Queensland Artistic Director and CEO Patrick Nolan said Songs of Belonging provides an important opportunity for these teenage students to have their voices and their stories heard.
“At the heart of opera is story-telling with song, it doesn’t always need big sets and colourful costumes to have a profound impact,” Patrick said. “Creating an opportunity for the students to share their remarkable backgrounds, impressive achievements and aspirations for the future through song, is as much a privilege for us as it is a great experience for them.”

The Songs of Belonging project received a $12,074 boost from the Celebrating Multicultural Queensland grants program in June 2018. Songs of Belonging embodies Opera Queensland’s commitment to create opera for all Queenslanders and share the joy of performance with artists and audiences throughout the state.

Proceeds from Opera Queensland’s 2018 Gala, All That Glitters, supports state wide educational programs and initiatives such as Songs of Belonging, ensuring the power of music and storytelling is made available for both local and regional students and community members.

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