Music in the AiR

This Artist-In-Residence Grants Program project has been assisted by the Federal Government through the Australia Council for the Arts and the Western Australian State Government through the Department of Culture and the Arts and Department of Education.

The Sound Garden project is officially completed! We’ve built a playground of giant musical instruments using recycled materials in Belmay Primary School, Perth.The project explores the science of sound and its relationship with the natural environment; how elements like water, wind and heat affect sound. The project involved three other surrounding schools: South East Metropolitan Language Development Centre, the Carson Street Independent School and Belmont City College, whose year 11 apprenticeship students will assisted with the construction of the instruments. Our artists in residence are musician and instrument-maker Mark Cain, and visual artist Calvin Chee.

In addition to the creation of the Sound Garden, we’re providing a curriculum-linked music education program that will demonstrate the ability of music to achieve learning outcomes in other key learning areas like Science. A tailor-made Professional Development course will focus on the science of sound and the social studies aspect of music and instruments around the world.

Our special thanks go to Rob Arbuckle and Blue Nude for their video on the project.


Well what a week and what a launch at the Belmay Primary School on Tuesday, 20 November!  The many hours of research, planning and construction all came together as The Hon. John Day, Minister for Arts, Science and Innovation launched the Sound Garden before VIP guests, parents, teachers, sponsors and most importantly the students from the four participating schools.

As the Minister spoke in glowing terms about the value of student engagement with the arts, the children listened intently with the delight on their faces clearly evident that their Sound Garden was now completed and that they had been an integral part of making that happen. 

I had the great privilege of visiting the school a number of times in recent months and was always delighted to see the enthusiasm of the students – both primary and secondary - for the project.  This was only matched by the calm, professional and supportive attitude of the schools’ staff.

The energy that rings out from the Sound Garden will live on and be a symbol of pride for each and every person involved, young and old, for many years to come.
Congratulations all and well done!

- Lindsay Lovering (Musica Viva)


The Belmay Primary School Sounds Garden has finally been launched to the public - well the students I should say - and what a joy it was to witness that special time.  Students of all ages, from all walks of life gathered with family, friends and community to share in the amazing outcome that resulted from their ideas, time and effort over the last 7 months – a playground!  NO ordinary playground, this playground makes music! 

A highlight for me was watching Artist in Residence ‘Mark Cain’ conduct the young children from across the playground as they eagerly watched for his signals, not unlike an orchestra.  A real delight! It’s at this point that I feel I must say that I can’t reiterate enough how important music is to the expressive nature of children and their overall confidence in life.

After the formalities were over, it was the adults’ turn to have a play. The Hon. John Day, Minister for Arts, Science and Innovation, who launched the Sound Garden, staff members from the Department of Culture and the Arts and the WA Musica Viva Committee gave the instruments a try.  How often do adults get the opportunity for ‘play time’? It was wonderful and I wasn’t going to miss it!  I grabbed a skate board wheel mallet and struck the ‘mushroom’ plough disk/s which rang out beautifully across the grass.   Then like a child I ran over to the whistles to try them out before whacking the colourful thongaphone.   I was proud to be able to figure out the ‘Mary had a Little Lamb’ tune which I went on to play for my husband and any poor people within earshot.  The next exciting thing to try was the recycled drums, a real treat, particularly with more than one person playing. This allows you to start to layer rhythms and you don’t need to know anything about music! Last but certainly not least was the hanging chime bars – they are spectacular!  Their sound and vibrations are so rich that you can strike a lower note and it will ring for up to and over a minute at times, which gives you the chance to play a melody on the higher notes.  There is something special and somewhat indescribable about what happens when you just stand in the middle of the chimes as the sound and vibrations wrap around you.  I wish my school had had one of these.

The entire afternoon was a buzz and left me feeling thrilled and energised.  This Sound Garden will continue to bring students great joy for many years to come!  Congratulations to everyone who was involved.   You should be proud of what you have achieved, nothing short of brilliant.
- Chelsea Farquhar (Musica Viva)


The BCC workshop was very busy last term as Mark and Calvin worked with BCC teacher Mark Morris and his students to build the Sound Garden instruments. Everyone’s problem solving skills received a great work out as the designs were realized in metal, plastic and PVC piping.

One of this term’s big tasks is to install the instruments at Belmay Primary School and efforts are well underway on this front.  Holes have been dug, instrument frames leveled and propped up and cement mixed and set.  Mark M and the BCC students assisted Calvin and Mark as did Belmay Deputy Principal Terry Harney.  

Bunnings has been a terrific supporter of the Sound Garden with the donation of construction materials.  Manager Frank Alvaro went that bit further by showing up with one of his colleagues to assist with installation.

Installation is expected to be completed next week in time for the Final Showcase on Tuesday, November 20th.


Jackie Ewers and Mark Cain facilitated the Term 3 Belmay Primary School KidsMatter session on behalf of Musica Viva.   

Jackie and Mark worked their musical magic on over 20 children who attended the session with their parents/caregivers for an hour after school on August 22nd.  Jackie began the session by leading the group in a series of rhythmic clapping exercises that got everyone up and involved.  Mark took over to develop and conduct a soundscape based on a simple poem.  Children and parents/caregivers alike took part by playing boom whackers, panpipes, gongs and a host of other musical instruments.  

The session was loud, lovely and fun with everyone enjoying afternoon tea together following the music making.

KidsMatter is a mental health and wellbeing framework for primary schools.   It supports schools as they work with parents and carers, health services and the wider community to nurture happy, balanced kids.

Artist, sculptor, and puppet-maker, Calvin Chee, is one of the Artists in Residence for the Belmay Primary School Sound Garden project.
For more information on Calvin, please visit his website:

Artist, sculptor, and puppet-maker, Calvin Chee, is one of the Artists in Residence for the Belmay Primary School Sound Garden project.

For more information on Calvin, please visit his website:

Journal Entry from the Principal

The project is moving so quickly now.  The presentation of the plan to the whole school was a wonderful event.  Calvin did such a great job engaging the students in questions and comments.
It was wonderful to see him using the e whiteboard to show 3D images – the students and staff were
very interested to see their ideas come alive.
The use of the bass clef as a pathway feature was so creative. This has been marked out on the ground now, so we are full steam ahead in terms of preparation for installation.
Calvin has come to school to start the instrument building process and the students are able to watch/join in through a lunchtime club.  15 students were involved in helping to build the thon-a-phone last week.  Calvin and Mark will also be working at Belmont City College with the Year 11 students.
We are looking forward to the KidsMatter Family Fun after school event this Wednesday as our artists are taking the program.

Pippa Gillett,
Belmay Primary School Principal. 

ABC Perth - Roots and Shoots - June 30, 2012

Pippa Gillett, the Principal of Belmay Primary School, and Musica Viva’s Carol Ciccarelli were interviewed on June 30th on the ABC Roots and Shoots show. Stream or download the interview by clicking on the above link and hear them discuss the exciting Sound Garden Project. Their segment is from 18:20 to 27:35

Journal Entry from Calvin Chee

I held a workshop with the BCC Kids on July 24th.  The purpose of the workshop was to provide the students with an inside view on the progression of the design and construction stage of the project.  We worked with Google Sketch-up which is a 3D modeling program designed for architects, civil engineers, etc, which is meant to be easier to use than other 3D CAD programs.

The main outcomes of the meeting:
•      Mark M and I had a short pre-meeting before the class commenced. I provided him with the knowledge & function of each instrument so that he could assist me in working with the students on the digital drawings.
•      The students took a while to settle, but some of them became very focused and could pick the designs that they had developed during the maquette workshops.
•      I purposely provided no measurements with the final drawings in order to engage the students with how they saw the instruments. Every second person had a different drawing to develop.
•      Mark M, the students & myself were challenged by some of the ways we had to draw the designs and had to utilise the help of U-tube.
•      The students caught on really quickly with the designing and asked lots of questions about how each instrument was to look.  I gave them some information about the size of materials but wanted them to come up with their visual ideas through the drawings.
•      There were a few kids who were not engaged – not because they didn’t understand the designs of the musical garden but because there were not applying themselves with the Sketch-up program. 

For further action:
Purchasing of materials
Finalise drawing on Sketch-up to be forwarded to Kidsafe for review

- Calvin Chee

Journal Entries from Belmont City College Vocational Students

"My expectations of the first day at Belmay were to have fun and teach the children about creating objects. The objects I was teaching the children to create were designs they drew.

Calvin asked me to look at the ¾’s journals and pick out the best design to create with them. The way I picked the best design was to ask the children to show me their journals and talk to them and ask which design they liked, then we set about making it.

Once I agreed on a design the challenges of constructing was a bit hard because the children just grabbed anything and I had to try and design the image we agreed on. I helped them design the Maquette by involving the children by asking if this is a good idea “and do u think it will work?”.

I kept the primary school students engaged and on the job by getting them involved with their ideas and creations. I got the children involved by asking them to get materials and help me hold the materials in place and watch what I was designing. I knew what I was designing because they told me what they wanted done.”

"My expectations for the first day was, crazy annoying and totally bratty little kids, but that all changed when I actually met the kids and their musical garden sound making instruments. I was quite amazed by what they could come up with and their exciting ideas that some people might call stupid, but I thought it was awesome. As for the first day there, I expected something more like the kids making a lot of noise and annoying me, also I expected them to be less behaved.

Calvin asked me to ask the year three and year four kids if I could look at their drawing journals and choose or rather decide which drawing you want to work on, and then we would go farther from there.

Most of the parts weren’t what I had in mind so I had to adapt to what we had and try to make the sculpture. And as time progressed on we actually came with a sculpture that looked like what they had in their drawing journals. I was pretty excited to be given the opportunity to work with the year three’s and the year four’s.

To keep the kids busy, I asked them for ideas and how they wanted me to arrange their sculptures. Also I asked them to hold certain parts while I applied glue or for the glue to dry up and stick. I occasionally stopped to ask them where or what they thought the parts looked better on. Also to keep their heads in I started a conversation with them, talking about what their ambitions were and what they thought of us helping them with their designs and sculpture ideas, also  that they came up with such amazing ideas.”

"My Expectation when I went to Belmay Primary School was that it would be a cool place for us to stay in and not much kids.

Calvin asked us to ask the kids to show us their drawings and pick your choice. I asked the children to show me their journals and talked to them and asked which design we should create.

The kids had the idea of what they doing so I had no problem with what I was doing with the buildings.

One of the challenges I had with the kids was working with them because I tried to get them to follow along with me and keep them in habit but they kept on talking and asking me questions which weren’t part of the subject so I had to keep giving them something to do.

To keep the students engaged I asked them some questions about how they want me to build their work. I got the children involved by asking them to get materials and help me to hold something that I’m going to glue together and also watch what I’m building up.”