MIC Awards 2008

The Music in Communities Awards is a prestigious award for recognising outstanding contributions to community music in Australia. 

Dandenong Ranges Music Council (DRMC), with Bev McAlister (founder)

DRMC founder, Bev McAlister, created the Council on returning to Australia after living with her family in Montana in the US. She had been impressed with the vibrancy and depth of community life there, in which active music making was the heart, and was surprised to find that this wasn’t the case in the Dandenong Ranges. She has now changed that, supported over the years by committed volunteers.

Although Bev is not a musician as such, she believes in the opportunities and benefits offered by music. Her love of music started early when she would join her parents, her grandparents and the rest of the local choir as they piled into the back of a truck – with a piano strapped in for company – to drive around the backblocks in the hills, drawing neighbours from their houses as they stopped to sing carols at streetcorners.

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Leichardt Espresso Chorus, with Michelle Leonard (Founder and Artistic Director)

Michelle Leonard grew up in Coonamble, received her musical training at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music and has had the opportunity to work with many outstanding conductors and musicians in her career. She started the Leichardt Espresso Chorus (LEC) after being approached by some parents of the students in the choir she managed at Newtown Performing Arts School. Ten years on, the choir has nearly 100 people on its books including its waiting list, and is mentoring relationships with a number of regional choirs – both adult and children.

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Tutti Ensemble Incorporated, SA, with Pat Rix (founder and Artistic Director)

Teacher, playwright, composer and social entrepreneur Pat Rix began Tutti in 1997. She is widely respected as a national leader in social inclusion and internationally recognised for bringing community and professional artists with and without a disability together for high quality performance. In 2007 she received the Australian of the Year - South Australian Local Hero Award and a High Commendation from the Australian Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission for her work in challenging stereotypes and public perceptions about disability.


Sweet Freedom - Brian Procopis (Co-chairperson)

Brian Procopis is a community development worker with Lifeline with an academic background in sociology and psychology. He is also a community musician. He was on the Management Committee of the then-named Asylum Seekers Centre in Brisbane, and working in the Centre, when he and his colleagues heard music playing at the far end of the corridor. The scene that awaited them – of Chileans, Eritreans and Sri Lankans spontaneously playing music and singing together – made them realise that their advocacy efforts to the Department of Immigration on behalf of asylum seekers were of limited value. They embarked upon the Scattered People project to create opportunities for these marginalised people to speak for themselves through music. After the success of that project, and many others after that, Sweet Freedom was incorporated in 2005 and continues to work with a variety of disadvantaged communities, helping them find their voice through creative expression.


Mungindi Music Festival, with Margaret Harrison (co-founder, current Festival Ambassador)

Originally from Brisbane, Margaret Harrison has lived in Mungindi for 25 years. Having learned piano as a child, she was the natural – and only – choice to be the teacher/conductor for Mungindi’s inaugural Music Festival. She started to teach herself clarinet and saxophone after the first Festival and now teaches those instruments voluntarily one day a week to adults and children. She brushes up on her own skills through workshops run in Mungindi, by taking part in other workshops run in other regions, and through personal music lessons via Skype, which she says are a “brilliant” way of learning.


Hand-in-Hand, the Music Education Program at the Australian National University, with Dr Susan West

Dr Susan West manages the Hand- in-Hand Program, the community outreach program of the Music Education Program of the Australian National University (ANU). Susan has over twenty-five years experience as a performer, teacher, composer and arranger and music education academic, with qualifications from universities in Victoria, Hungary, New South Wales, the ACT and New York. Her work in developing pre-tertiary music programs and post-graduate teacher training is at the cutting edge of music education. Her philosophy centres on the idea that music-making is our birthright and that the role of music education is simply to support the natural wish for musical involvement – a philosophy that led her to establish the Hand-in-Hand program at the ANU in 1998.

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Winners 2008

8 inspirational community music organisations took top honours in the inaugural Awards, which received 225 entries from all over Australia. They shared a prize pool of $22,000, to get busy making even more music in their communities.

Best all-round program (all ages, all abilities, all types of music)

Winner Dandenong Ranges Music Council (VIC)

Judges’ comment: "When she returned from having lived with her family in the US, DRMC founder, Bev McAlister, was disappointed in the comparatively few opportunities to make music in the Dandenongs. In her inimitable way, she set about changing all that – creating the DRMC as a community-led initiative and taking it to a point where, today, music is entrenched in just about every aspect of community life. The DRMC is a remarkable musical and social success story which should motivate every Australian community to say: we want what they’re having!”

Runner Up Mungindi Music Festival, near Moree (NSW)
Judges’ comment: “Before this initiative, Mungindi was a town experiencing a musical, as well as a physical, drought. It has gone from being a town with no live music to one in which there is now live music at every major – and a lot of the minor – events.”

Best community outreach

Winner: Leichhardt Espresso Chorus (NSW)

Judges’ comment: “This isn’t just a choir. It’s a social force!”

Runner up: Hand in Hand (ACT)
Judges’ comment: “If only a program like this operated in every school and community! By taking a nursing home resident by the arm and singing to – and then with – that person, each child on this program gets to experience what it’s like to hand deliver the healing power of music. Simple. Ingenious.”

Best program for the disadvantaged

Winner: Tutti Ensemble Inc, (SA)

Judges’ comment: “Tutti is a kind of under-the-radar national treasure, using music making and performance opportunities to break down barriers. It is social inclusion and artistic excellence combined – a tremendous mix.”

Runner Up: Sydney Street Choir (NSW), program: Standing Tall
Judges’ comment: “Empowerment is the keyword for this wonderful initiative. SSC empowers people to find their own voice, tell their own stories and find their own ways to appreciate each other – through the uplifting effect of singing together.”

Judges' Awards for Excellence were given for outstanding work in encouraging music-making, to:

Sweet Freedom, QLD

Judges’ comment:”We were moved by the comments from participants which convey the way in which people often find it easier to sing about difficult things than to speak about them. In the true spirit of grassroots, community development, this wonderful program has gone from strength to strength, bringing people together to write and perform songs which help people to see themselves differently: stronger and prouder.”

Yilila, NT

Judges’ comment: “The two talented leaders behind this project have taken their passion, skills and commitment and turned them into an economic force in this remote community. Here, music also plays a critical role in delivering the school curriculum and boosting school attendances. It is a wonderful project.”

The winners were selected from 28 shortlisted finalists.

Read about all 28 finalists and the Judges' comments


See also: