Teacher promoting the power of music

BALLARAT Grammar music teacher and instrumentalist Sarah Barlow could be attending this year’s ARIA Awards.

Ms Barlow teaches music performance and sound production to senior Victorian Certificate of Education and Vocational Education and Training students, and has been nominated for the 2023 Telstra ARIA Music Teacher Award.

She said her nominator remains a mystery, but she is excited to be part of the process and what it promotes.

“The ARIA Music Teacher Award is partnered with The Song Room, which is an organisation advocating for specialist music education for every child in Australia,” she said.

“We are really fortunate here in Ballarat to have a strong music education culture but not everybody has that. It’s such a fundamental part of education and growing up; everybody should have it.

“Since I was nominated, I’ve had a huge outpouring of support from former students, colleagues, and music industry people who I work with, which is already starting discussions about the value of music education.

“To go to the ARIAs would be surreal. Every music teacher goes into the industry as a musician, and I could be in the same room as people who I idolise. It would be the highlight of my life.”

As a nominee, Ms Barlow said she will highlight and advocate for young digital music producers who are “legitimate” artists, all-abilities students, and women in the industry, who are not just performing but supporting musicians behind the scenes.

“I feel very strongly that our music course supports people who are differently abled and need to learn things in different ways,” she said.

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“There’s not a huge amount of women in the professional world of music doing sound tech, but that’s a growing field at our school as well.

“Any chance we have to talk about and promote these things is great.”

Sixteen-year-old Ballarat Grammar student, Alistair, said he values Ms Barlow’s knowledge and her support.

“She has helped me solve many problems I’ve had when setting up performances,” he said.

“It’s amazing that she has been nominated for the award. It’s reflective of her talent and it’s incredibly well deserved.”

Ms Barlow said she loves watching young people grow as they discover their talents and passion for music.

“It allows students to work with their own identity, explore creativity, and express themselves, while being in a community,” she said.

“People find their tribe in the music school and they work in a team. Students who may not otherwise have that outlet find success here.”

Although music education is inherently practical, Ms Barlow said the subjects she teaches support students to develop skills which can apply directly to the industry.

“It means students can see themselves in the roles,” she said. “This week, students have been working with a professional audio engineer, which is really inspiring for them.

“There’s a large retention rate of students who finish the course and continue on in the industry. Universities and employers see that they’ve already got experience and take them on.”

She said she’s grateful that the hard work of many nominated teachers across the country will be celebrated throughout the awards process.

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“Teachers often work hundreds of hours without pay, and sacrifice a huge amount, so it’s really good to highlight them,” she said.

“The education and arts industries have had a really tough time over the last three years, but they are essential. Education is the freedom to anything.”

Finalists will be announced in early-to-mid Spring before the ARIA Awards are held in November.

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