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10 April, 2022

Singing in harmony

A special set of students at Atherton State High School are dedicating their time, talents and voices to mastering the difficult craft of harmonising in the school’s vocal group.

By Rhys Thomas

Atherton State High School vocal group members Tai Ah Gee, Piper Leinster, Stevie De Lai and Elizabeth Burns-Smith.

Established in 2017, the vocal group was the brainchild of incoming music teacher Jade Ottone, who believed she could help students who were already apart of the school music academy, grow their confidence and skills in singing. 

Instead of conventional singing, the vocal group focuses specifically on harmonising, an incredibly difficult vocal skill to learn, especially at a young age. 

Harmonising is when musical notes, in this case produced by the student’s voices, are sung above and below a melody, combining into one cord. 

Using her jazz pop background, Ms Ottone founded the group and gathered together interested students who begun practising the art of harmonising. 

“I thought I would get kids in a lower stakes group and have them develop their harmonising skills, and that’s how the vocal group developed,” Ms Ottone said. 

“It’s turned out to be great, we’ve got lots of performance opportunities that are easier than putting a whole band up – we can take four or five students and they perform at Anzac Day ceremonies and stuff like that. 

“It’s just another chance for them to perform and develop their skills as a small ensemble - It’s different to be able to listen to other people and blend well with them.” 

The students generally perform together without any additional instruments or backing, besides Ms Ottone who accompanies them on piano. 

The group is currently made up of four students across four different grades, from grade 9 to grade 12 with the eldest being the longest standing member of the group. 

Grade 12 student, Elizabeth Burns-Smith, was one of the vocal groups first members and joined the group when it was first founded two years ago. 

“I started with a whole different vocal group and they all graduated last year so it’s really good to see younger singers come through,” she said. 

“It’s been good and being with the group has really expanded my singing and given me more opportunities. 

“I’ve learnt a lot, getting out there and performing has also really helped my confidence.” 

Since then, the group has slowly grown and developed to now include grade 11 student Tai Ah Gee, grade 10 student Stevie De Lai and grade 9 student Piper Leinster. 

All the students have gotten something out of the group, from developing their vocal and music skills to helping their confidence by performing in front of an audience. 

“It’s a little different but it’s quite enjoyable, I do enjoy singing here – it’s good for team building even though it’s super awkward,” Tai said. 

“I really enjoy singing with the vocal group and I feel like I have learnt things along the way,” Piper added. 

Stevie has been singing since she was six years old and despite this being her first year apart of the vocal group, she feels she has learned valuable skills. 

“The group is very enjoyable and what I expected, I have learned lots of new songs and harmonising,” she said. 

The group usually meets during lunch hours where they refine their harmonising skills and learn new songs as they prepare for upcoming events on the school calendar or in the wider community.

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