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On the weekend at the end of Week 1 of this term, I witnessed an extraordinary event. I made my way down to Mt Gambier to attend the Generations in Jazz Festival for the first time, as it no longer clashed with Community Day. I had no idea what an extraordinary experience it would be.

Generations in Jazz has been running for 30 years and has grown from humble beginnings into an amazing festival of music. Led by arguably Australia’s most famous jazz musician James Morrison, and under the artistic direction of Ross Irwin of Cat Empire, the competition attracts over 5000 students from around Australia and New Zealand. The location is just out of Mt Gambier and just like Uluru, the Grampians and Mt Fuji suddenly spectacularly appear on the horizon, a gigantic tent rises out of the ground heralding the main site of the event. Police were everywhere, buses waited patiently in ordered rows, and students in uniform swarm all over the site like bees in spring.

The energy and excitement were palpable.

Over the course of the next 24 hours, I experienced some extraordinary music. On Friday evening, I joined our staff and students for an amazing concert featuring some of the great jazz artists from around the world. Who would have thought that in a tent in a paddock in the middle of nowhere you’d be able to hear Kurt Elling, Liz Wright, James Morrison, Joey DeFrancesco, and Ricky Woodard, entertaining and wowing the audience. The students lapped it up, and I couldn’t help thinking how inspiring it must have been for budding musicians sitting in the tent and experiencing this incredible music.

The following day was a full day of competition with five groups competing in five different categories, with our Big Band competing in Division 1 for the first time in many years. From 8am in the morning I excitedly moved from tent to tent to hear our students perform and also listen to other schools who competed in the same categories. They were incredible and I’d like to congratulate every one of them for not only the quality of the music, but also for the way they conducted themselves over the weekend. Director of Music, Mr Philip Walsh and his staff also deserve a debt of gratitude for the dedication, care, and expectations they set for our students.

Despite a serious competition of incredible standard, there was something bigger than the competition that became increasingly apparent to me as the weekend unfolded. What had brought the masses to this paddock in the middle of nowhere was not a desire to win, but a shared love and understanding for the depth of both joy and sorrow that music can bring. And what an amazing and beautiful gift it is. So I say, ‘if music be the food of love play on’!

Pro Deo et Patria.

Ben Hanisch
Deputy Headmaster/Head of Senior School