The presence of master musician James Morrison in Gunnedah proved a great opportunity for music students at local primary and high schools to take part in a workshop where they gained inspiration and encouragement.

A group of 50 music students from Gunnedah South Primary School, St Xavier’s and Carinya Christian School attended the morning masterclass where James and William Morrison played several songs throughout the hour.

James Morrison asked the youngsters if they had any questions and they were all enthusiastic to ask questions like: “How many times a year do you travel around the world? What is your favourite song? Who is the most famous person you know? and was it windy at the top of the Opera House on Remembrance Day?”

The international artist was inundated by questions from the children with their hands up in the air – he ended up suggesting that they relax and that allowed him to explain all about his instruments and demonstrate the different sounds they make. He also spoke about ways to make the most of practising their instruments at home.

At the end of the session, he paired with his son William, playing a beautiful duet on guitar and singing Stevie Wonder’s ‘Isn’t She Lovely’.

A smaller group of 30 music students from St Mary’s College and Carinya Christian School, as well as current school-aged members of the Gunnedah Shire Band took part in both the morning masterclass and the all-day workshop which finished at 2:30pm.

Both schools presented a piece of music they have been working on, including ‘Walking on Sunshine’ by Katrina and The Waves. James Morrison then spoke about better stage positioning of instruments to enhance the sound of the band and even jumped in with the horn section to play along with the students. He also offered some great tips to music teachers Emma Kersley and Keely Murphy from both schools.

He spoke to the students in depth about improvisation, learning a song without the music in front of them by just listening for the right notes, breathing techniques for wind instruments, in particular for reaching high notes, techniques for playing guitar, piano and percussion solos, participating in practical tasks designed to work on keeping in time with the music, as well as many wonderful ad-lib musical demonstrations from both James and William Morrison.

To finish off the workshop, the father and son duo included all students by teaching them a four-note 12 bar blues piece to encourage participation in improvisation and solos. A brilliant jam session followed with musicians spread all around the band hall playing a big jazz sound.

Gunnedah Shire Band committee member Debbie Leggat said it was great to see students were jumping up in the moment to give an improvised solo a go, with smiles on their faces.

“One of the best pieces of advice given on the day by James Morrison was, ‘practise less and play more, always play like you are performing, whatever your favourite genre of music might be, there is no such thing as bad music, only bad musicians’ – and that did resonate on a lot of faces in the audience,” she said.

“Gunnedah Shire Band Committee hosted the day and supplied lunch for everyone who attended.

“It was unfortunate that the students had to leave at 2.30pm to get back to school, as it seemed that James Morrison would have continued for many hours more, if given the opportunity.”

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