First Growth: The String Beans
In 2000 a group of parents whose children were learning string instruments at a local school came together to share the costs of a conductor and musical mentor for the students. The String Beans ensemble began! Word got around and it soon became apparent that there was a need for a local community children’s string ensemble that did not have strict entry or audition requirements.
Open to children between 8-12 years old who had played the violin, viola or cello for at least one year, the String Beans soon developed its talents. Members came from all over the Perth metropolitan area and the ensemble flourished under the baton of cellist, conductor and music educator Andrew Patrick.
Replanting: The Bean Sprouts
In 2001 a new instrumental program, the Bean Sprouts, was started up when the local school discontinued its string instrument program. Parents already running the String Beans realised the need to attract new musicians for the String Beans and wanted to offer other music education opportunities to local kids. On their behalf the North Fremantle Community Association secured a Lottery West grant to purchase violins and cellos that beginners could borrow. Additional funding sourced from the state government enabled the new Bean Sprouts to have subsidized lessons for their first year. The Bean Sprouts was a great success and in 2010 expanded to provide 20 places for new musicians. The students received 12 months tuition and an instrument to learn on at a low cost. This enabled them and their parents to appreciate what learning an instrument was all about before they committed to buying an instrument.
Establishing a trellis: NoFCAD
In 2004 parent volunteers, motivated by the success of their efforts, formally incorporated to become NoFCAD (North Fremantle Community Arts Development). A part-time administrator was employed to help with the myriad of tasks involved in running a community arts hub: music and drama programs, budgeting and documentation, keeping the years’ activities and performance program on track and planning for the future. In 2008 the administrator’s role evolved into two positions: a book keeper and an executive officer responsible, with community and parental support, for all other tasks.
Branching out: Supporting local artists
In 2005,with the support of ArtsWA and Healthway, local composer David Pye was commissioned by NoFCAD to write an original piece of music for the String Beans. During the year drama was trialed in performance workshops in the school holidays. The resulting sell out performance ‘Strings Scandal and Feathers’ was held at Fremantle’s Fly By Night Club and combined music and dramatic vignettes developed and performed by the children in response to David Pye’s composition. Importantly, David Pye participated in the drama workshops giving the kids the opportunity to experience working on a composition with its composer. Following this success new works were commissioned from then String Beans musical director Andrew Patrick, composer Alex Morris and local soprano and composer Eva-Marie Middleton.
Drama clearly boosted the students’ performance confidence and enhanced cohesion and community within the ensembles. In 2006 NoFCAD introduced a regular year long drama program for ensemble students to complement the music program.
New Fruit: Arrival of Daemon Clark
In 2010 Daemon Clark became the new String Beans conductor. With a Bachelor of Music Education (Hons UWA), Daemon had taught children of all ages in schools including Perth College and Hale. A splendid violinist, Daemon regularly performs in the Mill Point Quartet and the WA Camerata. He has also conducted the Metropolitan and the Hills Symphony Orchestras. Daemon’s remarkable musical understanding, together with his boundless enthusiasm for music and encouragement of both students and struggling adults ensures that the ensembles’ success is firmly planted.
Old Growth: The Dorkestra
In 2010 at the suggestion of new ensemble master Daemon Clark and executive officer Claire Coleman, NoFCAD began an ensemble for novice (musically challenged) adult musicians. Starting with a small group of five or six enthusiasts and now proudly known as The Dorkestra, this is a chamber orchestra open to any adult string player and is particularly designed to be accessible to adults who have recently taken up music or who are trepidaciously returning to music after a long break and for reasons they are not too sure of! Music appreciation seminars were part of the program in the early days for learning more about the theory, history and practice of western classical music. In 2012 the Dorks biannual music camp weekends began to supplement their incessant enthusiasm for playing together.
New Seeds: The Buds
In 2012, with the String Beans flourishing and the Beans Sprouts sprouting, a new ensemble, The Buds, was formed. This group was targeted to younger players to develop their music reading and ensemble skills. This group allows younger players to grow from an elementary level while the String Beans rise to more challenging performance opportunities.
In 2012 despite winning the Premier’s Australian Day Active Citizenship Award NoFCAD’s arts grant application was unsuccessful. A new approach to raising money to keep things going was needed. With their children long grown up and moved on to new musical challenges, the existing NoFCAD board looked for new members to take responsibility for this very successful operation. So after more than 12 years, founding NoFCAD chair Madeleine Clews handed over the reigns of this community arts hub to new volunteers. The new board, chaired by Jille Burns and comprising of parents of Beans and Dorkestra members, rebranded the organisation as The Instrumentals Community Orchestras in 2013. Since then we have been self-funding with the aid of some generous corporate sponsorship by Bendigo Bank and Fremantle Ports.
More Old Growth: The Awkwardstra, Harvest Ensemble, and SING
Our ever expanding musical universe now includes a beginner-intermediate adult ensemble: The Awkwardstra. Based in Victoria Park, the ‘Awks’ began in 2014 and are also conducted by maestro Daemon Clark. The Harvest Ensemble began in 2016 as a series of school holiday workshops for proficient high school string players, seeded by String Bean graduates. Not to be outdone, another group of adults began meeting in 2016 but this time without instruments! SING is a Soprano-Alto-Tenor-Bass choir that met weekly in Fremantle directed by Lucian Watkins for almost 2 years, but is now in hibernation. As old growth increased, the youngsters’ programs dwindled as music programs were reestablished in schools, so after 15 years the Bean Sprouts teaching program and Buds ensemble came to their natural end.