ViVA! graduate composing bright future

James Coulson won’t spend December anxiously awaiting a university acceptance letter he’s already been offered a place at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music.

The Marist College Eastwood student was accepted into the university’s composition degree in October on the strength of three compositions created while studying Music 2 as part of Sydney Catholic Schools’ ViVA! program.

The compositions encompassed a range of influences gathered over more than a decade playing music. His HSC pieces included a classical Asian-inspired composition and a jazz piece in the style of John Coltrane. His third submission was a modern, electronic piece inspired by low-fi hip-hop.

“I was playing ukulele one day and it was sort of just based around a little recording I did,” he said. “I really like electronic music, and ViVA! allowed me to explore it in more depth and detail than I would by myself.”

Feedback from the teachers really helped me flesh out my compositions

– James Coulson

The ViVA! program, which expands subject choice for Year 11 and 12 students at every Sydney Catholic secondary school, allows students to study Dance, Drama, Music 1 & 2, and Music Extension where they have a timetable clash or their school doesn’t have enough students to run the subject.

Students complete coursework online and meet once a week at Southern Cross Catholic Vocational College Burwood to hone their performance skills and meet practical requirements for their chosen subject.

The class of 2018 were the first to complete the program, with James the only student to study Music 2. He worked alongside six Music 1 students, and said the individualised nature of the program helped make up for any inconvenience he felt in having to leave school for practical lessons.

James (centre) performs with ViVA! classmates.

“Feedback from the teachers really helped me flesh out my compositions to get them to the level where they were,” James said. “The program was very personalised and in-depth.”

ViVA! Coordinator Eva Spata said James’s success reflects the hard work of himself and his teacher, and highlights the importance and potential of the new program.

“In speaking with parents, some have mentioned that this program meant that their child could stay at their current school, where they were considering taking their child out of the school if the subject wasn’t available these students are just that passionate” she said.

“I’m really looking forward to seeing where the students go in the future. I do see some students going on to study at different universities and I’m sure we’ll have some who become professional dancers.”

ViVA! is currently taking applications from SCS students who will be in Year 11 in 2019 and wish to study Music, Dance and Drama.

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