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Byron Shire
April 23, 2021

Fundraiser helps to conserve the ‘Con’

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Members of the Youth Jazz Band entertain the crowd at Saturday's inaugural music marathon in aid of the Lismore Conservatorium. Photo Matthew Cumming
Members of the Youth Jazz Band entertain the crowd at Saturday’s inaugural music marathon in aid of the Lismore Conservatorium. Photo Matthew Cumming

Melissa Hargraves

While final figures aren’t in yet, organisers are very confident that the inaugural music marathon held by the Northern Rivers Conservatorium Arts Centre on Saturday will reach its target of raising $15,000 for urgent renovations to the historic building in downtown Lismore.

The music marathon was held on the grounds of the Conservatorium and was originally planned to run from 9am to 9pm but, given there was another large scale music fundraiser for the anti coal seam gas campaign starting at 7.30pm, organisers ended then. That is still ten and a half hours of solid live music!

Director of the ‘Con’ Anita Bellman appeared on stage around eight times, mostly with her students. She told Echonetdaily, ‘… we haven’t actually counted the cash yet but in terms of participation, audience appreciation, community support and the number of people that have walked through the doors today, it has been fantastic.’

‘The standard of performance has been very high,’ said Anita.

The Conservatorium relies heavily on funding and cannot afford the current maintenance requirements on the building. This compromises the floor space that can be utilised for teaching.

Zoe Abbott, who coordinates the Conservatorium’s community music and music in schools programs, opened up the marathon. Zoe herself received flute lessons at the ‘Con’ as a seven year old and conceived the music marathon idea back in September 2012.

‘When I first started working at the ‘Con’, one of our recital rooms was closed and had been for the previous 12 months due to a leak in a wall that was coming down into our electricals. It was an expensive repair that we simply couldn’t afford in our budget,’ Zoe said.

‘Rather than depending solely on grant money we [decided to] be proactive. The idea sprang to mind from the number of performers we have in our end of term concerts, which can go past the comfortable two hours!

‘We have five hundred students just in community studies and our music in schools, so I thought it could be quite possible to have a music marathon. If each of those students could get sponsored $15 a minute, it would add up to $15,000.

‘That way we can help ourselves and invite the community into the space and maybe rekindle their relationship with the building. It was once the Lismore high school, then the teachers college, then the Northern Rivers College of Advanced Education (before SCU was built), so it has been an educational building for a long time!’

Zoe enjoyed the idea of students receiving money for their art.

‘Even for adult artists it can be hard to believe your worth. It is just as deserving a profession to receive money as anything else so for young students to have that experience is amazing.’

Donating that money back to the building gives the performers ownership as well.

‘This place is not just somewhere where they come for lessons half an hour a week, but somewhere where they belong.’

Maya Cumming and Isabella Cox ambitiously performed a well received Adele cover. The girls study music at Bangalow Primary School under the tutelage of Kate Gittins. Kate has been working on behalf of the Conservatorium at the school for over five years and applauds the school for supporting the program.

‘The principal is very supportive and that is key. The students are allowed to come out of school time and do individual and group sessions,’ Kate said.

Both girls enjoyed their performance and felt motivated to support the fundraiser.

Maya said ‘… it would be sad if it fell down’. Isabella added, ‘… we can show people our talent and also that we care’.




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