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A standing ovation for the performing arts

Grace performing her dance

Grace Williams, Patrick Studios Australia
and Distance Education Victoria

What do HG Wells, Bollywood and Stevie Wonder have in common? They were all, in some way, a part of this year’s Top Acts concert, held on Friday 10 May at the Melbourne Recital Centre.

Top Acts is the grand finale of the annual VCE Season of Excellence. Celebrating its nineteenth year in 2019, the two-hour concert presented excellence in the performing arts, delivered by 2018 students of VCE Drama, Theatre Studies, Music Performance, Music Investigation, Music Style and Composition and Dance, and VCE VET Music and Dance.

The Hon. James Merlino, Deputy Premier and Minister for Education, opened the evening’s program. He acknowledged the hard work and dedication of the performers and their teachers and families, and spoke of the importance of the arts in the community and in education.

‘Performers, as do all artists, deserve our admiration and not just for their skill and talent. It takes courage to engage your mind, body and emotions in a public expression of all that it means to be human,’ said Mr Merlino.

‘The arts provide students with the opportunity to explore and present great themes and ideas, and to solve problems, work together and think critically. That is why this government set targets for Excellence in the Arts alongside targets in more traditional areas of learning, such as literacy and numeracy.’

The concert was directed by Chris Lewis, a Melbourne-based director, composer and percussionist and former Musical Director of Circus Oz. Chris selected the performers from the 150 dancers, actors, musicians, writers and composers who appeared in the 2019 Top Class concert series. ‘The performers impressed me with their ability to interpret the curriculum and tell their own story in unique and creative ways,’ he said.

The curtain opened to applause for Julian Smith-Gard, a Year 12 student at Williamstown High School who performed his moving composition ‘Hampton’ on piano. Next year, Julian hopes to further study composition and debut a musical he is currently composing.

A diverse, delightful selection of performers followed, including:

  • Zoe Koulbanis (Stathmore Secondary College), pacing the stage as a Eurovision contestant who challenges disqualification by demonstrating how music expresses social and political change
  • Benji Wald (clarinet), Jaeyoung Kim (flute), Oscar Gillespie (oboe), Louis Georgiou (bassoon) and Audrey Witmore (French horn), from the Victorian College of the Arts Secondary School, performing the touching Sadness by Russian composer Anfrey Rubtsov
  • Grace Williams (Patrick Studios Australia and Distance Education Victoria), gripping the audience with an emotional portrayal of domestic violence
  • William McGrath (Caulfield Grammar School), delivering an energetic monologue as the Maniac from Dario Fo’s Accidental Death of a Anarchist.

The students joined the ranks of illustrious Top Acts alumni, which include soprano Zoe Drummond, musician Nicholas Murphy (formerly Chet Faker), singer-songwriter Vanessa Amorosi and comedian Tom Ballard.

The VCAA applauds this year’s young Victorian performers, and their teachers, families and supporters. May you continue to give voice to your creative spirit and find your chosen calling on the stage, screen or recording.