Paper for the ASME national conference, 2009

The following paper was written for the XVII national conference of the Australian Society for Music Education, Launceston, 11th July 2009.

At my presentation at the conference I focused on the opera Kiravanu in its current form, rather than the historical approach that this paper (which informs the literature review of my PhD which itself centres around this opera and writing music for children with pedagogical outcomes) focuses on.




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the website of James Humberstone

The children’s opera Kiravanu has been written to integrate into the K-6 curriculum. In its current form, each scene is accompanied by music and cross-curricular lesson plans which are mapped to the NSW syllabus.

Currently I am beginning to map the lesson plans to all Australian state and territory syllabi. The benefit of this approach is that preparing the opera in your school shouldn’t have to involve hundreds of hours of out-of-school rehearsals. The majority of the opera can be taught in class and then brought to the stage within a few weeks.

The characterisation of the opera relates to age groups, so that the whole school doesn’t have to learn all of the opera. The

characters are:

  1. Kiravanu – Years 5 and 6

  2. Creatures – Years 3 and 4

  3. Elements – Years K, 1 and 2

There are also solo parts for both students and teachers as well as many opportunities for instrumentalists to solo. There is a professional pit orchestra score but this can be substituted by a recording provided on CD. There is also a DVD of the whole performance.

This video outlines the story of Kiravanu:


This paper introduces PhD research currently in its first year. The research aims to identify practical approaches a composer can take to writing music for primary students which delivers learning through a clear progression of skills involved in performing the new music as well as explicitly programmed lesson plans that permit the learning to be achieved in ordinary class time instead of as an extra-curricular project.
The investigation focuses on opera for children, and this paper will consider the history of this genre and present a new exemplar of the approach being documented: Kiravanu. The writing and teaching of Kiravanu, a 100-minute opera premiered by students of MLC School in Sydney in 2008 with an outreach project to Broken Hill Central Primary School will be reviewed. Video of rehearsal and performance, examples of scores and related lesson plans and resources will be shared and opened to discussion with those attending.