Summer Music Program: Teaching, Musical and Story Brilliance


This is not a sponsored post and I have absolutely no affiliation with this organisation apart from thinking they are most excellent indeed. 

...and utterly engrossed in the songs of the older attendees.
Summer Music Program Final Concert

 As a family, we value and celebrate music in all its forms, from Australian hip hop to jazz, folk and classical. Neither #backboy or myself work in the area of music, we don’t sing in choirs, I gave up the oboe and piano years ago (sorry mum and dad!) and we don’t think our children are musically gifted – but we do value music in our lives and want our children to be immersed in song, rhythm, the world of instrumental music and to enjoy the utter joy of music festivals as we have done over the years – I turn 40 on Friday and music festival days seem a LOOONG time ago. Sigh.

To me, song and story go hand in hand and both are key in the language development of young people as Jen Teh has discussed here. Many well-known musical types are now turning their iconic songs into children’s books (Ringo Starr, Michael Franti, Bob Marley) and many others (Madonna, Dolly Parton and Paul McCartney) are using their song/story writing skills to create picture books of note – see below this post.

I am incredibly lucky to work in a school with an amazing music program with amazing teachers (hello Ms Trott!), lead by Dr James Cuskelly*. In fact, so amazing is James, that a documentary about his teaching, and the Kodály philosophy of music, has just premiered in Brisbane, ‘When We Sing’. For screenings of ‘When We Sing’ around the country and overseas see here; I highly recommend getting yourself along. ‘When We Sing’ shows Dr James Cuskelly at work teaching musicians, performers, students and music teachers of all ages and abilities. The impact of his teaching methods is profound and moving as his simple voice and movement techniques connect with the participants’ musicality and give teachers and performers the tools to unlock this experience in others. The film reveals the core beliefs of Kodály educators including Dr László Nemes and Pete Churchill and musicians and educators talk of the experiences they have when they connect with this different way of understanding music and human development.

Dr James Cuskelly
Dr James Cuskelly

I myself had a wonderful music teacher at school, Graeme Morton, who, like James, made even the most average of musicians (of whom I was one) feel like music was accessible to all. Great teachers are a joy to behold and an honour to be taught by.

In January this year, PudStar spent two weeks of her school holidays at the Summer Music Program, run by Sound Thinking Australia and The Cuskelly College of Music. It was, without a doubt, the best ‘extra-curricular’ activity she has ever done. I guess it’s a bit like those intensive swimming blocks that happen each holidays at local pools, except this is intensive music and there is no chlorine. The concert on the last evening of Summer Music Program was of a standard that you normally pay many, many dollars to see and it was so beautiful that I felt quite teary – we all loved it…even the four year old Wild Thing was transfixed.

Lined up and ready for the concert
Lined up and ready for the concert

I think Dr James Cuskelly’s finest trait, apart from being a gifted teacher, is that he is a gatherer of people. For the Summer Music Program, the Pathways Music Program and indeed, at the school at which I teach, James has assembled some of the best in the musical business. The teachers are people who we mere mortals would not normally have access to, they are all masters in their area of musicianship, passionate teachers and willing to work with participants from 8 to 86 (she was brilliant!), and those who work in the music education industry.

If you have a little person who loves language and music, or if you are a music educator yourself…get thee along to the Summer Music Program – bookings have just opened. I know it’s only September and January seems like an age away…but let’s just remember that major department stores this week put up their Christmas displays.

Day Two of Summer Music Program - raincoat and all.
Day Two of Summer Music Program – raincoat and all.

There are thousands of beautiful music themed books. Just a very, very few of my favourites are below, let me know which titles I should add!the-hush-treasure-book

‘The Hush Treasure Book’ is a world of magic, wonder and mystery. Created for the Hush Music Foundation, famous for its original music albums used in hospitals all around the world, this book is a glorious collection of stories, poems and pictures from thirty favourite storytellers.


‘A Certain Music’ is a slim little volume; a small chapter book aimed at readers 9-12 years, although my 87 year old nan keeps asking me to buy more copies of this one for her friends. It’s the most gorgeous story and reads like a fairytale. Set in 1823 in the Vienna Woods, a lonely young child spies an old man – a music maker. And so begins an odd friendship which develops through their mutual love of music. i-m-still-awake-still-

 ‘I’m Still Awake Still’ contains the audio of the book being read by author/illustrator Elizabeth Honey, along with eight songs which are all so beautiful and so different that you will want to play them night after night. ‘I’m Still Awake Still’ was the soundtrack for bedtime for six or so years in our family, and I still hum the songs from this CD constantly. We also saw the musical production of this book, which was FABULOUS. My full review of this title is here – if you have little people in your life you need this book. Rave over.

one-love One love, one heart, let’s get together and feel all right


Based on the iconic songs of her father, Bob Marley, Cedelia Marley has done a fabulous job of introducing Bob Marley to a new generation – in book form and musical form – with ‘One Love’ and ‘Every Little Thing’. You can read my full review of ‘One Love’ and see the book trailer here. 


ChickPea (4) thinks this book is just darned marvellous – a crocodile hosting a tea party and a host of animals escaping his jaws. What could be better! She’s also rather partial to a rhyming text and this one is based on the rhythm of ‘Waltzing Matilda’ so it is catchy and the accompanying CD is great. I was fortunate to run a ‘Terrible Lizards Book Party’ (here)which the author and illustrator were at and it was a joy to work with them and share this book with little people. My full review is here. 

octopus-s-gardenRingo Starr has teamed up with award winning illustrator Ben Cort , of ‘Aliens Love Underpants’  fame, to introduce a new generation of readers and musicians to the joy of the Beatles famed  ‘Octopus’s Garden’. The book is a visual delight with gorgeous colours and lots of underwater action, as five children go on a magical journey through the Octopus’s garden.

*Dr Cuskelly is the be Head of Music at the school at which I work, St Aidan’s Anglican Girls’ School, where we all rather adore him and would like to bottle his educator magic. James Cuskelly has been involved in the Australian Kodály Summer Training Programs since their inception. As President of the International Kodály Society, James is well known as a global leader in terms of the Kodály philosophy of music education. He has a deep commitment to music education and teacher training and has a distinguished track record in organising and delivering courses of the highest professional standing.

The Body Shop

Oxfam Shop

The titles of each book takes you to the Australian based online bookstore Booktopia. You can also compare prices on Fishpond and Bookworld for Australian purchases.If you live in the US or would prefer to use Amazon click here. If you live in the UK or would prefer to use Book Depository click here. Purchases clicked through from the Children’s Books Daily site result in a small commission. Commission is used in part to maintain Children’s Books Daily and to support community groups which connect children with books.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here