The contemporary music program at Newington College is a truly magical thing. Picture this…Centenary Hall, flashing all the diﬀerent colours you can think of, light bouncing oﬀ the walls. Boys and girls jumping up and down, screaming their enjoyment at the stage. Vibrations travelling through the floor, up your body and consuming you in the booming but beautiful music created from those delicate strings. The scene is utterly astonishing.
Every year at Newington, under the supervision of Mr Paton, over 100 boys from years 7-12 come together to form bands with the goal of performing at Rockfest, a riveting annual concert that is the face of the contemporary music program. Those fortunate enough to be involved invest numberless hours over the year preparing for this brilliant showcase of talent and ability. It all comes down to one night, where the boys have the opportunity to play for and entertain a proper audience, there to witness the true passion that is projected. Mr Paton, creator and organiser of the contemporary music program for ten years running sacrifices his own time to give us as aspiring musicians the opportunity he wishes he had but never did: the chance to experience performing at a professional level concert. “[He] wants to create a sense of magic for the boys.”
The contemporary music programme is so much more than ‘one of the many co- curricular opportunities that Newington oﬀers’. It is the chance for us to escape our normal lives consisting of school work and any other dramas and really let loose doing something we want to do. Every aspect of the program is amazing, from discussing songs and their merits at the beginning of the year, through numerous band practises that start at 3:30 PM and only end when we feel we ought to do our homework, until finally, that one night, that one exhilarating frenzy of raw power and emotion. You feel the energy from the crowd wash all over you and you just let it drive you. When the lights hit you and you see the never-ending rows of silhouetted heads all turned towards you, waiting eagerly for the clapping of drumsticks to bring them back to life again; when your ears ring with the delicate and beautiful, yet powerful sound of the guitar solo; when you clasp the mic with both hands and feel the music travel elegantly through the air, you truly appreciate the magnificence.
The ‘magic’ of performing is not the only thing the contemporary music program oﬀers. Playing in a Rockband for over 3 years now, I have discovered the endless benefits that come with the experience. This includes learning and refining multiple skills and attributes such as memorising important information, hand-eye coordination, comprehension skills, listening skills, perseverance and of course, confidence. It has an incredible impact on self-esteem because, in a band, you really feel valued. Everyone has an important role and we all rely on each other to make our performance the best it can be. Being part of a band has presented me the opportunity to develop as a leader. Once in the music room, we are away from the regular world where we have to answer to a higher authority.
We become our own bosses, and with that freedom comes the choice, the choice that decides what Rockfest really means to us. Do we mess around and come away from Rockfest disappointed in ourselves, or do we practise until we can’t get it wrong? We progress as leaders by making this choice, but that in no way means I don’t cherish every minute of rehearsals. As a guitarist, I play my guitar at any given opportunity. I play when I’m sad, I play when I’m happy. I play when I want to feel the sensation of the strings vibrating and the delightful sound of the diﬀerent harmonies played perfectly in a chord. I play when I just want to take a break and relax because it gives me the relief of doing something that thrills me in a way that TV and Playstation could never come close to doing. So naturally, an afternoon of playing guitar alongside my mates is one of the biggest highlights of my week. These rehearsals develop friendships dramatically as the bonding that comes with expressing yourself musically is a bonding like no other. My fellow contemporary musicians are people that I would regard as some of my closest friends for this very reason. As Albert Hammond Jr. says, “When you get together in a group, it becomes like a family, with the diﬀerent personalities and the politics that comes with being in a band. It’s diﬀerent than bringing something in by yourself.” There is a sense of community that wouldn’t be found anywhere else.
Rockfest is one of the biggest events in the calendar as everyone in the vibrant audience of over a thousand people love it so much. Whether you are a parent coming to show how proud you are of your son for his amazing talent, an avid Rock music fan who jumps at every chance you get to watch quality live performances or just someone there to have a good time dancing around with your mates, it is a great experience for everyone and they all thoroughly enjoy it. With the immense support from audience members and the expression of what Rockfest means to us as musicians, it seems inevitable that contemporary music at Newington will grow to become a program admired by other schools across the state.
It is evident how much playing contemporary music means to those involved and how we all long to showcase our performance passion. I look forward to witnessing the growth of the program as it truly is a magical thing.
Charlie Timpson (11/JN)