In 2003, Dr Sally Bodkin-Allen instigated the first SIT Kids Concert for the children of Southland in her role as Music Tutor; in the throes of organising eleven shows for next week - including a special twentieth anniversary evening show - she’s looking forward to what she calls, “my favourite week of the year”.
The popular concerts were started as a way of combining Dr Bodkin-Allen’s knowledge in early childhood education and music, with a need to provide performance opportunities for the Bachelor of Contemporary Music students. Beneficiaries would be local children who could come and enjoy the atmosphere of a live show and see live performances by the students. It was to create a win-win situation, she said.
“I can’t believe it’s been twenty years – it doesn’t feel like it’s been that long!” said Dr Bodkin-Allen. The concerts have remained her favourite week of the year for twenty years because of the fun had and engagement from the children attending. “Watching all those kids singing and dancing and joining in with the performers, I’m just really looking forward to next week and seeing all of that.”
Held at SIT Centrestage for the last twelve years, the show has evolved into a well-oiled machine with a formula that works, making it a firm favourite for the thousands of Southland children who attend each year. The eleven concerts will take place over a fiveday period (12th - 16th September) with preschool and primary school children attending from Invercargill and Riverton. Dr Bodkin-Allen said so far, there are 2,237 seats booked for this years’ shows.
A Broadway-style ‘relaxed performance’ was added in 2019, especially designed to be enjoyable for kids with disabilities, sensory disorders and complex learning disorders. This will be performed on Thursday 15th September.
The ten-year anniversary saw the introduction of an evening show with past students performing for family, friends and supporters. This was so successful it stayed and is a popular performance in the annual line-up. Dr Bodkin-Allen is particularly excited about this year’s offering.
“Students from every year (of the show) are coming back to perform on the Thursday night show – all of our current students will be performing, as well as alumni of the last twenty years.”
SIT alumni, Cleo McNaught, played in the 2003 and 2004 concerts, and said she is very excited about returning to play in the 20th Anniversary show.
“What a fantastic legacy Sally has started here in Southland, to have lasted this long and only be growing in popularity, enjoyment and engagement,” she said. Mrs McNaught still remembers the humble beginnings of the first concerts and is looking forward to taking the stage again to sing “one of my faves”, "Let it Go".
Mrs. McNaught said she was grateful for how her life had come full circle in her SIT experience, starting out as a student, and now being able to tutor the students in their own journey.
“It's fantastic to see their faces when they entertain the children - something none of us would have dreamed of doing in a Contemporary Music course, but what a perfect way to engage with the community as a performer!”
Head of Faculty, Hamish Small, said the annual concerts have become an institution for SIT over the last two decades.
“It has allowed our students to develop their performance skills towards an alternative audience, but also enables SIT to connect even further with our communities and inspire the next generation of musicians from a very young age.”
“It’s a credit to all the SIT team who have put this show together over the years; I know the twentieth anniversary will be another success story and a very special occasion for all involved.”
Doug Heath, Programme Manager for Schools of Sound and Contemporary Music, said there was noticeable growth in their students after the kids' concerts. “It builds character, it builds a cohesive team, and they grow as performers.” The week-long commitment allowed the students to experience the ‘deliberate practice’ of performing, reflecting on each performance, then improving on it for the next show.
“It puts a majority of them out of their comfort zone; they are required to wear costumes; they get to develop a character depending on what they dress up as; it seems to open them up as they blossom in that role.”
He said all it takes is for the young audience to get involved and start responding to the music, and it’s all go. “Once the kids – who have no inhibitions - get up and start dancing in the aisles, it takes off.” And there have been some unforgettable moments over the years; Mr Heath has a particularly vivid memory of one year: a mature student who had a white beard wore the Santa Claus costume. “He looked like the real Santa, the kids were stamping their feet and chanting ‘Santa’, and when he came out on stage, they all screamed. It was like a rock concert!”
The public are welcome to attend the 20th Anniversary evening show, Thursday 15th September, 7:00pm at SIT Centrestage. Tickets are $10 per person, through Ticketek or door sales.