ACO Foundations

Music Creates Worlds of Possibilities for Young People

How music, and music education programs like ACO Foundations, have the power to change the lives and experiences of children for the better.

“It's our most important work and it's the most emotional.”
- Artistic Director Richard Tognetti on ACO Foundations


In the words of many of the students at St Marys North Public School in Western Sydney, music means happiness and fun.

For students like Lachlan, music also means a new world of possibility.

Lachlan is one of the first graduates of the pioneering ACO Foundations program, having begun learning the violin as part of the very first pilot group of students more than six years ago.

The first of its kind in Australia, this transformative program incorporates daily string lessons into the curriculum. The benefits are multifaceted – including increased motivation and ability to learn, through to improved physical, emotional and behavioural development.

“I see a shift, I see how the kids connect. And I know it’s the music, there’s nothing else that has changed in the school over their time, the only thing that has changed is the music,” says Year 1 teacher, Nia.

But perhaps most powerfully of all, the program has opened the children’s eyes to the possibilities in their future: it has enabled them to dream.

“Their world is so much bigger now,” says school principal, Lisa Parrello.

In Lachlan’s case, he plays with the same gusto and delight as the violinist he aspires to be like one day, saying many times that he wants to be the next Richard Tognetti.

“They see themselves as little musicians who have the world at their feet and can dream of being just like the ACO when they grow up,” Lisa says of the students.

To celebrate the pilot cohort’s graduation from the program last year, Lachlan played with his fellow “Super Strings” students alongside his musical hero and the ACO for a special showcase performance at Pier 2/3. It was a proud moment for the students, teachers, families and ACO musicians alike.

“We celebrated with tears of joy and sadness as we sent these kids off into the wider world of high school,” says Richard Tognetti.

Through the ACO Foundations program, music has become part of the fabric of the school, bringing students and teachers together in collective purpose and enjoyment.

“The joy it brings not only to our dedicated students, but to all members of the St Marys community is clear to see, with keen teachers and parents also requesting music lessons from myself and Miss Beth,” adds ACO tutor Anton.

As someone who himself benefited from a publicly-funded music program as a young boy in Wollongong, Richard Tognetti knows firsthand the importance of accessing music education as a child – not only for its musical benefits, but for giving every child the best possible start in life.

“Those formative musical experiences will stay with them for the rest of their lives. They’re going to listen to the world in a different way, and they're going to be in a better place as a result of it.”

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We invited St Marys North students to reflect on their experience of music and learning a string instrument.


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