Opera singer Ben Segal’s skate park ‘classrooms’ are shaking up music lessons and connecting kids

As students stroll through the oval from Huonville Elementary School to the skate park, they are greeted by the unexpected sounds of an opera singer layering classical music with beatbox on a looping recorder.

It’s an unlikely pairing that somehow works out.

After performing opera on stages in London, Ben Segal wanted to share his love of music with local communities in Tasmania.

“The world of opera is a fantastic world to be part of, but sometimes it contains a certain [place] in the community,” he said.

“I love community and I love opera and I also love building these types of programs together.”

Mr. Segal runs an outdoor music program called Loop Jam, aimed at helping young people tap into their creativity.

Ben Segal says the program helps students combine creativity, exercise and mental health stability.(ABC News: Selina Ross)

He has been spending time this year at skate parks in the regional towns of Huonville and Cygnet, south of Hobart, funded by the Huon Valley Council.

“It’s just a nice way to connect the dots when it comes to creativity and using music, physical exercise which then improves mental stability and mental health,” Segal said.

Children can choose to participate as much or as little as they want, giving them the opportunity to make music without the pressure of performance or perfection.

Losing touch with touch

A young boy sits down playing the drum
Huonville student Codie Burgess says outdoor lessons are better than her music lessons at school,(ABC News: Selina Ross)

The emphasis is on hitting, crushing, twisting and jerking.

“It’s very important now that we’ve become a very ‘slippery’ era, where we touch phones and we never have the touch and feel,” Mr Segal said.

“So having a good old drum is important to reconnecting us.”

Codie Burgess, 11, said it was a cool experience.

“It’s better than making music in school because we choose our own instruments,” he said.

“And we have more time, we can stay here longer to learn more instruments.”

Music creates social contact

A young man wearing a baseball cap and hoodie stands in a skate park
According to youth worker Luke Green, the sessions provide young people with an opportunity to socialize and connect.(ABC News: Selina Ross)

The weekly sessions were run in conjunction with Mission Australia’s Youth Beat programme.

Youth worker Luke Green said it provided a sense of fun in the community.

“It provides social contact, I think it’s important for young people to be social, especially in our time when there’s a lot of online communication,” he said.

“You need those personal conversations more than ever.”

Mr Green said providing space for conversation has helped normalize discussions about mental health.

“It can be super casual, but it’s also sometimes very meaningful,” he said.

“There are young people dealing with bullying, harassment, people can go through a lot of different things, family breakdown, homelessness, substance use.

“If they need advice or information, they can come to us and we can hopefully point them in the right direction and hopefully identify ways to overcome some of the obstacles they may be facing. confronted.”

The hands of a young boy on an electric keyboard
Ben chooses instruments that encourage hitting, hitting, twisting and touching.(ABC News: Selina Ross)

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