Liz Sargeant: 2023 Educator of the Year Far Left, Liz Sargeant with Vanessa Coleman from Gowire NSW and fellow Educator of the Year Finalists. Credit: Diana Smith Photography

Liz Sargeant has for over 22 years been a music education specialist, sharing the joy of music and the benefits of playing a musical instrument within schools and community bands, and believes the number one priority in any rehearsal or class is for participants to feel included and to be able to participate.

Uplifting with music

Liz is based in Bathurst, works full time as a senior curriculum and performance teacher at Scots All Saints College and travels weekly to take rehearsals at Orange Regional Conservatorium. She often teaches in Sydney and regional schools by invitation and is in demand for her uplifting approach whether it is a junior school music class or a semi-professional band in Sydney.

Conducting inclusion

Other than wanting her students to feel included and able to contribute, she hopes they feel challenged through what educators call the zone of proximal development (the difference between what a learner can do without help and what he or she can achieve).

“First they improve, and secondly comes the dose of dopamine which makes the player(s) feel good about themselves and their ability to succeed, and that hard work results in achievement – which is vital to our longevity,” she explained.

“As musicians, we work to failure; constantly pushing to play the hard bits or practicing where we go wrong, so at rehearsal I try to find that zone where at some point everyone in the room feels challenged and another where they’ve had a moment of success – and want to come back.”

The science is in

It’s well-known that younger children benefit hugely from engaging in music education from the neural pathways that are developed when they engage in music, and recent studies prove that human IQ-development continues well beyond age 11. On top of that good news, anyone with exposure to playing music will experience its benefits across language, numeracy, social skills, too.

“Research indicates that music is all pervasive, so the earlier students can learn the more optimal it is for them, but adult students can benefit in every stage of their life, too, and through neural plasticity continue to build new pathways after their 30’s,” she said.

Brain anti-ageing serum

The anti-ageing benefits of music education continue throughout our life, even unlocking memory pathways of people with Alzheimer’s or brain injuries. “Music is a passion of mine and a lifelong opportunity for people. You’re never too young and you’re never too old,” she said.

Her repertoire selection is important in ensembles so players hear something they recognise or that is identifiable, and from there Liz gradually moves everyone from the known to the unknown in order to expand their musical understanding and experience.

Fostering music in all schools

In an ideal world, Liz says she would put fully-trained music specialists in all schools. “I would then resource them so that every student could play music on an instrument,” she said. “There is no substitute for qualified music teachers, and all students doing a Primary Teaching degree should have far more skills about music to equip them to teach it properly in schools. Music is practical and students need to make music in order to get the benefits from learning music.”

The past twenty years in the Central West has seen most primary schools incorporate a music program where most of their students can participate in a band, or in guitar or mallet-percussion ensembles. “This is fantastic progress,” Liz said, “and it’s alongside the emergence of the Regional Conservatoriums Network that has elevated and provided more opportunities for schools through access to teachers who can provide music education on-site. This also takes the pressure off families when teachers are not being funded for schools.”

Take a bow

Liz says she often asks her younger, new students to go home and teach their parent(s) what they’ve learnt, and says there is a ‘respect and value’ paradigm when that happens. “Often parents don’t hear their child play so we do a showcase or performance opportunity, and at the first one all the child does is stand on stage and everyone claps. But for parents to see their child be able to get up and do that means they can identify what the benefit is.”

First a mother

Liz’s ‘why’ is her two teenage children Issy and Will (who are both musically proficient) where the benefits of what she does for them exists on many levels. “They get to experience a rich music education, and that has permeated their lives since they were born. The flow-on effect of me doing so many extra things directly benefits them and it totally blurs the lines between life and work.”

Celebrate life with music

Liz says she’s incredibly humbled to be nominated for the Educator award because a lot of what educators do is not seen or acknowledged, and she’s is grateful to have a light shone on the challenges, especially since COVID.

“To have this nomination is incredible, and to have the Mummy Awards and the opportunity to share the importance of music education with its members is a huge privilege and opportunity. I’m so happy to be able to speak to this space and encourage everyone to celebrate each other more.”

Our 2023 Educator of the Year is sponsored by Gowrie NSW

  • Liz Sargeant - Conductor. Image Supplied.

  • Liz Sargeant - SWE Rehearsal FEB 2023. Image Supplied.

  • Scots All Saints College Showcase 2023. Image Supplied.

  • Scots All Saints College Showcase 2023. Image Supplied.

  • Liz Sargeant - conducting ensemble 2022. Image Supplied.

  • Liz Sargeant - BBB 2023. Image Supplied.

Diana Smith

I'm an Orange-based photographer, writer, face painter and book designer. I enjoy meeting the lovely folk of our community and have been involved in publishing/media/comms for about 15 years. I have done several exhibitions and in 2022 published my own childrens story, 'The Mouses Houses.'

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