By Kirra Grimes

LOCAL school students embraced the opportunity to develop their music and performance skills in a collaborative, uplifting environment at Camp Bravo in Leongatha last week.
The sounds of music could be heard throughout the town as 140 primary and secondary students from Leongatha and surrounds joined with professional musicians to rehearse instrumental and vocal performances in the lead up to a spectacular finale concert on Friday night.
This was the second year of the camp, and founder Elly Poletti said it was fantastic to see lots of the first-year students return, with even greater enthusiasm than before, as this time, they knew what to expect.
A music teacher at Mary MacKillop Catholic Regional College, Elly explained she started the camp to give her students the same experience she had as part of the annual interschool music camp that ran in her high school days, and which she described as the “highlight of the year” for many South Gippsland students.
She drew on a network of music industry contacts forged at uni and gigs around Melbourne to deliver a high-quality learning experience that would motivate young people to pursue their interest in music as she did.
“There are so many students that love music and want to play, and they’ve got very few opportunities to do it in a rural area,” she explained.
“Sport’s very accessible here in the country- every weekend you can go and watch a game.
“But those kids with other interests need a space they can go where they feel accepted, and where they not only learn to play an instrument but get to show people what they’ve been learning.
“They need to perform because it’s like the ‘carrot;’ it gives them something to work towards and look forward to,” she said.
The Leongatha community got on board with Elly’s vision, donating rehearsal spaces such as the vacant Retravision shop on McCartin Street, free of charge; and supporting fundraising efforts such as the recent Winter Diva concert.
To bring the camp back for another year in 2020, Elly will be seeking out grant funding opportunities, she said.