From helping out at his primary school's musical, to a TAFE industry placement, to becoming the Victorian State School Spectacular's Creative Producer - Simon K Patterson has come a long way.
2018 is Simon's 10th Spectacular. He has the important role of overseeing the Victorian State Schools Spectacular's schedule, rehearsals, staffing, venues and more.
School and TAFE took Simon there
Simon's interest in performing arts began when he went to Kew East Primary School, which used to hold a school musical every second year.
He continued his passion by doing a Stage Management program at Melbourne High School. With the support of older student mentors, he was responsible for backstage duties at speech nights, competitions, musicals and other events in the school hall as well as external venues including Melbourne's renowned Hamer Hall.
Then Simon found his dream course at Holmesglen Institute of TAFE – a Diploma in Entertainment and Stage Management.
The TAFE course placed Simon to work in theatres across Melbourne, getting him in contact with industry professionals along the way.
'That hands-on approach was more appealing,' Simon says. 'It's so much more practical.'
Just after graduating from TAFE, a chance meeting with previous Victorian State Schools Spectacular creative producer Adam Lowe led Simon to joining the Spectacular team.
Producer to the Spectacular stars
As well as ensuring the Spectacular is running smoothly, Simon is also a mentor to the next generation of young students volunteering backstage. Just like himself when he was in school, these students have a keen interest in working in theatre and major events.
'The kids are amazing,' Simon says. 'I'm so inspired every day with all these students, especially in the arena.
'I find it so rewarding to be able to give back and be a mentor to students.'
Although Simon didn't participate in the Victorian State Schools Spectacular when he was in school – 'although I wish I had!' – he went back to Melbourne High School in his early years of working on the Spectacular to recruit backstage crew volunteers.
'It was a really awesome feeling for me to go back and offer students an opportunity that I wish I'd had at the time,' Simon says.
One of Simon's most memorable mentees was a Year 12 student who had never read sheet music before. Despite this, the young man diligently travelled to regular studio rehearsals and Simon quickly taught him how to read music.
'When he was able to follow along to the music and tap out the beat, he said "yes yes I've got it!"' Simon says.
'It's those beautiful lightbulb moments that are inspiring and make it all worthwhile.'
The young student declared that he wanted to be a stage manager and changed his VTAC preferences so he could continue his learning at university.
'It's so inspiring and amazing to see that progression,' Simon says. 'Even when they don't have much experience, we can help train and connect them with industry professionals from high school to TAFE and other tertiary studies.'
The Victorian State Schools Spectacular
The Victorian State Schools Spectacular brings together over 3,000 school students to perform as a 64 piece orchestra, 1300 voice choir, 1200 mass dancers, 30 lead vocalists, 16 principal dancers, 20 ensemble dancers, 8 backing vocalists, roller skaters and puppeteers and much more.
The inclusive Spectacular program supports the Victorian Government's Education and Creative State objectives by demonstrating students' excellence in the Arts.
Over months of training, the program fosters student engagement and educational outcomes by developing creative and expressive capacities, building confidence, resilience, discipline and a sense of belonging.
The culmination of the event performance to a wide audience builds pride and confidence in our schools.
This three-hour, live show – involving music, dance, puppetry, skating and circus arts – is watched by an audience of at least 5,000 people per show. The show is also recorded for broadcast on Channel Seven.
See: Victorian State Schools Spectacular
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