Last month, the small community of Hope Vale in Far North Queensland held the world premiere of a brand new musical, E=Mc2. One of the minds behind the music was David Collins-White, a mentor with the National Music Teacher Mentoring Program.

Learn a little more about how David got involved in the program and how he came to be writing a brand new musical for Hope Vale’s students.

Hope Vale is a regional community in the further reaches of Far North Queensland, and at 6pm on Friday 10 September, this remote Cape York community was the location of the World Premiere of a brand-new musical – E=mc2. Getting a new musical on stage is hard enough at the best of times, let alone in the middle of the pandemic. But despite the challenges, the world premiere of E=Mc2 was a tremendous success.

Performed entirely by the students and community leaders of Hope Vale, the new musical was developed as part of a new science curriculum from Good to Great Schools, a not-for-profit organisation working towards support schools on their improvement journey. The musical aims to reorient the way Australian students think about scientific discovery. Underlying the theatrical fun is a serious message about the study of science.

NMTMP e-mc2 Program - Sourced from ABC

The musical was written by Chris Kohn with music by Lindsay Scandrett and David Collins-White.

David Collins-White is a totemic figure within the Mentoring community, as well as nationally in amongst music educators. In 2015, David collaborated with the late Richard Gill AO, who he had been taught by in his early years at the Sydney Conservatorium. David helped to develop what is now the National Music Teacher Mentoring Program. He participated in the pilot program and has since gone on to mentor 15 teachers across four schools in NSW and Queensland. Prior to this, David has been teaching at Haberfield Primary School for 21 years, teaching all 650 students and coordinating or conducting all 10 music ensembles. Beyond the school he has been the artistic director of the NSW Department of Education choral concert, Cantabile Music Festival for 20 years performed at the Sydney Opera House. He has also been the Artistic Director of the NSW Department of Education’s Expanding Horizons performing arts school tours to China in 2012 and 2016.

David’s relationship with the Hope Vale community began in 2017, when Noel Pearson, Co-Chair of Good to Great Schools, expressed interest in being involved in the Mentoring Program. David travelled to Queensland to meet with the teachers at Hope Vale and present some lessons, before returning in 2018 as a Mentor. In 2019 a group of students from Hope Vale performed at the Sydney Opera House, singing a special arrangement of their school song by David, in Guugu Yimithirr, the traditional language of Hope Vale.

The idea of presenting the musical came from a conversation with Noel Pearson, “In July 2020 Noel asked me to think about an idea that the story behind Albert Einstein’s famous formula E = mc2” David says. “After research and reading I drafted some ideas and songs which led to Noel engaging myself, Chris Kohn and Lindsay Scandrett to write the musical”. It sounds simple, but the musical is a journey of epic proportions, one involving time machines and almost every notable scientific mind on earth, as well as the entire community of Hope Vale.

For David, however, it’s simple.

“It is essential that all Australian Children have access to planned music education” he says.

“Music is an essential part of human development. It’s the foundation of aural skills, movement skills, abstract thinking and language development.”

NMTMP David Collins-White

David’s passion for accessibility and connection comes across in his extensive YouTube resources page, which is accessed by thousands of students from across Australia and overseas. The channel, which David uploads to daily, is full of videos and resources for primary school students. Every day is a new song, or a musical challenge, all bursting with life and exuberance from David. Each video begins with a hearty “Hello!” before getting into the fun stuff. A warm-up followed by an interactive, engaging lesson. At no point in any of the videos does it feel as though David is alone, recording himself. These lessons feel present and active, and David is often flanked by his two stuffed doll helpers, Betty and Bruce, or his pooch Zara.

After mentoring 15 teachers, David still finds joy in being involved in the process. “Being involved in the mentoring program allows me to improve my own teaching practice” He says. “Through reflection, but also from learning from other practitioners and students in different schools. It’s important to develop collegial relationships and share knowledge and resources”.

E=Mc2 enjoyed a hugely successful world premiere in Hope Vale last month, and will be venturing down to Sydney in 2022, to be performed by the students at David’s school of Haberfield Primary.