SONGBIRDS from The School of Hard Knocks - Absolutely Everybody Choir in Port Macquarie on the NSW Mid North Coast are once again singing their hearts out on Tuesday mornings.
Following the easing of COVID-19 restrictions, the choir is now able to meet and perform, much to the delight of its members.
Port Macquarie's School of Hard Knocks was established in 2016 by Mid North Coast Community College and founder of The Choir of Hard Knocks Jonathon Welch.
The Absolutely Everybody Choir aims to provide opportunities for individuals who have experienced homelessness, disadvantage, or who have been marginalised or excluded socially.
Artistic director Tim Maddren and accompanist Mat Brooker have been involved with the choir since 2018 and have expanded the range of activities to include more material generated by the choir's 40 members.
"It's a joint performance each week, everyone is able to contribute which helps include everyone and gives everyone a voice," Mr Brooker said.
"The choir isn't about skill, but is about the heart and coming together. This time each week is when most of the members can meet with their friends and enjoy their time together."
Weekly choir sessions had to be put on hold for a month while the Mid North Coast was in lockdown, with choir coordinator Annie Williams saying this was particularly hard for members.
"They were champing at the bit to get back here and they were looking forward to seeing their friends," she said.
"Everyone is very accepting of each other in the choir. It's very inclusive and supportive and caters for everyone."
The choir is a Creative Arts for Recovery Program and Ms Williams said giving people a voice is what makes each week so enjoyable for the leadership team.
"No matter what age you are or what language you speak, singing offers opportunities to learn, grow, and express who you are," she said.
"Everyone has an opportunity to shine with The School of Hard Knocks."
The group currently operates out of the Conservatorium Mid North Coast in Port Macquarie, with the aim to have their own building in the future.
"We are looking at having our own venue eventually, it would be nice to have our own space," Ms Williams said.
"We're also working to get some more original pieces together for an album," Mr Brooker added.
The choir is currently sponsored by Empower Health Services and is always looking for more volunteers.
"We would love to have some more sponsors come on board and volunteers are always welcome," Ms Williams said.
To find out more about the Port Macquarie School of Hard Knocks - Absolutely Everybody Choir, visit their Facebook page. To get involved, contact the Mid North Coast Community College on 6583 7288.
The School of Hard Knocks now has branches in Melbourne, Brisbane and Port Macquarie.
This movement aims to assist people experiencing homelessness, mental distress, social disadvantage, long-term unemployment, risks of re-offending and disability.
The Absolutely Everybody Choir has been in contact with NSW Health via the National Coronavirus Helpline. The group are exempt from wearing masks while at choir and are able to hold rehearsals under the current NSW COVID-19 guidelines.
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