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Classic Sounds Orchestra Association founder Rachel John

14 November 2021

Classic Sounds Orchestra Association founder Rachel John

This Kelmscott local is helping bring classical music to Perth’s outer suburbs Rachel is helping spread her love of music in culturally diverse Armadale

Since Rachel John first picked up the violin at age five, she's had an enduring love affair with music. “My whole body lights up,” she says. “It’s almost like a musical addiction, I can’t stop. But why would you not want to do something that brings you so much joy?”

It’s a passion she feels compelled to share with the locals around Armadale  – welcoming people of all ages and abilities to a community orchestra nearly every Monday night for the past 15 years. Since a handful of her private music students first gathered in a music shop to pluck Frère Jacques and Twinkle Twinkle Little Star in 2006, the Classic Sounds Orchestra Association has expanded to three orchestras and two ensembles.

“I have intentionally created a very non-elitist culture for our orchestra – it’s very inclusive,” says Rachel. It’s also as dependable as a metronome. “One of the things I pride myself on is that the orchestra is always on, and always on time.”

It means she gives away a lot of hours – she led the orchestra even while breastfeeding her newborns – but the motivation to help comes naturally. “Because I’m such a passionate musician, one of the things that drives me is I love being surrounded by music,” she says. “I’m an advocate of music for everyone.”

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Music without boundaries

Originally from the Blue Mountains in NSW, Rachel moved to the Armadale region as a teen, feeling right at home on the steps of the rolling mountain range of the Darling Scarp.

“I really like being part of the effort that the wider city of Armadale is doing, giving the region a more positive profile,” says the Kelmscott local. “I think Armadale deserves to have that musical culture.

“It’s so culturally diverse. It’s got affordable housing, so it attracts an amazing range of people from so many different countries and a lot of artistic people, whether visual art or dance or music. I just love being part of the colourful fabric of Armadale.”

I really like being part of the effort that the wider city of Armadale is doing, giving the region a more positive profile
Rachel John

This is reflected in the rich tapestry of cultures and ages in the Classic Sounds Orchestra Association, where the youngest performer is seven and the oldest is 70. “I know that music helps everyone, whether it's children developing neurologically, getting their brain to function in the right way, or adults needing a social outlet, or older people in their third phase of life needing to keep their brain active.”

As well as scoring coups for a community orchestra – like performing at festivals and amphitheatres and recording original compositions on CD – the members of the Classic Sounds Orchestra Association have found their own lives shaped by their involvement. Several members have gone on to study at Western Australian Youth Orchestras (WAYO) and Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts (WAAPA). Others have a new lease on life from reconnecting with music – and new friends.

“There is a saying that it takes a village to raise a child,” says Rachel. “Well, I think it takes a community to raise an adult. There’s such an epidemic of mental and emotional health, and social groups are so vital to community development.

“We are ordinary people doing extraordinary things."


Stories of Help
Western Australia