Principal Update – The journey of musical richness and leadership

Our VCE Music students were offered the exceptional opportunity this week of a Masterclass with visiting pianist, Amir Farid. Amir is currently employed as a staff pianist at the Vocal Arts department of The Julliard School, New York City, and works as a rehearsal pianist with the New York Philharmonic. The girls were thrilled with the opportunity to learn from the ever-so talented Amir this week whilst he is visiting from the United States.

During the Music Masterclass, Amir shared his reflections and feedback after listening to each girl perform her repertoire; encouraging their understanding of the poetry in songs or urging hands to work in orchestral rhythm across piano keys. 

The core value of music education is to develop the personal voice of each young musician entrusted to our care. This personal growth requires students to broaden their mastery and expertise through experience. This experience or journey to the final destination is key in students unlocking their inner musician. The richness of this results in a musician who can act with independence, understanding their repertoire on a deeper level, experimenting with a variety of techniques and interpretations to make critical decisions about how the final performance will be executed and in turn, received.

In instrumental music, the mastery to expertise model is ever apparent. A teacher of a beginner musician creates the context for students to learn the basics, they go on to study a work which at this stage of the journey is strongly guided by the teacher. As the journey continues, repertoire and skills develop, students take on feedback and their expertise starts to materialise. A pinnacle of this journey for the young musician is when students are able make their own choices about their repertoire, realising the intricacies of the harmony, developing the emotion of a melodic line to reflect the mood or emotion hoping to be created by the composer and ensuring the integrity of the work is realised.

The class aimed to inspire and perhaps it was the dialogue that the students had with Amir where he revealed his sincerity, integrity and humility as a musician that they developed a connection. In describing his journey to Juilliard he spoke of the pressure of that environment, and he pushed for the balance of excellence, passion and enjoyment that he feels exists within the music scene in Australia. In discussing the amateur opportunities that abound and his experience in these circles, it was clear that it is the joy which exists in music on any level that has sustained his career, suggesting that it is this that is pertinent to nourishing each student’s inner musician.

To conclude the Masterclass, Amir shared his exceptional journey, wavering from his schoolboy interest in engineering to a pursuit of his real passion, music. Since graduating with distinction from the Royal College of Music London in 2009 with Andrew Ball, Amir has performed as a solo recital and collaborative artist in concert halls and festivals internationally, including Carnegie Hall, New York and St Martin-in-the-Fields London.

Amir also provided a small concert in the Ballroom of Sherren House with his music heard through the halls of our beautiful Toorak mansion; undoubtedly a wonderful afternoon for all involved.

“We must do all that we can to give our children the best in education and social upbringing – for while they are the youth of today, they shall be the leaders of tomorrow”. John F Kennedy

Over the course of the past two weeks, we mark an exciting milestone to select new student leaders of the School. This is an important transition for our Year 11 and 12 girls as we thank and congratulate the Year 12 Captains and welcome the incoming 2021 Captains.

On behalf of the School community, I thank Alexandra Shergold and Sophie Boyce for their leadership this year as School Captains, and the 2020 Student Executive: Serena Sitch, Isabella McDonald, Chloe Rodgers and Claire Hayne. This is a significant undertaking in Year 12, keeping in balance one’s academic studies, a commitment to Co-curricular pursuits and the leadership responsibilities that come with such a role. This is in addition to the overlay of leading the student body, enthusing their endeavour with our Blue-Ribbon Spirit activities each Wednesday afternoon through the COVID-19 lock down periods. The girls have ensured a very friendly approach and always demonstrated School pride, School spirit and an understanding of the essence of being a St Catherine’s girl. The Student Executive have been well supported by an outstanding cohort of Year 12 girls; their commitment, energy and motivation has been felt by all. Their success as leaders has inspired girls to participate, to collaborate and to be fully immersed in the life of the School.

This week, we celebrated this milestone with the final phase of selection of School Captain for 2021. I offer my heartfelt congratulations to Lucy Campbell and Clementine (Cece) Newton-Brown for their selection as School Captains and the four Year 11 students also selected as the Student Executive: Elodie Ferrali, Allegra Dennison, Gabrielle (Gabi) Fellows and Ruby Moir.

During Assembly this week, the 2021 Student Executive were asked to reflect on a signature moment during their time at St Catherine’s School and how this has shaped who they are today; this was followed by replying to impromptu questions asked by Mr James Brown. I provide for your reading, some small sections from each address:

It is tempting, in a moment like this, to create a very romanticised account of one’s life. But there is nothing about that approach that appeals to me – mainly due to the fact that I’m a terrible actor but also because I think leaders should be an authentic representation of themselves, rather than a projection of what they think others will want. Success is also measured through the strength of our human connections and our ability to unite in the face of adversity. I knew then, that whilst being part of the crew made me feel like I belonged somewhere, my identity did not need to depend on it. It should, instead, be a reflection of my relationships with others and my ability to bring people together, to cherish the many opportunities afforded to us. I realised that the most important things to me, were the connections I had with others; not being the best rower, swimmer or runner. Elodie


Being a team member every year – that’s what I love doing. Last year, however, was different. Needing a last-minute replacement for the girl who was supposed to take the stage, but had an unforeseen time clash with her netball, I was approached, scouted, two days into the five-day special, to fill her shoes – playing Tom, the unintentional victim of our murder mystery. I am not an actress of any repute, apart from playing the Cheshire Cat in the Year 6 musical (during which I might add I fell off stage, into the wings). With this resume, I was obviously surprised, but nonetheless eager to take on such a role. I spent the next few days committing to memory my eight lines, dreading messing up or forgetting what to say, dreading disappointing our team. But why me, I asked myself? Why was I selected of all the girls to have the falling of a giant cardboard chandelier lead to my accidental demise? The leaders knew that I was reliable, would give my all and work diligently, despite my inexperience. That’s who I am and that’s who I will continue to be, as a Year 12 leader. Ruby

The support that I received from teachers, the Boarding house staff and all of the girls, allowed me to experience firsthand the true family nature and culture of our School. I would aim to strengthen these ideals and continue to encourage us all to extend support to others in our community, particularly at this challenging time. Being able to attend other schools before St Cath’s allowed me to understand how different we are and how special our culture is. We are encouraged to be independent, hardworking, generous and kind and above all accepting of all individuals for who they are. Every single one of us has a place here at St Cath’s, we all bring something to the table. Our culture is to believe and encourage this. It is these values that I am excited to help continue to flourish within our community. It would be a privilege to help support students the way that I have been supported and to be able to contribute to the decades of leadership that has come before me and shaped the school and its many rich traditions. Gabi

I think we can all agree that this year hasn’t played out as expected – it’s had its ups and downs but knowing that the St Catherine’s community is there to support each one of us through the roller-coaster that is 2020 provides a sense of security in a year of unpredictability. It is only through facing our fears and pushing ourselves into positions that aren’t the most comfortable that we can grow. While I won’t be joining the leech facial trend anytime soon, I now know that I am able to overcome anything with the right support system, even if it seems impossible in the moment. Allegra

Lucy Campbell, 2021 School Co-Captain

It was really nice to feel so comfortable and relaxed around the Year 12s (as a Year 7). These girls offered me so much more than just a helping hand. They made me feel welcome in the School community and they created a place of belonging for me. This is a feeling I hope every one of you has experienced to some degree at School, no matter what year you are in, whether you are at School, or even if you are still online. As a St Cath’s community, we need to look out for one another to ensure everyone knows the support and friendship that is available to them. We are a family at St Catherine’s.  If we embrace the example these year 12s displayed I have no doubt that the strong sense of belonging within our community will be amplified. The power of positivity, generosity and friendship is unlimited.  Because Sara and I took the leap and approached the Year 12s it gave us our first realisation of this: “sometimes the best results come when you throw yourself in the deep end”. Lucy


Clementine (Cece) Newton-Brown, 2021 School Co-Captain

These simple conversations have led me to understand how I want to fit into life at St Cath’s. In that, I see the School as a beehive where each bee is doing their own job, yet everyone works cohesively towards maintaining the hive. This mindset has enabled me to recognise the role I have within the School of not only focussing on my own education but expanding to be a part of the unique support system throughout the St Cath’s hive. Being able to maintain a connection, no matter how small, with girls that are 5 or 6 years younger than me gives me a genuine sense of belonging here. I think that we are so lucky to be such a small School because this network of support throughout the School is nurtured to surpass age barriers. The unity within St Cath’s allows me to feel connected to girls that have left the School that I have never even met, so that I know I will be supported even when I finish year 12. Cece 


I am delighted to also share with you a wonderful performance at this weeks Assembly by Charlotte Myer (Year 10).

Mrs Michelle Carroll, Principal