Junk Percussion Orchestra: a school orchestra with a difference

29th July 2016

What do you do if you and your students want to start a school orchestra but you have no instruments?

In this guest blog, Gene Geoffrey, teacher at Musical Futures Australia Champion School Doveton College in Victoria, Australia and part of the Doveton Live program describes the creative solution they have come up with to enable students to experience a school orchestra with a difference!

A few years ago the school had a flugelhorn horn donated. It was suggested that it could be the start of a ‘school orchestra’. There was great disappointment when I explained we would need $150k to buy the other instruments, scores etc. I am an avid symphony-goer and I thought it would be great for the school to have an orchestra.

Junk percussion

Inspired by a colleague whose band was using a drum kit made of suitcases and other odd items, we decided that would get our students to make their own instruments out of junk.

They designed and built instruments for different sections of the orchestra (percussion, strings and wind) after learning the basic physics of sound and how instruments work. We combined bits of “junk”, broken instruments and even 3D-printed plastic mouthpieces for wind instruments.

In terms of the musical content, the students were challenged to create micro 4-movement symphonies. The performance would also include an installation element with visuals playing as the students performed.

Have you seen the 2017 training programme from Musical Futures?

From our Doveton Live team, my colleagues Malcolm and Iris took on the orchestra, and Greta led with the student creation of the visuals which were often created with 70’s animation techniques. We even bought old 70’s equipment to work with.

Malcolm created a graphic notation system to chart the symphony, one that the children could read. We put it together with all the music tech we could muster to create an integrated audio/visual creative and musical experience for the performers and their audiences and the group has been a huge success this year.

Doveton Live is a group of specialist animators, musicians, visual artists and film makers  funded through Musical Futures Australia,  Sound Garage, the Coleman Foundation, the Buckland Foundation and the Department of Education in Victoria to inspire, engage and expand the horizons of students in the Doveton College catchment area.

Visit the Doveton Live YouTube Channel to find out more!


Musical Futures training and CPD programme 2017


Excellent workshops ‑ extremely accessible for all abilities and levels."

Claire Armour, City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra