‘It will break hearts’: Western suburbs kids’ music charity faces axe
27th August 2023

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Violin player Lwe K’Pawhsee Lay dreams of playing at the Sydney Opera House when she’s older.

But the 14-year-old’s wish may never come true, with the program that introduced her to the string instrument she loves now in danger of folding.

Erica Rasmussen, director of the Crashendo music program held after school at Laverton P-12 College, with violinist Lwe K’Pawhsee Lay.Credit: Eddie Jim

Crashendo is a free music program for disadvantaged children in Melbourne’s west, but its director says without an urgent injection of funds she will have to break the news to students that the long-running project is being discontinued.

Erica Rasmussen says the students in the group, which runs after school at Laverton P-12 College, are mostly from refugee families who may not otherwise be able to afford to learn music.

“I feel really sad,” Rasmussen says. “The program is really important to those kids, and to not continue it is going to break a lot of hearts.”

She says Crashendo’s potential benefits to students range from careers in music to finding a hobby, confidence and friendship.

Funds needed: Crashendo offers free instruments, tuition and participation in an orchestra to children aged seven to 16.Credit: Eddie Jim

She has seen the program persuade struggling students to turn up to school. Rasmussen says some students have chaotic home situations. One boy practised outside because he was not allowed to do so inside his house.

“One student said she comes to Crashendo because it makes her feel happy and calm. It’s always stuck with me,” Rasmussen says.

“We try to make it a space where students feel safe and happy and engaged.”

Lwe K’Pawhsee, one of the Karen people of Myanmar, migrated to Australia in 2012 with her family. She said she would be sad if Crashendo folded.

Her sister, Lwe K’Pruhsee, 10, plays clarinet in the program.

Lwe K’Pawhsee also regularly plays alongside current and former Crashendo students at a Yarraville Baptist church, which she enjoys. She wants to become a doctor when she grows up, but sometimes dreams of being a musician.

“I want to play at really famous places like the Sydney Opera House,” she says.

Crashendo offers free instruments, tuition and participation in an orchestra to children aged seven to 16.

Rasmussen, its director since 2012, says Crashendo gets no government funding. It relies on grants and donations but has raised less than half the $100,000 it needs to continue operating in 2024.

Crashendo has regularly received half its funding from a charity, the Cybec Foundation, but has to reapply each year.

The other 50 per cent of funding comes from small grants, but recently this source has dwindled as one-off grants are not renewed and benefactors shift to other causes, such as the environment.

Rasmussen says Crashendo, which was founded in 2011 as a community initiative by police officer Sharon Radau, is now on the brink of closing.

According to data from the 2021 census, Laverton, 23 kilometres south-west of Melbourne CBD, ranks among Victoria’s most disadvantaged suburbs based on factors including income and employment status.

Laverton P-12 College principal Lisa Robinson says: “The potential closure of the Crashendo music program at the college will be a significant loss for our students, as it is a vital aspect of our students’ learning in conjunction with our curriculum. We strive for our students to develop a strong sense of belonging and pride in achievement and the Crashendo program plays a vital role.”

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