Murray Dahm – WotOpera

Last Thursday, Murray Dahm – accomplished opera singer, director, historian and the Artistic Director of WotOpera – came on the show to talk about his passion and his work.

Wot Opera itself is pretty interesting – Murray and his team go into primary and high schools all over Australia and in the space of 4 days, spread out over a month, get the students to conceive, create and perform a piece of original opera. No creative direction is given by any adults, though Murray’s experience and infectious, energetic magnetism is obviously crucial.

Since 2008, they’ve worked with over 1,300 students from over 50 schools, and though each result is distinctly unique, Murray can see the similarities.

Murray Dahm

“Most of the stories are about dream fulfilment, about overcoming obstacles, about self belief, self worth.”

This goes the same for well-to-do private schools as it does for under-funded rural public schools, although Murray does acknowledge that kids from wealthier schools tend to have more social hangups about opera.

At first glance, Murray’s approach seems to be a bit naive: with just a handful of WotOpera staff, and whatever support they can get from the teachers, they galvanise dozens of young people into sustained constructive creativity. Not only that, they are often working with kids who have never sung or acted, and certainly a few to whom the very idea of getting on a stage would be terrifying prospect.

But it does work; a tried and tested method of unendingly positive feedback and the facilitation of constructive criticism. If this fails, Murray says, there’s always democracy. If there’s ever a creative hurdle which the group can’t overcome, it goes to a majority rules vote.

Murray makes it sound easy, but it’s as challenging as it is rewarding. Murray and the WotOpera team have worked with children with learning difficulties, discipline issues, extreme shyness and more. Murray’s only requirement is that the students have to be there of their own volition.

“It’s very much about surrounding them with an envelope of love and support. To show them that if they are putting whatever is inside them out there, that’s what matters.”

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