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APATA Member Spotlight: Eva Spata, Sydney Catholic Schools

Posted by Team APATA | May 16, 2022

Those early music or dancing lessons, or speech and drama classes in high school are often where we meet those first teachers that influence and inspire that little spark of something special.

You know that spark! It’s the one that leads you down that creative pathway, akin to Dorothy’s yellow brick road. No matter where your path takes you, you end up right where you belong.

Last month APATA Ambassador Angela Loh, Managing Producer for Camerata – Queensland’s Chamber Orchestra, spoke with Eva about her journey in performing arts leading to her current role at Sydney Catholic Schools.

Where did it all begin for Eva in the performing arts 

Eva Spata’s early days of dance school and recitals led to trying out piano lessons, guitar lessons and then singing. When her teacher noticed her talent and potential her passion for singing, and music flourished and sparked an everlasting flame.

Growing up in Sydney’s Western suburbs Eva and her sister followed in their father’s musical footsteps, he is a drummer, and were encouraged to find an outlet for their creative energy.

While Eva’s opera singing sister has followed the artist’s path, Eva was inspired by the teachers whose leadership and support for the arts left a lasting impression.

From a Country music, singing teacher who taught Eva how to interpret a song and make it her own, to another who helped her master the art of leading a successful Floorshow at fifteen.

“I had to speak to adults. I had to brief a band on how to deliver my music, so in that way I had to understand the charts. I had to know how to thread a show together and what to say in-between songs. I used to get so nervous…but she taught me how to thread the songs together and tell a story through a show.”

That’s right, fifteen year old Eva basically producing her own show!

Other influential teachers such as former Cerdon College Merrylands’ Musical Director Aeronfa Haydon showed Eva that creating performance opportunities for students can affect their schooling experience significantly.

“What I loved about her were the opportunities she gave us. She never said no. If something came through, she would say, are you interested in this? Would you like to go and perform there? Would you like to represent our school here? Or she would create opportunities at the school for all the students to perform, so I really admired her for that.”

Eva earned a Bachelor of Music Bachelor of Education from the University of New South Wales, a Master’s in Educational Leadership and is a passionate advocate for the Creative & Performing Arts within schools and beyond.

She is the CSNSW representative for the National Arts Committee for ACARA (Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority), an HSC Music Practical Marker for NESA (NSW Education Standards Authority), as well as a member of cross-sectoral CaPA groups who contribute valuable discussion for the formation of the new curriculum.

Eva has taught music and drama in many diocese during her career and has led dynamic CaPA faculties to grow and develop young performers to become valuable contributors to the professional performing arts industry.

In her own right, Eva is a versatile performer, whose credits include jazz, musical theatre, opera, cabaret, television, and radio. Eva is the Executive Producer and Lead Alto for Fusion Vocal Group, who have performed both nationally and internationally for over thirteen years.

Eva is also an experienced Producer, Director and Musical Director, with credits including Disney’s High School Musical, Grease, Oklahoma, Back to the 80’s, Bye Bye Birdie and a musical theatre performance at Disneyland, Anaheim LA. Her student vocal ensembles have won many awards including 1st place (2015, 2017) in Vocal Australia’s AusAca National A Cappella Championships in Melbourne.

Sydney Catholic Schools Investing in Creative and Performing Arts Education

At Sydney Catholic Schools Eva supervises a dynamic team of educational officers working in strategic direction and implementation for creative and performing arts across their vast network of 150 schools.

The team works to incorporate performance ensembles, workshops, touring ensembles, the Goodjarga Program for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students, and more that add value to existing school-based programs in the system.

2021 welcomed the roll out of the Amadeus Music Education Program. (Download the brochure HERE) One of the biggest, most comprehensive, and ambitious investments in quality music education ever undertaken in Sydney’s Catholic schools providing students with orchestral instruments, as well as classroom and ensemble music lessons led by specialist teachers.

The numbers are impressive – 80 classroom music teachers, 150 schools, 270 specialist music teachers, 33,000 students and 52,000 instruments!

“We believe music is not a privilege, it should be for everyone. We believe in the benefits of the whole child and all their learning.” says Eva.

Danielle Fuller and Jacinta Adamson are leading Amadeus at the moment and Eva says they did a fabulous job during last year’s lockdowns to make online learning work regardless of the limitations due to the NSW lockdowns.

Performance opportunities abound at Sydney Catholic Schools

Tutors and their student groups continued, and the 40 member cast of Fame Jr the Musical, from 25 schools within the system, showed up for every online rehearsal, even when there was no end in sight.

Sydney Catholic Schools also managed to hold their very first Sydney Catholic Schools Eisteddfod, before the closures and in such tumultuous times the effect of the performances on not only the students but the teaching teams and families was a welcome celebration.

The introduction of a full-time performing arts stream at the newly dedicated performing arts college at Southern Cross Catholic College, Burwood was another undertaking Eva and the Arts Team oversaw.

“The students come out of the school with an HSC/ATAR and a Certificate III in Musical Theatre (community dance, theatre, and events) or there’s also entertainment industry, music industry, a photographic and digital imaging course, and we’re starting up Assistant Dance Teaching.”

“The students love it because they spend a block of 2-3 hours each week in the VET course and that’s the highlight. They absolutely love doing it and they get the industry experience too. So, it’s quite unique and just watching those students grow is incredible.” says Eva.

When developing ideas for growing performing arts at Sydney Catholic Schools the big question Eva and the team return to is: ‘What did we want when we were at school?’

Maybe that’s why the massive School of Rock Arena Spectacular, to be held at Qudos Bank Arena later this year has 4,000 student participants. We sure would have wanted to be in that kind of show when we were at school too.

Keeping that performance spark lit!

It’s not all work and no play for Eva of course.

Encouraged by her sister, Eva’s passion for singing, performance and producing is continually revitalised by their work with Fusion Vocal Group.

“I had been focusing on my teaching so much up until that point and so that gave me a new energy. I would definitely say she’s one of my greatest influences because she helped me reignite that passion all those years ago and we’re still working together.”

Performer, Producer, Director, Musical Director, and Educator, Eva feels she is extremely lucky to be able to draw on the inspirational women and teachers in her life to motivate her work with Sydney Catholic Schools.

Eva’s big dream for performing arts education.

We love to push the envelope and ask for more. So, what is Eva’s big dream for performing arts education?

“My big dream would be for the whole of society – the community, parents, students, everybody within a school community to believe in the value of the arts and arts education. And value it as much as literacy and numeracy and everything else because it actually is as important as those things.”

“My dream is that everybody would understand why the arts is important to every child. You don’t have to be the best musician, or the best performer, or artist to have the benefits of the arts in your education and development. That everyone in society would understand the value so we’re not just appealing to those who already love it.”

Thank you APATA members Sydney Catholic Schools and Eva Spata for your dedication to performing arts education!

For the full transcript of Eva’s podcast please head to the APATA podcast page: HERE

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