School of Hard Knocks

Our Vision

To empower disadvantaged Australians through pre-eminent arts education.

Our Mission'

We do this by:
• Partnering with leaders in government, the arts, education, health, corporate, welfare and philanthropic sectors
• Providing training to professional and volunteer artists and educators to work with disadvantaged students
• Delivering tailored arts and cultural programs.
• Providing performance opportunities
• Inspiring and engaging our audiences
• Changing community perceptions of disadvantaged Australians
• Creating pathways to wellbeing, education and employment.

Background In 2006, Dr Jonathon Welch unveiled the ‘Choir Of Hard Knocks’ to a national audience. This highly innovative social inclusion initiative featured on ABC television. Around the world street choirs have formed, emulating this engaging model for re-connecting isolated members of their communities.

The Model The Choir model comprises a high level, visionary teacher, an iconic space to call home, (the Choir is the ‘Choir in Residence’ at Federation Square) collaborations with professional artists, the opportunity to perform to significant audiences and continuity over time. It also involves a highly innovative method of teaching to reach and engage a challenging and diverse group of participants.

From this strong foundation, we are building the School of Hard Knocks.
The School brings together the worlds of the arts, health, education and welfare, volunteers, the corporate sector and key venue management. The SchooI engages the leaders (‘exemplars’) from the arts, culture and well-being sectors. It involves teachers and artists who wish to volunteer their services. It utilises spaces and facilities that are respected or iconic.

It provides education, engagement and respect to Australians experiencing homelessness, disadvantage, long-term unemployment, risk of re-offence, mental health conditions or disability. To this we add opportunities for public performance and exhibition, and for long term engagement.

The School is a virtual institute, based in a small office in Southbank. It utilizes, at no cost, leading public and private facilities. Our Melbourne classrooms include the MCG, Deakin Edge at Federation Square, the Opera Centre, Boyd Community Hub, Victoria University, Box Hill Institute and various corporate boardrooms.

In partnership with Opera Australia, the School launched the OA Community Choirs Program in Victoria. New choirs have been formed in Brimbank, Casey and La Trobe cities. They came together in a 400 voice choir at Mazda Opera in the Bowl on 23rd November at the Myer Music Bowl.

Our Programs

Dr Jonathon Welch AM, our Founding Artistic Director, is seen as a pioneer and leading innovator of community and ‘street’ choir programs around the world. Jonathon and the School of Hard Knocks team has tailored unique and inclusive ‘Absolutely Everybody’ choir programs and partnerships that appeal to singers of all ages and abilities.

From choirs that rehearse regularly each week to our ‘project choirs’, there are always lots of exciting performing opportunities to sing all genres of music and work with the finest conductors, musicians and artists from around the world!

Absolutely Everybody Choir – Brisbane
Absolutely Everybody Choir – Port Macquarie
All Together Choir – Pakenham
Choir of Opportunity – Victoria University
City of Casey Community Choir
Hallelujah Gospel Chorus
Latrobe Valley Community Choir
Men Aloud
Only Women Aloud
Voices Without Borders
Voices of Frankston
Voices of Brimbank
Western Health Community Choir

In addition to our extensive choral program, the School also has an amazing range of exciting and innovative arts and cultural programs on offer. From creative writing, instrument, music theatre and opera we have something to really stimulate your creativity, develop your hidden talents and help build your confidence!

African Drumming & percussion
Hands On – pottery
Keys to Happiness – piano
Rhythm of Life – music theatre
StreetBeat – basketball percussion
StreetWise Opera (UK)
Ukelear Power – ukulele
Word on the Street – creative writing

For more information about the School of Hard Knocks go to: