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  • ACCESS ALL AREAS - Music is the food of life for Mark and Jane

ACCESS ALL AREAS - Music is the food of life for Mark and Jane

  • 10 March 2023

For Mark Jackson and Jane Jelbart, music is much more than a collection of notes, rhythm and melody.

It has an undeniable power to bring communities together.

For the past 13 years, Mark and Jane have been the driving force behind The Sum of the Parts - a Newcastle-based community music organisation aimed at getting people of all ages and skill levels to engage with playing music through its Ukestras or Ukulele Orchestras.

In 2017, Mark and Jane also launched the hugely popular One Song Sing concept - a community choir that gathers, once a month, to learn one song, in three part harmony, in just one hour!

Mark said he started Sum of The Parts after moving back to Newcastle and seeing a stark lack of grassroots community music organisations.

“I used to live in Victoria and community music has always been really strong down there,” he explained.

“When I moved to Newcastle in 2007. I was working in mental health but looking to get out of that and do something more community music oriented and when I started doing ukulele, it really just took off.”

Mark added that he started off with just one small group of burgeoning uke players and before long, demand saw the addition of six weekly orchestras, giving adults and children alike across the region the chance to make music and learn together.

“It’s all about bringing community together and teaching people how to play music,” Jane said.

“The Ukestras are a third place - a place that isn’t home or work, but a place for people to go and connect with others.  The ukeulele facilitates it but it is actually about forming connections and friendships in a neutral space.

It’s about putting music back into people’s hands. People are playing and learning music and being part of a big mob of people who are creating a wonderful sound together.”

Both Mark and Jane agree while the joy of playing music with others is a pretty hard habit to break, it was seeing connections form and friendships cemented within the Ukestras that have kept them both so passionate.

“Community music is about those relationships you build up with people,” Jane said.

“We take great pride in seeing friendship grow and blossom - they’re real.”

Mark added: “We also derive a great deal of joy from teaching beginners -  everybody who comes along is equally a blank slate - from uni professors to the guy who empties the septic tank - it's a great equalizer being in a beginner role.

“Also the important thing about music in our life is that it's a key vehicle for us to express our joy, our happiness, and our grief.”

For more information on the Sum of The Parts, head here.


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