Ten years ago Lizzy Rutten was working as a surgery theatre technician in her home city of Canberra. Life changed for the thirty four year old musician when she first came to the Kimberley for a visit in 2009. She would return a further three times, staying for a longer period each time.
“This place has just kept pulling me back…and with different excuses”.
Ms. Rutten, who hails from a musical family, wrote her first song at the age of eight. Today, the drummer cum guitarist lives in Wyndham where she teaches local young people music, as well as how to record and produce their own music.
“Playing music as a kid played a big role in my life. It helped me build my confidence, enhance my self-esteem…this is something I feel like I have been able to share with the kids we’ve worked with.”
As a former Dental assistant in Warmun, Ms Rutten would informally teach local kids how to play the drums after work. She would return to Canberra and join a few members of her Canberra based band “The Son of Rut” to create “Grow the music.” The innovative music education program that would be praised by institutions across the country including the Australian Human Rights Commission, took to the road supported largely by grass root community fundraising initiatives as well as generous sponsorship by Canberra Toyota.
What was initially supposed to only be a five week project in one community in the East Kimberley, Ms Rutten’s program ‘Grow the music’ has travelled, by invitation, to five others communities over almost two years including Balgo, Bililuna, Doon Doon and Wyndham.
“It all happened so quickly. One minute we were sitting in the Canberra winter planning this adventure, the next, we have been traveling from one remote community to the next, leaving instruments in our wake…and hopefully a few emerging musicians.”
The program has left a wider impact on the broader community with local Police in Wyndham writing letters of support for the program, acknowledging a reduction in the crime rate of young offenders and school Principals observing an increased school participation rate.
“I strongly believe that music is a medium through which we can make a real and lasting difference…if we want it to.”
Ms. Rutten’s feels that one of the highlights of her time as a music educator in the Kimberley has been revisiting communities where she has previously completed programs.
“When we visited Balgo the second time, we were able to see some of the kids we had worked with playing with the instruments we had taught them to play.”
“It’s overwhelming to see these kids doing what it took me years to learn, in less than a year. They are truly talented, and I am grateful to have been a part of their journey.”