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Community Music Victoria came into existence in 1994 to promote grass roots, community music making


CMVic was established as a not-for-profit membership-based association to support, promote and facilitate music-making among Victorian communities.


VicHealth invited CMVic to host its ongoing support of a community singing leadership program which was being developed and implemented by Fay White and Anne-Marie Holley.

By this time, Fay had been leading ‘Vocal Nosh’ sessions for several years in Newstead. These ‘free and fearless’ regular, yet one-off singing/eating events were open to all comers.

After attending a Vocal Nosh, Anne-Marie saw the community benefit that could come from regular group singing activities and with Fay developed a model for the training and ongoing support of leadership teams across Victoria. VicHealth recognised their fantastic idea as having the potential, if put into practice, to significantly enhance the wellbeing of Victorian communities.  This began what amounted to a commitment of nearly half a million dollars to the program by VicHealth.

The Victoria Sings program was born, people loved it and locally led groups of this type began to emerge across the state.


Mid 2007 CMVic was given a boost with the 12 month appointment of five Catalysts and a Co-ordinator, funded with money from the Community Support Fund (Department of Victorian Communities as was) with Activities support from Community Partnerships. (Australia Council)

The responsibilities of the Catalysts were:

  • Detailed Mapping of singing and music making opportunities in their regions
  • To increase group music making opportunities in each region on an ongoing basis
  • To establish the groundwork for an independent and ongoing network of community music-makers in each region
  • To establish connections between group music-making and community development projects in each region
  • To increase the group music-making opportunities for children and youth


Mid 2008: The catalysts were able to achieve all of their goals to varying degrees. The most obvious results were establishing the groundwork for locally based, independent and ongoing networks of community music-makers across the state and laying the foundations for the expansion of this community based music making to the next stage. (In 2013 the 07/08 fieldwork is still bearing considerable fruit as the singing networks that were established then have reached a new maturity and supported the subsequent stages of our work.)

Meanwhile our sources of public funding began to evaporate for a variety of reasons related to funders’ policies and we were unable to replace them. It became clear that we would need to embark on emergency fundraising to make it through to the end of 2008 at our then current staffing level. $11,000 was raised almost overnight from our constituents following an appeal for support which bought our Board of Management the time it needed to thoroughly review the organisation and plan a way forward with minimal or even no public funding.

Oct 2008, the CMVic Board adopted a new volunteer-driven organisational structure, designed by experienced volunteer co-ordinator and long time board member Jane Coker. The rationale for this, although driven by diminishing funds, had its roots in a desire for CMVic’s structure to more fully represent its values: a decentralised model, and state-wide participation and ownership of the organisation by many people at all skill levels.  The two full time staff members were replaced by a very part time Volunteer Co-ordinator and an equally part time Administration Co-ordinator. By the end of that year 45 volunteers and a Board of Management were driving the organisation with an unprecedented sense of ownership.


The volunteer model was trialled and refined. With the input of 45 volunteers the organisation efficiently fulfilled all its financial, administrative, communications and reporting functions as well as embarking on several creative partnerships, presenting a number of skills workshops and peer gathering events and developing a three year strategic plan.

2010 to 2012

We were successful in our bid for three-year Arts Victoria funding, largely because Arts Victoria was interested in observing the progress of the volunteer-driven model. Their confidence, and our plan, paid off, and 2010–12 saw steady increases in financial support and program delivery. The key development in this period was the first stage of our ‘Victoria Makes Music’ program. Using the experience and credibility we had gained through the Victoria Sings program we were successful in gaining two year funding from the Helen MacPherson Smith Trust and The Ian Potter Foundation. This enabled us to mount pilot projects designed to increase participation in instrumental music making (using ukuleles, marimbas, strum club models, etc.), particularly in the North West of the State, and to create a state-wide map of instrumental music making opportunities. Our intention in piloting an instrumental program was to test the idea that inclusive instrumental music making opportunities would extend participation in music making to include more men and younger people (given that singing appeals mainly to women over 40). Indications are good: At the time of writing we are in the evaluation stage of this pilot project and are confident that the outcomes will provide an extremely convincing case for funding for a full-blown instrumental music participation program and thus support our goal of diversification into our target demographics.

2001 to 2013 summary

A period of considerable activity with the achievement of:

  • Release of two repertoire CDs and books
  • Successful fund raising with crucial ongoing support from Creative Victoria
  • Support of Dr Rob Moodie when he was head of VicHealth 
  • Growing identity, confidence and cohesion of the networks of group music-making activists supported by CMVic
  • Many more people making music together
  • Review and restructure of the organisation
  • Establishment, long term success and international recognition of Victoria Sings - our community singing development program
  • Piloting of Victoria Makes Music – our instrumental community music making program

Our work has been supported throughout by the extensive use of our two popular repertoire CDs/books – Short Stuff and Victoria Sings, the dedicated commitment of a huge number of volunteers, the support of Dr Rob Moodie (VicHealth), and amazing responses to our requests for donations from our supporters. But the things that warm our hearts most are not the incendiary moments, but the slow burn.

There are many more people making music together than when we started and most warming has been the growing identity, confidence and cohesion of the networks of group music-making activists that our efforts help to support.  It has not been that we’ve attracted enthusiasts to a banner; it’s that there are many who are passionate about the power of music making to strengthen communities and who believe in their own ways, as we do, that ‘we can all make music’.  As we discover each other, so our confidence grows.

Our work over the next three years will focus on ensuring that our organisational capacity is increased to enable us to continue supporting the continued growth of these initiatives and the sustainability of our model, and to further broaden the reach of the movement.


We were successful in our bid for 3 years funding from Creative Victoria who granted us $60,000 per year for 2014-16 under their new Organisations Investment Program. The strategic plan we created which enabled this bid to succeed was formed around a principle objective which is to position ourselves to be able to diversify participation in music making. We aim to achieve this objective using three key strategies to:

  1. increase our visibility as an organisation
  2. become more financially sustainable by further diversifying our income sources and
  3. improve our organisational co-ordination.