Parkes Hosts Orchestra Rehearsals for Overture Concert with Young Central West Musicians | Keeper Cowra


Parkes has never seen anything quite like Overture.

If you think this is just a regular performance by a few headliners, think again.

It’s as much about giving regional musicians and singers – whether kids or adults – a chance to shine and show that amazing music exists outside of the cities, as it does from Lucy and Josh.

The duo will be joined by Louis Johnson of Cowra on drums and Kayla Hall on clarinet.

They will also be supported by Billie Palen (Dubbo) and Jarrod Draper (Orange), while high school students Henry Best (Grenfell) and Holly Hare (Bathurst) and local Parkes Christian School students Amy Ross and Lexi Harden will also receive both – a unique chance to play with Lucy and Josh.

One of Australia’s most esteemed performers and composers, the effervescent Nicholas Gentile, will act as musical director and, coming into April, will coach the singers’ backing orchestra, made up entirely of children under 18 from the Central West.

Jessica is the director of UpStage Australia, a non-profit organization that seeks to connect young metropolitan and regional artists, and she says the event will be life-changing for the children involved.

“The concert is the youth orchestra supported by a professional orchestra,” she explained.

“We have three professional musicians who come from Sydney to not only play in the event, but also to mentor the kids.

“Having these pros with the young kids will really make it sound epic, and it will be as good as anything you’ll see in Sydney,” Jessica said.

UpStage have partnered with Parkes Shire Council to deliver the gig, but most importantly for Jessica and co-producer Harriet Snaith is that talented local musicians will have the chance to work with the best of the best.

“These professionals are the best musicians in the country, who Nick works with regularly…and they’re more easily accessible right now with few gigs due to COVID,” Jessica said.

“They were all chosen because of their way of working with children and their history of mentorship.

“For example, Louis Johnson (drum kit, pictured in the video) is in the back room practicing his jazz. He’s never played jazz before, but he’ll be able to sit next to Sam Evans, who is one of Australia’s best drummers, and learning to play jazz with him and playing alongside him.

“The kids are all so excited, they’ve all googled the artists and are really excited to work with them,” Jessica said.

When you talk to Jessica, a bubbly, genuine, enthusiastic person you might never meet, you get the sense that giving opportunities to young local musicians is one of the things she’s most passionate about, and she says that it’s not just about participation, but actually about elite performance.

“We kind of went into that, it’s a big gig, yeah, and hopefully we can produce something amazing for the Parkes community,” she said.

“But what we really want to do is give opportunities to these kids… let’s get something specifically designed for local kids that doesn’t make the music sound stupid and push them.

“They got these 15 songs two weeks ago and it’s expected to be the standard of a professional orchestra…we really had to choose kids who we know will take the pressure and not feel not exceeded.

“Nick and I made all these little videos for every part of every song, so it’s bigger than Ben Hur this performance,” Jessica laughed.

Sadly, as many regional residents know and attest, the opportunities never seem to be equal for city and country kids, but it’s something Upstage Australia is looking to bridge the gap on.

“Children in Sydney from a young age can see that they can be part of something much bigger as musicians, and that’s the part kids here don’t often see,” said Jessica, who is of course a proud peasant herself.

“We did 85 zoom workshops between musicians from Sydney and regional musicians during the lockdown from my flat.

“What we want UpStage to work towards is free, consistent opportunities because in country kids music, unlike sports, there is no ladder you can climb.

“You can do Eisteddfods here and there and make a little money, but even they die and don’t get you anywhere.

“Basically you can’t build something here unless you have a teacher to really nudge you and point you in the right direction – but they’re rare… so that’s where we want UpStage to step in “, said Jessica.


  • Violin – Orlando Bulmer (Bathurst), Stephanie Wong (Orange), Skye Elder (Dubbo), Larissa Elder (Dubbo), Caitlin Elder (Dubbo), Ruby Williams (Dubbo), Alexis Pfeiffer (Dubbo) and Isabel Wong (Orange)
  • Viola – Carmel Kelly (Trundle)
  • Cello – Reuben Ian Kelly (Trundle)
  • Clarinet – Phoebe Wong (Orange) and Kayla Hall (Cowra)
  • Flute – Eloise Milne (Orange) and Sophie McGrath (Parkes)
  • Saxophone – Anabelle van Wyk (Orange and Parkes)
  • Trumpet – Naomi Wright (Orange)
  • Drums – Louis Johnson (Cowra)
  • Piano – Joseph Tanswell (Parkes)

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