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Alyce Sherman realises dream of musical education with opening of International School of Music in Geraldton

Derek GoforthGeraldton Guardian
Alyce Sherman who last year opened Geraldton's International School of Music.
Camera IconAlyce Sherman who last year opened Geraldton's International School of Music. Credit: Derek Goforth

A harmonious dream of bringing the gift of music education to the Mid West has been orchestrated through the International School of Music.

Passionate musician and educator Alyce Sherman runs the school in the old Piper Lance premises, catering for students aged from two to adults.

Alyce Sherman who last year opened Geraldton's International School of Music.
Camera IconAlyce Sherman who last year opened Geraldton's International School of Music. Credit: Derek Goforth

Originally from Australind, Sherman’s musical journey started in her childhood home, where her older siblings regularly serenaded her with guitar and flute melodies. Influenced by her parents’ musical pursuits, Sherman was destined for a life steeped in a love of music.

Reflecting on her formative years, she fondly recalls evenings when her siblings played their instruments for her at bedtime.

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“Dad’s singing and Mum’s piano lessons painted the backdrop of my early years. I heard stories of how much Mum disliked her lessons and how boring it was. Turns out this was the norm for the ‘boomers’ and it’s a story I’ve heard many times over!” Sherman muses.

Despite her mother’s less-than-enthusiastic memories of music lessons, Sherman’s curiosity persisted and was nurtured by a remarkable primary school music teacher: a Canadian expatriate with an infectious passion for her craft.

“I had an amazing primary school music teacher who was actually trained as a phys ed teacher. She is Canadian and really passionate about what she did, which always carried through to her students,” she recalled.

“My schooling was amazing. Our school assemblies were transformed into musical extravaganzas and I vividly remember playing Tinkerbell in our funky mash-up of traditional fairy tales.”

Her primary school experience laid an even deeper foundation for a love of music, leading her to join the school’s instrumental music program, where she embraced the flute, following in the footsteps of her sister.

In her teenage years, Sherman’s parents presented her with the opportunity to choose her high school. Opting for the local public school, she found herself inspired by her teacher Mr Mac, the music teacher who transformed the school’s program into a renowned jazz haven.

Alyce Sherman from Geraldton's International School of Music.
Camera IconAlyce Sherman from Geraldton's International School of Music. Credit: Supplied

By the time Sherman reached Year 10, she felt a magnetic pull toward a more serious pursuit of music, earning a coveted spot at the WA Academy of Performing Arts (WAAPA).

“WAAPA, for a small regional town girl, was challenging. I encountered lots of big characters that were confronting to me. Moving two-and-a-half hours away from home at the ripe age of 17 didn’t help that,” she said.

“But I persevered through and walked away with a whole suite of skills and experiences that I am still thankful for.”

Despite the initial struggle, Sherman emerged with a rich tapestry of skills and experiences, solidifying her desire to pursue a career in music education.

She trained and worked as a teacher both for the Department of Education and for private schools but yearned for something more, a thing she could call her own, after spending eight years living and working in Geraldton.

Alyce Sherman from Geraldton's International School of Music.
Camera IconAlyce Sherman from Geraldton's International School of Music. Credit: Supplied

The turning point in Sherman’s journey was the decision to open a music school and she fulfilled that long-held dream when ISM Geraldton started operating at the start of the 2023 school year. Despite initial reservations about the stability of a small business, she saw an opportunity to share her passion with the people of Geraldton.

“I’ve always wanted my students to have the gift of music to take with them through life,” she said.

Sherman’s music school, part of the ISM network, focuses on a group music education program designed to make learning fun. The program, which is not a franchise, aligns with Sherman’s teaching philosophy, emphasising listening, learning by doing and reinforcing through reading.

“Ms Ros” (Ros Thrift), the founder of ISM, played a pivotal role as a mentor, offering unwavering support through the ups and downs. Sherman acknowledges the invaluable guidance received from business advisors at RSM Business Local, essential in navigating the intricacies of managing a small business.

Alyce Sherman from Geraldton's International School of Music.
Camera IconAlyce Sherman from Geraldton's International School of Music. Credit: Supplied

Despite the challenges of 2023, Sherman is excited about expanding her toddler classes this year. The Jitterbugs and Beebopper programs, tailored for two and three-year-olds, offer a unique and engaging introduction to the world of music. These programs lay the foundation for Pianorama, an immersive and holistic program designed for four-year-olds.

“My hope for children who go through the Pianorama program is that they have the option to be able to move on to any other instrument or continue on with music journey in any way they choose,” Sherman said.

ISM Geraldton now has more than 100 students and counting.

Alyce Sherman from Geraldton's International School of Music.
Camera IconAlyce Sherman from Geraldton's International School of Music. Credit: Supplied

Amid her role as the owner and sole teacher at ISM, Sherman, also known as “Little Miss” during her musical performances, continues to indulge in her passion for making music.

She plays at gigs occasionally, cherishing moments such as playing one of her compositions at her wedding.

Sherman aims to incorporate the piano into her songwriting and create a cover album of her favourite children’s songs with an Australian twist.

Plans are also under way to employ a second teacher within the next 12 months, expand offerings to include adult workshops and introduce a youth choir program.

Alyce Sherman from Geraldton's International School of Music.
Camera IconAlyce Sherman from Geraldton's International School of Music. Credit: Supplied

“I must admit, some of my reasons for opening the school were selfish ones. I wanted to guarantee that my future children would have the opportunity to receive what I believe to be a well-rounded music education,” Sherman said.

She encouraged parents to enrol their little ones in Jitterbugs and Beebopper classes, emphasising that music education is a gift that can be enjoyed at any age. Classes, including the youth choir, can be enrolled in online at ismgeraldton.com.au.

Sherman’s journey is not just about teaching music; it’s a symphony of passion, dedication and a lifelong commitment to sharing the transformative power of music with the community of Geraldton.

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