The Tutti Ensemble

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What is Tutti?

The Tutti Ensemble is a recognised leader in community cultural development and disability culture in South Australia. A secular, committed and largely volunteer arts community based at the Minda Campus at Brighton (Adelaide), Tutti has evolved in response to an identified need to:

  1. Express one's self creatively through music and singing.
  2. Belong to something meaningful in our increasingly fractured, time-poor society.

In the last few years Tutti's reputation has spread beyond Australia. These days we are increasingly recognised as an international model of artistic excellence and social inclusion. Our most recent performance - Northern Lights, Southern Cross - script by legendary US storyteller Kevin Kling with music composed by Pat Rix - was a collaboration with the US-based Interact Center Minneapolis. NLSC, as it became known, sold out and was seen by over 4,000 people in one week. It is scheduled for a major production at the Walker Center in Minneapolis in late 2008.


What We Are Currently Doing

Our common purpose is to enable marginalised people to contribute to the creation and performance of high-quality music and music-theatre work which challenges preconceived attitudes towards difference and disability. We have achieved this over the years through nurturing relationships with professional artists and companies. Tutti's concerts and large-scale music-theatre works are legendary in Adelaide, regional South Australia and increasingly in the US, Canada and UK.

From its small beginnings in 1997 as a singing group of nine Minda residents with moderate to severe intellectual disabilities and a support worker, Tutti has grown into a multi-layered arts organisation with well over one hundred people. It offers four entry points:

  1. The original Tutti Choir – a performing choir and band with up to 75 participants over half of whom identify with disability.
  2. Club Tutti – a non-performance based training choir with up to 30 participants most of whom have a disability.
  3. Tutti Arts – a work program in partnership with Minda Inc for talented school leavers with a disability in the performing and visual arts – currently numbering 17 and growing.
  4. Tutti Kids – an after school music program for groups of up to ten primary school age children with disability, their siblings and interested parents.


In addition Tutti continues to build regional connections through the Clare and Barossa Big Country Choir groups established in 2003 and the newly formed Inkpot Community Choir in the Adelaide Hills. The ongoing involvement of Tutti members with and without a disability as community role model mentors is proving very valuable to the regional groups. A similar model has worked well at the Northfield Women's Prison in Adelaide and as a result some of the ex-prisoners have joined the Tutti choir after release.

The large Tutti Choir traditionally includes full-time, part-time and semi-retired workers from the wider community, of whom many have been with the choir for over five years. On one hand we have professional people representing education, engineering, law, environmental science, communications, health, social sciences and the private sector and on the other hand marginalised people living with intellectual and physical disabilities; parents and siblings of young people with disabilities; people with chronic illness and mental health concerns; aged pensioners; sole parents with children at primary and high school. The whole represents an extraordinary cross-section of society and the age range is three to eighty-two years. To our knowledge this is unique.


Our Plans for the Next 6 Years

Our artistic program for the next six years will ensure our contribution to the development of community music and culture over a sustained period. We want to:

  1. Broaden Tutti’s skill base, especially in the areas of digital animation and music.
  2. Extend our capacity to create high quality smaller scale works for touring.
  3. Extend our capacity for community building in regional SA through increasing the participation of disabled or other marginalised people in the Big Country Choir.
  4. Enhance our reputation for high quality, socially relevant music-theatre nationally and internationally.
  5. Continue to build awareness and acceptance of people with disabilities.
  6. Support the development of understanding that having an intellectual disability need not mean lack of a ‘voice’.

Essentially, we intend to deepen and broaden the productive bridging role we have played in disability and mainstream arts sectors for the last 10 years. We will do this by partnering with wider community arts sector and our new partner Opera SA (SOSA) to produce a major and minor event and/or production each year. We will also continue our ongoing inclusive weekly choral and music skills development workshops within the metropolitan community and regional SA. This will further raise our profile and affirm our position as a leader in artistic excellence and social inclusion.

In addition, we intend to double our full-time Tutti Arts program to 30 young artists with a disability and work towards facilitating their community and mainstage career opportunities. To this latter end we have established a partnership with the State Opera Young Artists Program (Operatu) which will ensure the ongoing high quality production values our work deserves. Discussions with Stephen Phillips of SOSA about formalising the relationships that have evolved between SOSA's Young Artists and Tutti are well advanced. Both organisations are outstanding leaders in their fields and well positioned to engage disability and other culturally marginalised populations in vibrant choral and music-theatre workshops with emerging professional singers and musicians. The aim of this partnership is to create pathways to professionalism for young singers and directors with and without a disability. Skills development workshops are planned for 2008 leading to the development of a production in 2009, followed by two more major productions over the next four years. The workshops will employ emerging professionals with SOSA as tutors.

We intend to establish an annual Tutti Summer School. This builds on Tutti's commitment to increasing community participation locally and will offer a three day visual and performing arts workshop program which will culminate in a lantern parade and sunset ceremony on the Minda campus. Workshops will include drum-making as well as drumming and percussion workshops, clowning, slapstick, vocal technique and a-capella singing, movement for music-theatre, animation, sound design and editing.


Author

Pat Rix. Last updated 9 August 2007.

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