VAMPtv online music program showcasing the talents of remote Indigenous students from the Northwest Territories

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Every fortnight, a small team of producers meet in a cramped music studio in Darwin.

Inside, they film episodes for the popular online music show known as VAMPtv, or Video, Arts, Music, Production Television.

Now in its 12th season, the program provides a platform for Indigenous students from all regional and remote communities in the Northern Territory to showcase their musical talents.

One of them is Alvin Manfong from Mulga Bore.

The 17-year-old and his group come from the small, isolated community of Mulga Bore, about 140 kilometers northeast of Alice Springs.

Taking inspiration from iconic American rock band Kiss, the band won the Alice Springs heat of the “Battle of the School Bands” final last month.

Alvin said he dreams of making it big on the world stage.

“[I want to] tour with the band, make albums [and] get more costumes,” he said.

Mulga Bore singer Alvin Manfong admires Paul Stanley of Kiss.(ABC News: Samantha Jonscher)

“Amplifying Black Excellence”

Elementary school teacher Courtney Bailey joined VAMPtv as lead host shortly after the show launched in 2011.

“There are so many talented kids out there who can play music,” she said.

“Children see other children from all over the territory [on VAMPtv] …they might recognize the family and say, ‘I think I might try.’

two teachers wearing purple t-shirts in front of a green screen
Courtney Bailey and actor Baykali Ganambarr filming an episode of VAMPtv.(ABC News: Hamish Harty)

Students write and record their own songs and music videos, which are then submitted to NT Music School producers, before being featured on the show.

Episodes can then be viewed online.

VAMPtv creative director Todd Williams says the idea was originally conceived by former NT Music School principal Andy Mison with the aim of boosting student engagement at regional and remote schools in a context of chronically low attendance rates.

“Music has a wonderful way of working and developing the brain and making learning more enjoyable and engaging.”

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Program offering pathways to the music industry

The program is funded by the Northern Territories Department of Education and reaches over 120 remote schools in the Northern Territory.

“[VAMPtv] helps to ensure that the school is a place where these students are valued for who they are and the talents they bring,” said NT Music School Liaison Rodney Balaam.

a teacher wearing glasses
Mr. Balaam says VAMPtv helps students find their voice. (ABC News: Hamish Harty)

The program also aims to provide students with pathways to a career in music.

Mr Williams said King Stingray frontman Yirrnga Yunupingu was the show’s “poster boy” in its formative years.

“[Since] meeting him for the first time [Yirrnga] in 2011, when he was 15, we saw him develop with all the different bands he’s been in,” Williams said.

“We’ve seen him grow and blossom into the amazing young man he is now.”

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