Singing sensations from Sale’s Araluen and Guthridge primary schools will be part of the choir for the annual 2023 Victorian State Schools Spectacular (VSSS) next month at John Cain Arena in Melbourne.

Nineteen participants from Araluen and two from Guthridge will join over 2000 Victorian students who are part of an eight-month creative journey.

This extraordinary undertaking will culminate in the state’s talent taking to the stage as circus artists, puppeteers, musicians, singers, dancers and skaters.

Other students will take on behind-the-scenes roles in stage management, lighting, sound, costumes, and production.

Grade 4 students Ruby Leuning and Erin Healy from Araluen Primary School participated in the Spectacular last year and told the Gippsland Times they were returning because they had such a positive experience.

“When the performance is put together, it looks really, really amazing,” Erin said, and Ruby agreed.

The students are part of the ‘massed choir’, a choir made up of students from government schools all over Victoria.

Ruby and Erin, both 10-year-old Taylor Swift fans, began rehearsing with the other students as soon as the music became available in April and May.

“(Last year) we practised in the music room a lot and went up to Melbourne some days,” Ruby said.

The students follow a video as part of their rehearsal with music teacher Roslyn Detering. Photo: Stefan Bradley

“And when the big day came, we stayed in Melbourne for three nights. We practised and did two shows.

“We got catered for all three days and drove up on the bus with Guthridge (Primary School).”

The whole show is about two-and-a-half hours, with Erin expecting the choir to sing for about 90 minutes. With the high pitch of the music, they’ve got plenty of singing practice to do.

“And then we’re going to focus on choreography,” Erin said.

This year’s show – Happy Travels – will follow an intrepid group of hapless tourists as they traverse the globe in a cavalcade of circus mayhem.

The audience will witness giant puppets and a dazzling circus fairground with aerialists, while the score will deliver music from the Pacific, Japan, Britain, Italy and Australia’s First Nations.

Circus performers are being trained by professional circus artists Dislocate Theatre and this year will also feature the First Nations Ensemble, who are working with leading First Nations circus company Na Djinang Circus.

Carefully curated through suggestions from the cast, the songs and music in this year’s show include, amongst a wide selection, Katy Perry’s ‘Firework’, ‘Age of Reason’ by John Farnham and ‘Sitting on Top of the World’ by Delta Goodrem, Calum Scott’s ‘Around the World’, ‘Waiting on the World to Change’ by John Mayer and Olivia Newton-John’s classic hit ‘Xanadu’.

Two massed choir rehearsals at Melbourne Town Hall take place in July and August before the group joins the rest of the cast and mass dancers at John Cain Arena in September for two days of rehearsals. Finally, the two big live shows will take place on Saturday, September 9.

Araluen chose to take participants from grades 3-6 (ages 8-12) as the challenge of long days in Melbourne and three days away can be too much for younger students. A secondary student who had previously participated in the Spectacular with Araluen in 2016 when she was in grade 3 is also joining the choir.

Roslyn Detering is the music teacher at Araluen and coordinator of the school’s participation in the Spectacular.

“The Victorian State School Spectacular is an amazing opportunity for students from all backgrounds to participate in a professional performance in a professional arena,” Mrs Detering says.

It opens up a world of possibilities for students to both participate in and see what is possible for them in the world of the performing arts.

“For some students, it will be an experience they will remember for years to come; for others, it might be the stepping stone to other musical interests or even future careers.

“I participated in my first Spectacular in 2008 when I was teaching at three different schools and loved every minute of it, so much so that I still come back again and again.”

Mrs Detering’s daughter was in the 2008 group and has now participated as a choir student, as a member of the orchestra and also as a staff member who continues to share her passion with even more students.

Commending everyone who contributed to the massive undertaking, Mrs Detering said that while she takes a lead role in training the students, it truly was a team effort with her fellow teachers and the Performing Arts Unit.

“It takes extra effort to organise these kinds of activities and get our students to Melbourne, but I have had lots of support along the way from other staff I work with, the parents who help fundraise and cater for our weekend away, to the bus driver that puts up with our singing and ensures we get where we need to go on time,” she said.

Mrs Detering says the excitement continues to build as the Melbourne rehearsals near.

“I love watching the look on the students’ faces as we enter the arena for the first time,” she said.

“This is only surpassed by the excitement when the audience comes in, complete with families, and the show finally begins.

“The students are practising all the normal skills of singing such as breathing, pitch, expression, clarity of words, et cetera, but they are also learning to be part of a team, to listen carefully, follow the choral conductor’s directions, to sing in parts, and to be part of something bigger.

“We learn to sing in different languages, we have choreography to accompany some songs, and we learn what it means to perform for a live audience.”

Mrs Detering said there is still time to get involved in the 2024 Victorian State Schools Spectacular (VSSS).

Practising choreography at the Araluen Primary School music room after school. Photo: Stefan Bradley

“Students from regional areas deserve the same opportunities as metropolitan students, and who knows, we might even discover the next Vanessa Amorosi or Harrison Craig from our own local area,” she said.

The VSSS is a tradition in government schools and offers students the opportunity to take part in this performing arts showcase, performing to thousands of people and later broadcast on television.

The 2000 students are made up of Principal Vocalists, Principal Dancers, Backing Vocalists, Victorian State Schools Choir, a 51-piece orchestra, 1100 mass dance students and 960 in the mass choir.

Since its inception in 1995, the Victorian State Schools Spectacular has been helping students to get hands-on training and mentoring both on stage as singers, dancers and performers and behind the scenes in audio, lighting, video production, stage management, costume, and hair and make-up.

The Spectacular will be performed twice on September 9 and broadcast at a later date, with tickets on sale now at

Spectacular in 2019.