Port Fairy Spring Music festival is expanding its connection to the south-west region through the weekend's Autumn Gala and plans to establish workshops and mentoring programs to help budding classical musicians.
Port Fairy's Reardon Theatre will come alive on Friday and Saturday with renowned musical theatre actor and Phantom of the Opera star Josh Piterman.
Festival co-artistic director Monica Curro said the committee was contacted by Piterman for a collaboration because the artist had been staying at his family's Port Fairy holiday home for the past 15 years.
"Josh is lovely to the core," she said. "Part of Sunday's show will feature a young male choir from the five south-west shires, that was Josh's idea.
"He needn't be like this but he really wants to be a role model and mentor to young musicians.
"He wanted to do duets with local singers and so he's doing singing with locals artists Leah Oswin and Anna-Lee Robertson.
"I'm really looking forward to the performance."
Curro said she was "desperate" to move to the south-west after falling in love with the region since being part of the Port Fairy Spring Music Festival.
A violinist for the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra, Curro has been a teacher for 30 years and sees a gap in musical education in regional Australian areas.
"Leah Oswin is ridiculously good and she has 70 students, that's an indication of how people in this region are massively talented but are under-resourced," Curro said.
"(Co-artistic director Stefan Cassomenos) and I have the resources and we're committed to bringing them here."
The Autumn Gala is the first step for the Port Fairy Spring Music Festival to move outside their regular calendar event and Curro and Cassomenos have been travelling monthly to schools in Hamilton and Warrnambool for workshops.
Curro has also begun Music with Moxie which aims to allow a performance space in Warrnambool's Toad Hall and workshop with south-west artists.
"The way we sit, the community in Port Fairy has hosted our festival for 31 years. We looked at the landscape and the people and thought 'how we can have a more meaningful relationship with the community and bring our skills here?'
"This is just part of us shifting our focus from three days in October to a year-round presence.
"It's a really exciting event and the Autumn Gala is definitely something we'll continue in future and we'll see how else we can broaden."
Port Fairy Spring Music Festival will welcome Josh Piterman to the Autumn Gala at the Reardon Theatre on April 30 and May 1. The annual Port Fairy Spring Music Festival will take place October 15-17. For further information and to book tickets visit portfairyspringfest.com.au
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