Gig Seeker Pro


Geelong, Victoria, Australia | Established. Jan 01, 2014 | SELF

Geelong, Victoria, Australia | SELF
Established on Jan, 2014
Band R&B Soul




"Heart, Love and Talent"

Sweethearts are a unique soul fusion band of thirty schoolgirls and the only school-based band that operates exclusively in professional settings. They are based at Matthew Flinders College in Geelong, and are constantly in demand to appear at festivals and corporate events. The girls have received accolades in international tours, recorded 9 CDs and have featured a documentary television series programming on ABC3 called “Heart and Soul”

The thirty-piece schoolgirl band from Geelong is celebrating its strongest and most successful line up in the band´s twenty-four year history. Musical Director and Manager Ross Lipson who is also a saxophonist in the band and a retired science teacher, is enjoying the fruits of getting this band to such a high level.
Ross has nurtured many generations of musicians and singers. He said that in his rational mind, he started with the band as a fun activity for the students but then they started working really hard on it, a lot of colleagues got involved as did the authorities from Matthew Flinders Girls Secondary College until finally this school band became an international band.

“We are happy knowing we are part of the landscape of Geelong and that we offering a highly memorable entertainment in every fashion show, tour, expo or workshop throughout Australia. But the band has evolved also into one of the most successful school bands. We have been invited to perform for the fifth time last year at Switzerland’s Montreux Jazz and Italy’s XXV Porretta Soul festivals. And there, the girls just captivated audiences!”
The “new soul” played by Sweethearts is a fusion based around classic soul and Motown inspired style. The all- female members of the band become specialists in developing a unique perspective of 21st Century music that has infused their own compositions and arrangements into modern interpretations.

The membership is limited to school-age female students, usually between the ages of thirteen and eighteen. Potential members go through an audition process and, if successful, they must commit to weekly rehearsals, attendance at most gigs and extra weekly tuition in their instrument or singing. Members must also gain their Certificate IV in music (the highest industry based musical qualification available in any school in Australia). The band is very dynamic, with training members in different levels from year 7. However, once the girls graduate from high school, they need to leave the band. But the ‘old girls’ can be employed like mentors so they can stay involved and help ‘the newbies’. The current girls mainly belong to Matthew Flinders College, but there are others from the region too and some also travelling from Melbourne to attending the program.

The Sweethearts used to perform more than 50 gigs per year and have released nine originals CDs. “Read in your eyes has been quite a successful album, which have had lots of radio air play,” said Lipson.

Jessica Markovski, 15, Matthew Flinders School

After a successful audition 3 and half years ago, when she was attending Carranballac School in Point Cook, she became a lead singer, guitarist and bassist of the band.

“The most interesting thing in my life was getting in the Sweethearts, moving to Geelong to be part of the Matthew Flinders College. Making big moves, I can succeed and become who I want to be in later life. I enjoy meeting fabulous young musicians and having a great time on stage playing music. My dream ever since I was little was to become a famous singer and rock´n´roll ´player. Europe changed my life. To be part of those prestigious festivals, performing at an international standard with the people cheering us ‘Sweet-hearts sweet-hearts’ was just amazing. For that, if any kids are interested in music do not stop because you will regret it in later years.”

Thea Fitzgerald, 16, Loreto Mandeville Hall School, Toorak

“I am a backing singer. My family has a massive role in my life. They drove to my gigs and back home every week for a year and a half. I love to do music and being able to share such great experiences with great friends. Hopefully I see myself in 5 years’ time doing music like Ross, our director! The opportunity that he is giving us is incredible. He is very inspirational and has helped me cope with a lot of things. Going to Europe was the best. Over there the people loved us, particularly at Porretta. The crowd really gets into it. And we get to interact with these old soul artists from other places. That Festival was just crazy, treating us like famous musicians!

Wilhemina McKae, 16, Matthew Flinders College

As backing singer with 4 and half years with the band, the thing that I most enjoy is making wonderful friends, having these amazing opportunities and performing! The most interesting thing that I did recently was the TV series! Such a wonderful learning experience. And then Europe! It was like being part of a fairy tale. - AUZONE

"Sweethearts: From student jammers to professional musicians"

Here’s the thing. The split between boys and girls is pretty much equal when it comes to the numbers studying music and the numbers with music qualifications of some kind, so how come 80% of songwriters are male and only 20% of women sign up with APRA|AMCOS for royalties? Who better to ask than Ross Lipson, music director and manager of The Sweethearts Foundation, the business that runs the all-girl soul band based at Matthew Flinders Girls Secondary College in Geelong. He’s watched girls come and go for the past 23 years in the annual incarnations of the band and though he admits it’s a question he’s often pondered “and never got to the bottom of,” he does have a part solution and it’s the reason he is no longer a classroom teacher and the band is now a business as well as an education provider.

You see, Sweethearts is now in its third stage. What began as a jam with students formally turned into Sweethearts, which was originally a Motown cover band. That was fine for as far as it went but it didn’t go far enough for Ross Lipson. No matter how good they were and the reputation they had built, there was something not quite right that bothered him. The girls would have this intense experience with the band over a number of years and then, poof!, vanish, as if the music never happened. That changed in 2005 when Lipson and fellow teacher and musician Rick McLean took three months of professional development to turn what they had been doing into a two-year Certificate IV in music granted under the auspices of the College of Sound and Music Production (COSAMP). This is the highest industry-based qualification offered at any Australian school, which is the equivalent of two VCE subjects, although many students do the program when they are in years 10 and 11.

That single move made all the difference. Ross Lipson has the figures to prove it. From 1999 - 2005, only eight of the 58 girls who played in Sweethearts went on to work in the industry in some form. That's 14%. That figure changed in 2006. Between then and 2011, of the 43 Sweethearts who played in that time, 19 work in music. That's 44%. Three times what it was, even though for most of them, like many musicians, it’s not their sole source of income. Of the 15 who are due to leave in the next few years, 10 seem sure to stay working in the industry. They don’t have to be up on stage to be part of the industry. One Sweetheart is a breakfast announcer on a community radio station and doubles up as a music critic.

If there’s one word to explain the difference it’s “real.” Lipson says they’re not big fans of VCE VET courses at Sweethearts because they’re not real: “You have to bend VET to fit VCE structures, but they don’t work the way the industry does.” Sweetheart VET graduate Sarah Luck has been on the job doing front of house and controlling the mix and monitors, but at 22 she is one of the few to see it through. Although Sweethearts never offered the VET music production course, many of the girls did through Matthew Flinders Girls Secondary College. “But,” Lipson explains, “we actually trained our own sound techs ourselves as generally what they learnt in the course wasn’t adequate for our needs and the demands of the industry.” However, that had to finish too. “It was a business decision. We decided that our line of business is music. Financially it was too hard to keep [the training] going. We had to pay a trainer because the girls are not trained on the job, but we call them back when we need them and pay them well.”

Compare that to the Certificate IV Sweethearts. They've just come back from a tour of festivals in Europe, like their fourth Montreux Jazz and Porretta Soul Music festivals. They've already released a CD this year and are working on another, but this time with all original songs and arrangements. A thirteen-part documentary about them called Heart and Soul will air on ABC 3 in April next year. In mid-October they did four gigs in 12 hours and the next night four of them backed that up with a radio interview and performance on 774 ABC Melbourne. Then word came through confirming a regular gig at Cherry Bar in Melbourne’s AC/DC Lane every first Thursday of the month. And that's all in a week or so. While they are studying like any other student in Years 10, 11 and 12.

Lipson made some changes of his own. “I used to be the one out front, spoon feeding them, but I felt I was failing the girls. Now that we’ve almost tripled the retention rates for those aiming to stay in the industry, I’ve learnt to encourage them to be creative, to drive it themselves,” he says, especially on the music side of things by selecting or writing the songs and working on the arrangements. However, Ross Lipson admits that “unfortunately I still organise gigs and transport, negotiate fees and manage publicity and social media, but I am aiming to move it on to the girls as well, even though it will always be tri - Arts Hub

"School Band Savours Sweet Success"

A QUEUE snakes down the stairs of Trades Hall in Carlton. The crowd, an eclectic mix of young and old, are waiting to hear the distinctive Motown sound of a special girl band.
Inside, some regulars at the venue's popular Soul-A-Go-Go gigs don't realise that the dynamic performers are still at secondary school.
Nor do many realise that the Sweethearts, a 30-strong high school band from Geelong, has an international following, particularly in Europe.
From the outset, the Sweethearts defied expectations. Science teacher Ross Lipson had modest ambitions when he formed the band at Matthew Flinders Girls Secondary College in 1989. Mr Lipson, who is also a musician and instrumental music teacher, says he and a few colleagues formed a social band with students simply because jamming together was so enjoyable.
But word-of-mouth hype meant the mostly year 10 to 12 students soon began to secure gigs. More than two decades later, the Sweethearts have evolved into one of Australia's most successful school bands, invited to perform for the fourth time this year at Switzerland's Montreux jazz and Italy's Porretta soul festivals.
The all-female band members (bar Mr Lipson) cultivate a retro look and specialise in "new soul" — modern interpretations of classic Motown numbers as well as their own compositions.
In 2005, the Education Department allowed Mr Lipson and colleague Rick McLean three months of professional development time to transform the Sweethearts experience into a two-year Certificate IV course in music. It has become the highest industry-based qualification offered at any Australian school. Students usually undertake the program — equivalent to two VCE subjects — in years 10 and 11.
Along the way the Sweethearts have released eight CDs, which have had lots of radio air play. Each year they perform more than 40 gigs including corporate and community events, Education Department awards nights and at Queenscliff and other music festivals.
Getting a school band to this level — and staying there — is no mean feat because numbers must constantly be replenished by newcomers as year 12 members complete school.
For years Mr Lipson ran rehearsals and organised gigs on top of a teaching load. "They are such great kids and there have always been so many great things happening. That has kept me interested — and fired up," he says.
But he admits it was a relief when the department agreed to support the Sweethearts Certificate IV program in 2009, allowing him to focus on running the band from an office at the school. The Sweethearts is incorporated, with Mr Lipson reporting to a foundation board.
Students from the region can audition to join the band from year 7, with some even travelling from Melbourne for the program — which mostly runs outside school hours — this year.
From the moment year 11 student Sarah Tolley saw the band perform, she wanted to join. The then year 6 student found it hard to bide her time.
After a successful audition in year 8, she became a backing vocalist, going on tour with the band in western Victoria and then performing at a gig every week. "It takes so much commitment. I had to drop netball for the Sweethearts, but it was worth it. It's fun being with your friends. We love to sing and make up dance moves."
Sarah was surprised by the workload but appreciated the practical content of the Certificate IV course, particularly the requirement to write songs.
Bree Dahlstrom wasn't sure she could sing when she auditioned against five others. "A lot of people think they can and they could be terrible. I had never really tested it."
She more than made the grade. Now a lead vocalist, Bree had a steep learning curve to operate a microphone and do ear tests, and she initially felt overwhelmed by the "fantastic" singers around her. "I didn't know anyone. All the girls were older."
With 34 students on the books, Mr Lipson says he rotates performers on stage, with the newcomers in training positions. Despite the size of the band, Bree and Sarah say they quickly bonded with the others and have had wonderful experiences, particularly performing in Italy.
Such experiences gave them the courage to form their own band, Scandal in Bohemia, with some other members. They mostly play their own material, which they find easier than learning cover songs.
"You wait. They are going to be really big," says Mr Lipson. "When the programmers for last year's Queenscliff music festival saw them, they said, 'we have got to have them on the line-up'."
Over the years, many students have formed spinoff groups. Bree says the Certificate IV course provided her with the confidence to negotiate fees, food, and transport for their own gigs. "You have to make sure you g - The Age/Sydney Morning Herald


Still working on that hot first release.



25 piece girl soul gang from the Motor City of Geelong, Australia.

Sweethearts are the present and future of soul music. Playing nu-soul, a fusion of styles based around classic soul, Sweethearts is the most exciting band of young female musicians in the world.

Their all girl power show includes a mixture of originals and re worked classic sounds.

They tour the world and are a festival hit performing at big music festivals.
They write their own songs and record CDs.
There is even a TV series about them.

Sweethearts have redefined what is possible, being the only school based band in the world that plays exclusively in professional settings.

In 2013 Heart and Soul, a 13 episode documentary series that features the girls has been screened on ABC TV.

Sweethearts latest EP, Bar Roma" was nominated for "Best Soul Album of the Year in The Age/Music Victoria Awards.

Some of the amazing places and events they have performed are:

Porretta Soul Festival (Italy)
Montreux Jazz Festival (Switzerland)
Jazz a Vienne (France)
Boogie 7 (Melbourne)
Soul a Go Go (Melbourne)
Port Fairy Folk Festival (Victoria)
Queenscliff Music Festival (Victoria)
Apollo Bay Music Festival (Victoria)
CherryFest (Melbourne)
Woodford Folk Festival (Queensland)
The Best of Melbourne Soul (Melb Music Week)

"Sweethearts interpretations of Stax and Motown are the best Ive heard.
Graziano Uliani, Festival Director, Porretta Soul Music Festival, Italy

"A visually and musically spectacular show"
UK Blues and Roots

"These girls are the future of soul music. They really are exceptionally good.
Vince Peach, Soul Time PBS 106.7."

fresh arrangements of some well-known songs which, combined with the girls' natural flair and enthusiasm, makes for an irresistible musical delight!
Ray Ellis, Juke Blues magazine UK

Crowd favourites at Porretta- soul, fire and daring arrangements
Back to Roots Magazine (Netherlands)

Wherever they go the crowds love them. Strap in, hold on, and get ready to be swept away. Dont miss them!