The Rhythm Tree
TEACHERS

All of our teachers are passionate about music and the development of children.

They create a fun, informal, social setting that spurs engagement and supports each child's musical development.

We are all Registered Music Together® teachers, trained by the Center for Music and Young Children at our centre at CERES. 

photo Gillian Lee

With 30 years experience in education, Gillian’s passion for music has led her from primary school teaching in Scotland, to becoming the principal of Australia's largest Music Together® centre.

Along the way, Gillian qualified as a Colourstrings International Music Kindergarten Teacher (Kodaly based) and ran a successful Glasgow based, early years’ music company. During this time, Gillian became a highly recommended adviser on curriculum development, providing music training for early years teaching professionals across The United Kingdom.

Her love of music led to an active role in Scotland’s jazz community, involvement in numerous community arts projects, both as a performer and adviser, and a role as a music consultant to BBC Scotland.

 In 2005 Gillian immigrated to Australia where she spent time exploring the different learning styles of her three children and researching different methods of teaching music. She also took time to reflect upon the roots of her own love of music and the cultures around the world which create ‘musical people’. It was during this research that Gillian discovered Music Together. Inspired by how Music Together aligned with her own teaching philosophies and principles, Gillian travelled to Japan in 2009 to train in this method. Upon her return, she immediately began running classes from her own home.

Eight years later the two home-based classes have grown into The Rhythm Tree; a community of 49 classes, 8 teachers, 5 venues across Melbourne and a teacher training centre.

     
photo Matilda White

With a Jazz musician as a father, Matilda's earliest memories involve the creation of music. While enjoying many styles, Matilda's natural fit was singing Jazz and Bossa Nova. Highlights of her career include singing in Bob Sedergreen's 'Six of the Best' annual concerts, performing at the famous Spiegeltent, Chapel-off-Chapel and supporting Kylie Minogue on her Australian 'Fever' tour.

Matilda has a Bachelor of Performing Arts from Deakin University where she studied contemporary dance, film making and drama. She has worked as a professional voice-over artist for both commercials and movie soundtracks and performed regularly on tv. Matilda has also extensive experience working in early childhood education and has worked as an integration aid in the primary school setting.

Matilda was awarded Certificate level 1 status last year at Australia's annual Music Together Teacher Training Workshop for outstanding achievement in teaching, musicianship, program, philosophy and parent education. She loves  to expand her musicality, most recently completing an african drumming teacher training workshop and more recently incorporating Ukulele into her classes. Matilda's role at the Rhythm Tree includes training of new teachers.

She has two children and has loved sharing with them the invaluable experiences provided by the Music Together program. This new career path with The Rhythm Tree, combining her passions for music and early childhood development, has been a dream come true.

 

 

 

 

     
photo Claire Jenkins

With over 15 years experience in performing Claire has worked with children and adults alike in many different environments. Trained as an actor in Toronto Canada (George Brown Theatre School), she worked as a professional actor in main stage and fringe productions. She also toured theatre to schools with the award winning company Geordie Productions playing to audiences of all ages above and below the tree line.

In 2002 she started writing songs. She has released two albums with the help of Canada Council for the Arts and toured Canada playing venues and major festivals, both solo and with her 6 piece band. Her songs have been used in documentaries, short films and features. She receives airplay on the CBC and has been the musical guest on many local and national programs. She has written music for theatre and worked as a musical director. In Australia she has played such festivals as Apollo Bay Music Festival and Port Fairy.

She has worked in primary and secondary schools facilitating curriculum learning through music. Two years running she was a youth mentor for Ontario Council of Folk Festivals and was music coach for Artists Mentoring Youth for two seasons. Claire moved permanently to Melbourne in 2010 to start a family. When her son was 8 months she started looking for a music class they could go to. After trying several different programs she was lucky enough to get into one of Gillianʼs Music Together® classes. She loved the material, sense of community and freedom given to the children so much that she trained as a Music Together® teacher. She is enjoying class with her son even more, knowing how much she agrees with its philosophy.

     
photo Sarah Tregonning

Sarah completed her Music Together Teacher Training in 2015 and shortly after completed an apprenticeship with The Rhythm Tree.  She has been a member of the ever-growing Rhythm Tree family since 2011, attending Gillian’s classes with all three of her children. Sarah’s youngest child is now 3, and she is thrilled to continue her music journey as one of the newest members of our teaching team.

Sarah has been involved in music directly and indirectly for many years. She practised as a lawyer in a Media Arts specialist law firm, was involved in Polyester Records and is surrounded by musical family and friends.

More recently, Sarah has worked as a Primary School Teacher (currently as an Italian Specialist).  She is a parent who loves to sing with her children and hopes to inspire you to make music and sing with your children, irrespective of your ability. Go join that choir or sing Christmas Carols with gusto! You’ll feel wonderful. And your children might just sing along too.

     
photo Sarah Nandagopan

A pianist and singer from New York City, Sarah joined the Rhythm Tree team shortly after moving to Melbourne. Sarah holds a Bachelor of Arts in Music from Penn State University and has over 10 years of teaching experience. She worked for over six years in various early childhood music programs in Manhattan where she also gained experience in teaching piano to young children.

Sarah has released two independent albums in the U.S. and continues to work on writing and performing her own music here in Melbourne.

Very grateful for the music career she has had so far, Sarah is happy to have the opportunity to pass the gift of music on to children, and is so excited to be a part of the Rhythm Tree program!

 

     
photo Vannie Ip-Winfield

Vannie first attended Music Together teacher training in 2015 and has been hooked with the curriculum ever since. It resonates with her belief that musicality exists within each person, and the Music Together curriculum provides a great vehicle for revealing and exploring our own inner ‘music-child.’

Vannie is a Registered Music Therapist with a Masters in Music Therapy (Research) and a Graduate Diploma in Mental Health Science (Community) from the University of Melbourne. She contributes regularly to the Australian Journal of Music Therapy (AJMT) and has served on its Editorial Board since 2014. With fifteen years of clinical experience, she has worked in a variety of community, early childhood and aged care settings. 

Vannie is proficient in piano, guitar and voice and is passionate about working with children with all abilities.

She is now the mother of two little boys and is very interested in passing on her love of music and cultures to children and the community.

     
photo Rebecca Earl

Originally from Western Australia, Rebecca completed a Bachelor of Music in her home city of Perth, then relocated to Victoria to complete the Graduate Diploma in Music Therapy at the University of Melbourne. After beginning her music career as a primary school flute teacher, Rebecca started work in 2004 as a Registered Music Therapist with children and adults in palliative care and neuro-rehabilitation, and more recently in early childhood settings. Rebecca has qualifications in Education Support and Auslan, and has experience in various music and movement programs including Dalcroze Eurhythmics and TaKeTiNa.

 

With two young children of her own, Rebecca understands the power of music in early childhood, and its capacity to not only nurture children at all stages of learning and development, but to also facilitate and support meaningful family connections through shared musical experiences.  

     
photo Charin Blacker

Charin can't remember a time where music wasn't a part of her life. She was fortunate to grow up in a family where music expression and experiences were a part of the fabric of everyday. Charin attended a pre-school music program herself and still happens to remember two of the songs (ask her about the 'beetles in the basin' and 'naughty pussycat', she'll happily share them with you).

In later years Charin's interest and affinity for creative expression led her to 10 years of Dance training, before the joy of the stage took over. With a wonderful Drama teacher to lead the way, Charin launched head first into the world of the theatre, exploring all aspects of play making and performance. Upon completing her VCE she headed off to study acting and musical theatre at the University of Ballarat Arts Academy.

In the years since her formal training, Charin has worked in various fields including as a Teaching Assistant with young children at an Independent Alternative Primary School here in Melbourne. Charin has also continued to find great joy in intermittently performing with various choirs in Melbourne including at the Melbourne International Singers Festival.

Charin completed her Music Together Teacher Training in 2017, after personally recognising the soul nourishing nature of this work. Charin is excited and honoured to create music with The Rhythm Tree community in 2018.

     
photo Deirdre Ryan

Deirdre was born and raised in Ireland where music has always been in abundance. Her father is a successful professional pianist and Deirdre followed suit by becoming a classically trained singer and folk singing performer. Deirdre has completed Certificates Grade I – VII in classical singing through The Royal Irish Academy of Music and has performed throughout her life at Wedding Ceremonies, Festivals and commercially on Television Productions. Deirdre is also a Clinical Psychologist and has a passion for early childhood development. She has worked in the Royal Children's Hospital and in Private practice, supporting children and families on their individual journeys.

Deirdre often utilises music in her therapy and has seen the huge benefits early exposure to music can have on emotion regulation for children and attachment building between children and their carers.

Deirdre has experienced the joy 'The Rhythm Tree' brings to her little boy (and herself) and recently completed her Music Together Training and Apprenticeship. She has a flexible, fun, creative (and silly) approach to learning and is very excited to share the experience of Music Together with children and parents alike.

     
photo Karen Davitt

Karen Davitt is a graduate of the VCA drama school and the Ecole Philippe Gaulier In London and she has had a long and varied career as a performer in film, television and live theatre for over twenty years.
Karen has worked extensively behind the camera as a director, writer and art director; as a visual artist, and as a designer and creator of latex creatures and puppets for a range of projects including "Subterrain" commissioned by Melbourne International Festival and the "Lord of the Rings" feature films in New Zealand. She was awarded an AFI and a Yoram Gross award for her collaboration on the animated film "Lovely day".

Karen has a Degree in Dramatic art from VCA and a Masters in Education from Latrobe and currently teaches acting at a range of tertiary institutions including VCA Theatre, Film and TV, and Music theatre Departments, Melbourne University and Federation University.
Karen is a double bassist who has been playing in bands since she was in her twenties. Karen's connection with Rhythm Tree began some years ago when Gillian purchased CDs of her band ALL DAY FRITZ, a family friendly musical outfit made up of well known Melbourne musicians who play gigs all over the country.

With Ceres just across the road Karen decided it would be fun to stick her toe into a new experience and teach a couple of classes at The Rhythm Tree in 2019.



.