The power of a teacher to ignite a spark in a student was celebrated in transience on the stage and in perpetuity in bronze at a special event that brought hundreds of former students and friends from as far as the United States back to The Armidale School on Saturday (26 November).
Mike Hoskins, who made possible the school’s creative arts centre that bears his name, travelled with his family from Texas to unveil a sculpture he commissioned to celebrate the spirit of learning.
Called The Spark and sculpted by Tanya Bartlett of Gunnedah the work depicts the ‘light bulb’ moment a teacher engages a student in a significantly meaningful way, and was inspired by his own time at TAS.
“We invest in our teachers an almost sacred trust, to discover and light in succeeding generations that magic spark of learning and personal growth that resides in each child, then feed and nurture the resulting flame via the ongoing school experience,” Mike Hoskins said.
“Tanya has caught in bronze an extraordinary, precious moment in time and the result is a triumph.”
The unveiling was followed a concert which paid tribute to former TAS teacher Jim Graham, who passed away in July. During his 43 years at TAS Mr Graham produced 133 plays, musicals and melodramas, including 35 Gilbert and Sullivan operettas and 35 Music Halls.
Playing to a capacity audience, the evening included musical numbers performed by two men who had gone on from TAS to have professional careers on stage and screen, Peter Cousens (Les Miserables, Miss Saigon, Phantom of the Opera) and Ben Mingay (Packed to the Rafters, Wonderland, and the title role in an upcoming Nine network series about Alan Bond) and professional entertainer Mandy Bishop. They were joined by dozens of cast members of former productions as well as current TAS students.
“This magnificent gift to the school is a powerful statement not just about the magic of a teacher igniting something special in a student, but the role of the creative arts in the life of TAS more generally, as epitomised by the performances in the tribute concert,” Headmaster Murray Guest said.
“I have no doubt that its message will inspire generations of TAS students to come.”