This year marks the 20th anniversary of the Victorian State Schools Spectacular (VSSS). The event has grown and evolved to become an annual event that attracts students from all over the state. More than 3000 Victorian students from over 200 government schools will come together for two shows this Saturday, 12th September, at Melbourne’s Hisense Arena in a musical song and dance extravaganza exploring the theme of storytelling called, “What’s Your Story?” The theme came from suggestions by the participants of last year’s VSSS.


VICTORIAN STATE SCHOOLS SPECTACULAR Faramir Jouir, Anisa Mahama, Daniel Tohill, Jayde Gray Credit Timothy Burgess IP_090_09968146


Neill Gladwin is the Creative Director of the Victorian State Schools Spectacular. He regards the VSSS as a wonderful event that benefits students, parents, teachers and the community. He explains they could put more kids into the show but they’ve run out of room back stage.

“Maybe if we just put a giant circus tent outside Hisense Arena we could double the cast?” he laughs.

Any school can participate in the VSSS and Gladwin considers the event as a “wonderful exercise in music education democracy”.  Any teacher within a Victorian government school can ask to be involved with a small group of their students. Teachers don’t need to have any specific skills. The VSSS team send out professional choreographers to regional rehearsal hub sites around the state, allowing students from all over Victoria to not only participate, but to also learn from some of the best in the industry.SSS girls dancing

Auditions are held to discover the principal performers. For some students in rural Victoria the VSSS provides a unique opportunity to discover their often hidden talent. These students then work with top professionals within the entertainment industry, creating networks and connections for the future. Performers such as Harrison Craig, Rohan Browne and Jaz Flowers all started in the VSSS.

However, not all participants need to be a “star”. Many students participate in the massed choir or massed dance numbers and around 100 students are involved off stage and behind the scenes in areas such as sound and lighting. It’s an area the VSSS is continuing to develop further.


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Local community groups support their students through fund-raising events to enable the participants to travel to rehearsals and attend on the big day. “There’s a really fantastic community spirit that’s connected with the event,” says Gladwin.

As for the talent amongst the cast, Gladwin says he is totally gobsmacked. “I find myself in tears. It’s overwhelmingly moving.”

Some of the talent off the stage is just as incredible. Gladwin hears comments such as, “You know that drummer? He’d be ready to go pro!” from Musical Director Chong Lim.

The VSSS is not just an event for parents and families to attend. The show attracts a large number of people who have no connection to any of the performers who simply want to be entertained by a spectacular event. Perhaps this student’s comment best sums up the VSSS: “It’s like an Olympic Opening Ceremony without the athletes!”




Gladwin knows the VSSS is more than just the entertainment on the night. Participating in this huge event instils confidence in the students and empowers them to follow their dreams – whether that be working in the entertainment industry or becoming a scientist.

With the 2015 VSSS about to commence, planning is already underway for next year’s spectacular. It’s a huge planning process. “We’re writing the next one as we’re preparing for the current one.”

But for now, there are 3000 students preparing for one of the biggest events of their lives: The 2015 Victorian State Schools Spectacular. One thing’s certain – it’s going to be a spectacular event.


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VENUE: Hisense Arena – Olympic Boulevard, Melbourne, 3001

DATE: Saturday 12 September

PERFORMANCE TIMES: 1pm and 6.30pm

PRICES: All tickets $22


VSSS connected