Jonathon Welch Farewells 'Hard Knocks' and Launches PLAY IT FORWARD Arts Initiative

Jonathon Welch Farewells 'Hard Knocks' and Launches PLAY IT FORWARD Arts Initiative

After twelve years at the artistic helm of the 'choir that inspired the nation' in the ground breaking, award winning ABC TV series 'Choir of Hard Knocks', Founding Artistic Director Dr Jonathon Welch AM announced his retirement last week from the choir at the end of December 2018.

Dr Welch is also taking an exciting new direction moving away from the 'hard knocks' brand completely, announcing his resignation as a Director of the School of Hard Knocks last week, launching his new vision for inclusive arts programs for all Australians with 'Play It Forward' last Saturday September 8, 2018 at a spectacular free concert of 'Silver Screen Classics' at Cathedral Hall in Fitzroy.

"As I will be farewelling my beloved Choir of Hard Knocks in December this year and am also turning 60yo in a few weeks, I just feel it's time to start the next decade with a fresh new chapter in my life and move away from the 'hard knocks' brand altogether now.

'Play It Forward' is a deliberate move to a more positive, uplifting name and philosophy that reflects the work that I will continue doing even more broadly in the general community, as well as continuing to work with those who are marginalised and disadvantaged, and develop inclusive arts programs for all Australians" said Dr Welch excitedly.

"It has been an amazing twelve years since the Choir of Hard Knocks began in 2006, and then the School of Hard Knocks in 2012. I have learnt so much and met so many wonderful people that are continuing to passionately encourage and work with me on this journey together.

As the creator and owner of School of Hard Knocks trademark and concept since 2008 and all the IP (Intellectual Property) that I've developed and own since then, I'm very excited that my new brand and organisation 'Play It Forward' will continue much of this work that includes Social Inclusion Week that I created in 2008 and Melbourne International Singers Festival in 2009.

So, I'm not going anywhere. I'm just refreshing with a new look and name, and 'refiring', not retiring!" said Dr Welch.

"There are so many aspects to the work I do above and beyond the artistic development and delivery of these specialised programs though. Running two NFPs (Not For Profit charities) over the past 12 years has been exhausting, and I'm really looking forward to focusing all my attention now on just one charity with 'Play It Forward' and having less administration to deal with.

I've certainly learnt a lot of valuable lessons along the way I must admit, and I will also be making sure that the people in key roles on my next organisation are people that come from a predominantly arts and welfare background this time.

Having corporate support is vital and essential for the sustainability of a charity, but I've learnt that many people from this world really don't engage properly with, or understand the arts welfare sector. We are very different people to deal with (in the arts welfare sector) and have a different way of thinking.

A heavy handed corporate business approach just doesn't work from my 20 years of experience in this sector" said Dr Welch.

You absolutely need to ensure that there is the proper governance, reporting and procedures in place, but I've learnt these skills are easily found and best managed externally of Director's positions.

There's so much specialised skill involved with what we do delivering arts welfare programs. Paying your BAS on time and making sure you're up to date with ASIC is very important, but that's the easy part.

The real skill and relationships lie with the highly talented music and arts practitioners and administrators that work day in, day out at the coal face with all our beautiful program participants.

We are in the people empowerment business through music!

The personal relationships I've spent over two decades building, working collaboratively with all our partners from the government, arts, education, welfare, charity, health and philanthropic sectors, are and will always been my main priority as we 'Play It Forward' that help us to empower and benefit literally thousands of people we now work with across the nation.

With his eyes firmly planted on the future, 'Play It Forward' will begin 2019 with a strong focus on anti bullying music programs.

Recognised as one of Australia's leading social justice champions, Dr Welch has conceived and created some of the most innovative and ground breaking social inclusion projects including the award winning Choir of Hard Knocks, Voices Without Borders (asylum seeker and refugee choir), Only Women Aloud, Men Aloud choirs and the award winning STREET REQUIEM which he has presented in Carnegie Hall, New York and will take to the UK later this week, in memory of those who have died innocent and homeless on the streets.

"Bullying is sadly rife in all sectors of our community now, and given some personal experiences I've encountered of this in recent times and the impact it's had on me and my friends and family,

I'm very passionate about creating a series of music projects and events to help hi light that this is just not acceptable any more, professionally or personally." said Dr Welch.

"I'm so excited about this next chapter of my life, and I want to also thank each and every person that has tirelessly volunteered, worked or supported my vision and journey to date to build positive mental and physical wellbeing through the arts.

I have a beautiful husband and two wonderful boys that we are now bringing up and I want to spend more time with, along with my amazing family and friends who have always supported my vision to simply 'do good' in the world in the way that I know best - as I continue to 'Play It Forward' through inclusive arts programs for all Australians now" said Dr Welch.

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