Workshop Descriptions and Facilitator Bios

Stephen Taberner

Stephen Taberner was born in Christchurch, New Zealand, where much of his early musical damage was inflicted in church. Escaping from the twin perils of eternal godliness and an academic career, he attempted to navigate a maverick horseswap into the bohemian waters of the Sydney jazz scene, only to be sideswiped by vocal music from South Africa, Georgia, Bulgaria, and almost everywhere else. This led to a blossoming career as a choir leader, with a continued interest in double bass playing/singing, songwriting, theatre and clowning. He is most known for, and most concerned with his ongoing work as artistic director of the notorious Spooky Men’s Chorale.


A Day with Stephen Taberner

You will come with nothing and you will leave empty handed. Mr Taberner will use his 26 years of teaching singing to best advantage in subtle trickeries which will make you be able to make bigsome thrumsome sounds with others. The material will be thinking person’s pop, world music titbits, mash ups, and some original songs, our tools will be our voices, the entire experience may be likely to cause pleasant bodily and  hormonal sensations, and generalised goodwill. Please do not be alarmed if this takes place.


UBUNTU Africa is a gifted group of 14 singers, musicians and dancers who are a part of the world-renowned African Children’s Choir. After sellout tours in 2016 and 2018, they are back in Australia. Embark on an intimate journey into the heartlands of Uganda and Kenya. Be prepared for big ceremonial sound, traditional costumes, iconic drumming and stories of triumph in an extraordinary celebration that brings the sounds and rhythms of Africa to life.


Sing with UBUNTU Africa

Join UBUNTU Africa for a hands on energetic workshop to gain a better understanding of the culture of these young singers, musicians and dancers from Uganda. Everyone welcome and no preparation required – it will be all singing, dancing and games as they bring the sounds and rhythms of Africa alive.

Avi Misra

Melbourne via New Delhi singer songwriter and producer Avijit ‘Avi’ Misra is a rare vocal talent capable of singing classical music from Indian as well as Western traditions. His true passion, however, lies in writing and producing contemporary music that draws from the rich oral storytelling of folk and the technological innovations of electronica. He has released four albums independently. Besides music, Avi has enjoyed a career as a writer, having worked with the BBC World Service Trust and is also a trained Sivananda Hatha Yoga Teacher. 

Find Your Voice with Hatha Yoga

Join Avi each morning to kick start your the Festival day with a positive Yoga and chanting session. Share a lived experience of finding diaphragmatic breath and mask resonance as applied to sing-ing technique through the practice of Hatha Yoga. Participants need to wear loose clothes, come on an empty stomach and BYO yoga mats and a water bottle. 

Folk Songs of India

Allow Avi Misra to take you on a journey to discover the beauty and diversity of Indian folk music, often overshadowed by more visible cultural exports like Bollywood and Indian classical. Enjoy singing North Indian Hindi and East Indian Bengali folk songs. Add these beautiful songs to your singing repertoire.


Bonnie Smith & Ria Soemardjo

Bonnie Smith is a singer, composer, piano player and guitarist who studied music at the VCA and in Canada, the United States, Australia and Spain, under the likes of her teacher Rhiannon and Bobby McFerrin (US). She is a world music extraordinaire, singing in several languages including Spanish, French, Portuguese, Turkish and English. She is the lead singer and composer of “Reflejos” and one of the lead singers in the all-female Mariachi band “Queen of Hearts”. She teaches at Melbourne Polytechnic and is also the lead facilitator of a vocal singing practice called “Circle Singing”, which explores the art of improvising in the moment. 

Inspired by many years of immersion in the rich cultural traditions of Javanese and Balinese traditional music and dance, Ria’s fascination for music education has led her to train with master teachers in Indonesia and around the world including Glen Velez (frame drum) and the Gundecha Brothers (Dhrupad classical Indian vocal training). She is passionate about sharing TaKeTiNa as a unique collective learning process, enabling individuals to reconnect with their innate rhythmic intelligence. She is also a qualified Alexander Technique teacher and brings a sophisticated understanding of the interconnection of intention, imagination, breath and movement to her vocal training.

Sing your own Rhythm 

Join Bonnie and Ria using circle singing and vocal river essentials as well as a taste of TakeTina to explore the cross cultural elements of different vocal tone qualities, singing with a drone, exploring eastern scales, utilizing small hand-held and body percussion. A singing and voice intensive that moves between structured rhythmical exercises and improvisational frameworks, exploring the voice in RHYTHM! Develop your vocal confidence, creativity, rhythmical knowledge and intuitive flow!

Ernie Gruner

Ernie Gruner studied Klezmer overseas in 1998 & 2008 in USA, East Europe and Canada. He sang nigunnim at KlezKanada in Montreal in 2008, previously he had sung and played nigun for Jewish weddings and events in Melbourne for a decade while playing violin with Klezmeritis and The Klezmer Trio. He has played and presented workshops at many festivals throughout Australia including the National, The Boite Singers’ Festival, Fairbridge Folk Festival (WA), Globe to Globe, Turramurra, and Newport.

Jewish Wordless Songs (Nigun)

Learn Nigunnim: East European Jewish wordless songs. These often simple but energetic or soulful songs and chants, are sung usually communally for celebrations and special occasions. Klezmer musicians turned many into tunes. All singers welcome. Ps Nigun is one wordless song, Nigunnim is multiple.

Iaki Vallejo

Born in Colombia and a bit of a globetrotter, singer and composer Iaki Vallejo has truly understood what human differences can mean. She now brings a message of unity and peace through her music and lyrics. Mixing Afro-Colombian traditions with jazz, soul, salsa, afro-beat, funk and reggae, her compositions and arrangements are a living example of differences coming together to enrich one another and create something beautiful. 

Colombian Songs and Rhythms

Calling on the intensely rhythmic songs of her Colombian heritage, informed by her travels around the globe, and bringing her inspiration as a songwriter, Iaki Vallejo, invites singers into the world of songs in Spanish. She will teach songs and rhythms from Colombia, helping participants to feel the rhythms from the soles of their feet upward. Everyone is welcome. No experience of singing or music required.

Liam Gerner

Originally from the Flinders Ranges SA, Liam has toured through Europe, USA and  around Australia with the likes of Vika and Linda Bull, Ryan Bingham, Paul Weller, Jason Isbell, Elton John, Robbie Fulks, and The Eurogliders. Liam studied guitar for 10 years with American guitarist Mark Goldenberg (Jackson Browne). With two albums and a book of original songs “Ukulele Songs By Kids For Kids” under his belt, he follows his passion for teaching music to young people through his Ukulele Song School Australia to encourage students to write their songs. 

Songwriting is as easy as C, C, C

Liam will guide all levels of songwriters and musicians through composing their own song using his guide to songwriting ‘It’s Easy as C, C, C: Capturing, Composing and Communicating your own songs.’ Bring an instrument even if its your voice, or hand claps.    

Nela Trifkovic

Nela is a Bosnian-Australian artist whose multi-faceted practice includes music, theatre, performance and installation art. She moved to Australia during the Yugoslav war in the 90s and trained at WAAPA and VCA, where she completed her Doctorate in 2013. Nela has performed and conducted research in Australia, Asia, Europe and USA. Bosnian Sevdah and Sephardic Jewish songs are Nela’s greatest passion. They have been an integral part of her life and upbringing, and have inspired the formation of the ensemble Saray Iluminado, allowing Nela to gather a curious bunch of like-minded musical travellers and pursue life away from home by finding a home in song. 

Sevdah and Sephardic Music

Join SARAY Iluminado’s lead singer Nela Trifkovic in exploring Sevdah, the traditional song from Bosnia and Herzegovina and Sephardic Jewish music heard in the Balkans. Nela starts each class with a basic introduction to Bosnian language and with vocal warm ups that introduce the sounds specific to Bosnian and encourage vocal agility. This workshop will give you an overview of 2 songs - and will introduce some of the basic key concepts associated with these musical genres and how they inform the vocal style and some of the best known ornamentation heard and performed in this music. This is accompanied with integrated body-percussion and basic movement. Each step of the way Nela will offer a variety of options so that participants can be included in a number of ways and enjoy their session whether they are a beginner or an advanced musician.  With Sephardic music the participants delve into the unusual beauty of the Spanish-based Sephardic language LADINO and the romantic melodies of the secular songs of this fascinating and resilient culture.

Sello Molefi

Singer-songwriter, music composer and arts leader from Kroonstad, South Africa. Sello studied at FUBA Academy in Johannesburg and Wits University Music School. His career as a vocalist landed him a role in Disney’s The Lion King, with which he toured internationaly and onto the West End in London. He is an accomplished composer, working in both stage and screen and most significantly co-wrote the theme song for the movie Elephant Tales. He also composed, directed and performed his original show Mantswe at the 2009 Melbourne Fringe Festival and his first EP Mamelang was released in 2016. In 2016 Sello fulfilled a life long dream of opening the Bokamoso Arts Centre. He is now living in Melbourne and working on a new EP.


With musical influences coming from a long history of choral music in South Africa, to a keen interest in voices of the world through his travels and influences, Sello will led you in an exploration of music through VOICE. using simple melodies, harmonies and some what more complicated rhythms. Call and response will divide singers in to two choirs who will ultimately come full circle to create one VOICE. This will be a very high energy fun workshop.

Stella Savy

Stella has been a vocal coach for over 20 years, conducting groups such as Sweet Mona’s Choir, the Mini Mona’s Choir and Thursday Night Community Choir. Stella has worked with The Boite on many choir projects over the last 10 years, Freedom Road, Mai Fali Eh, Coco de Mer, Windrush and Haven. Stella has worked with choirs and groups all around the world and has an energetic and fun approach to facilitating her sessions. Stella also performs regularly in her bands, playing percussion, singing and guitar. Stella and her husband Mishael Gyabeng conduct cultural tours to the Seychelles and Ghana every year, giving visitors a personal, musical and educational holiday experience.

A Taste of Freedom Road

Come and Join Stella Savy for a taste of Freedom Road! In October 2020 the Boîte will once again be presenting the very popular Freedom Road: The Story of Gospel in one of regional Victoria’s premium performance venues the Ulumbarra Theatre, Bendigo. In this workshop you will have a chance to have a sneak peak into the songs from this uplifting show along with some of Stella’s other musical gems.


Suzette Herft

Growing up on a diet of BBC hits in Sri Lanka, and then gravitating to her father’s cowboy song collection when they emigrated to Melbourne, Suzette Herft has emerged as a captivating troubadour in her own right with her award-winning original songs, and her gift for facilitating singing and songwriting sessions. Winner of the 2019 Folk Victoria Award for her contribution to Folk Music, Suzette is a powerful and engaging stage performer, who shines with a natural grace and presence. 

Songwriting 101: Finding Your Voice

In Suzette’s workshop, you will learn about the basic structures and tools of the songwriting process; discover ways to unleash your truth and inspiration; and ways to make your melody or words seem more exciting. Suzette will share her knowledge and learnings in the songwriting workshop and help you discover your ‘own voice’ as you develop your craft.

Choirs Stream



A men’s vocal ensemble who perform the astonishing and beautiful sounds of Bulgarian and then Georgian polyphony. They have devoted more than twenty years to the pursuit of these songs. They have made two CD recordings, they have performed on television in Bulgaria and Georgia where they are loved for their dedication to the traditional music.


Just Holler

Just Holler are a dynamic, non-auditioned, community choir who’ve been hollering together in Naarm (Melbourne) since 2010. They sing an eclectic mix of pop, nu folk and indie rock led by founding musical director Jane York. They regularly co-produce events with other artists and choirs and are dedicated to creating inclusive spaces to share their love of harmonies.



ed by Amir Bukic, Sevdalinka is a Bosnian and Herzegovinian community choir established in late 2003. Sevdalinka aims to maintain their traditions and culture through the genre of urban love songs, called Sevdalinka. Unknown artists have written much of the repertoire, with lyrics passed on through generations. Dino Kocic accompanies them on accordion.


Voices Unbound

Voices Unbound is a young singers’ choir with a multiethnic taste. Guided by sensational singer Ximena Abarca, they sing in several languages and reintepret their diverse cultural heritages with contemporary, pop feel.

Vox Chops

Led by jazz vocalist Jolene Moran, Vox Chops is a vocal jazz ensemble that thrives on intricate harmony and nurtures aspiring soloists into being. With repertoire covering barbershop, bebop, doo wop, soul and neo soul, the choir performs both a cappella and with band accompaniment, featuring some of Melbourne’s most acclaimed jazz musicians.


Yarra Gospel

Led by Yvonne Giltinan, Yarra Gospel community choir sing inspiring arrangements of traditional gospel songs and spirituals. In the last 2 years they’ve had sell-out concerts featuring the gospel songs recorded by Elvis Presley and then Aretha Franklin. The Franklin concert raised $2,500 to help build toilets so teenage girls in India could stay at school.  


Led by Jeannie Marsh, Zing! is an un-auditioned community choir and band formed in 2016, who sing in Dutch. From folksongs to cabaret, hip-hop to waltzes, 16th Century “golden oldies” to children’s songs, boppy current pop songs to retro classics – Zing! sings them all.  


The Boîte is Victoria’s iconic multicultural music organisation. Founded in 1979, it supports excellent artists from diverse cultural communities, promotes cultural understanding through the dynamic presentation of unique cultural experiences, and nurtures creativity, collaboration, access to and active participation in the arts. Read more...

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