Thousands of budding performers over the years have honed their musical craft at the Bendigo Youth Choir.
Artistic director Valerie Broad OAM founded the choir back in 1984 after recognising young people in Bendigo were missing out.
"Way back in the 1980s, the government realised how important music was to the education of young people," Mrs Broad said.
"They brought in a program where every child would be taught an instrument.
"But the one instrument they didn't include was the instrument we all carry around with us every day - the voice.
"As a singer, that really upset me because I thought we should be concentrating a lot more on singing. I thought if I started a choir, then I would be able to help some of the people."
About 46 young people joined the choir in the inaugural year, with participation numbers growing as high as 100 people in the years that followed.
There are about 50 young people between the ages of seven and 25 singing in the choir in 2019.
"When we started, there were no other choirs in Bendigo," Mrs Broad said. "We were really the only youth choir.
"But since then, many of the schools have brought in music programs and they all have choirs.
"That means the children don't have time to put into a community-type choir when they're already doing choirs at schools."
But while participation numbers might be slightly lower, the Bendigo Youth Choir is still producing incredible talent.
Its impressive alumni list includes international opera stars Angela Hogan and Zoe Drummond, acclaimed theatre performer Gina Hogan, and respected theatre producer Luke Gallagher.
Mrs Broad said a large focus of the choir was nurturing local talent.
"One of the things is that they get experience in a very safe environment because they're surrounded by their friends," she said.
"We've performed in some incredible places. We've been to America and they've sung on some huge stages and churches.
"To do that on your own would be quite daunting. But when you do it with a group of friends then it isn't so frightening.
"Once you get a taste of that, then it gives you the confidence and the ability to go on further."
While the Bendigo Youth Choir's alumni have travelled all over the world, many will be returning to Bendigo this week as the group celebrates its 35th anniversary.
There will be a special reunion event at St Andrew's Uniting Church on Saturday before a celebratory concert at St Paul's Cathedral on Sunday.
The Hogan sisters, Mr Gallagher, and Ms Drummond will all be performing at the event alongside the choir.
Read more: Youth choir returns from New York
"It's going to be a very exciting weekend for us," Mrs Broad said.
"Those are some of the people who are coming back, along with many others who haven't quite hit the big time yet but are performing all over Australia."
Mrs Broad said it was exciting to look back on the past 35 years. She said the choir had been so successful for so long because of the passion of the students and staff.
"I would say it's the love of music that's generated among the young people," she said.
"But it's also the family atmosphere that we offer because the Bendigo Youth Choir is really a haven for the kids.
"They know it's their safe place. They know if they have troubles, we are always there to support them.
"And they also know they are going to have some wonderful opportunities to perform in fantastic venues.
"It's something that they wouldn't get if they weren't in the choir. So I suppose a combination of all of those things would make it why it's lasted so long."
A more recent alumni of the Bendigo Youth Choir is Sam Kane.
The 2019 City of Greater Bendigo Young Citizen of the Year first signed up for the choir back in 2008.
"I joined because my neighbour said it would be a good idea to come along," Mr Kane said.
"At first, I was a little bit hesitant and I didn't know what was going on but I haven't left since."
While he has stepped away from performing, Mr Kane still gives his time to the choir - including helping with the 35th anniversary preparations.
"I think the biggest thing for the Bendigo Youth Choir is the fact everyone comes together from all different sides of Bendigo and all different backgrounds," he said.
"We all come together because we love music and we love singing. We come together and act as a family would.
"We support each other and grow friendships and connections. I think that's the biggest thing.
"With other choirs, you might just do it for one or two hours a week because you have to.
"But everyone here comes together because they genuinely have a passion for music and want to be part of their community."
Mr Kane said Mrs Broad's passion had kept the choir united for so long.
"The commitment and dedication of all of the music staff, and in particular Mrs Broad, is the biggest thing that keeps this choir together," he said.
"I think it just goes to show the power of people who have a talent for something and want to help others can really do.
"It's really made an impact, not only here in Bendigo, but also around the world."
Mr Kane said he, and many other Bendigo singers, could see an exciting future ahead for the Bendigo Youth Choir.
"I think there are lots of young people that are finding that they love singing and love being involved with the group," he said.
"I think as long as there are dedicated volunteers who are willing to continue providing the opportunity, it will continue long into the future."
Mrs Broad said she was determined to keep the choir going for at least another 35 years.
"The benefits of the choir have proven themselves over and over again," Mrs Broad said.
"There is a lot of scientific evidence coming out that supports the view that music is incredibly important to the development of young people.
"I'm hoping the Bendigo Youth Choir will continue to grow and continue to develop.
"Life is changing now and expectations are changing but there are still some wonderful opportunities for young people. The longer it continues, the happier I will be."
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