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Belmont video shop robbery victim speaks

SHE’S 64 and has only worked in a video shop for the past 12 months, but Lynn Becker knows an action movie sequence when she sees one.

So when a young man, brandishing a knife and wearing a balaclava, stormed Network Video at Toronto about 7.50pm on Thursday and demanded cash, she thought he was trying to emulate what he’d seen on the big screen.

“I didn’t take any notice when he came in, but then he came behind the counter and started waving the knife at me,” she said.

“He said ‘Give me the money, bitch’, just like what they see in the movies. That’s what it felt like – like he was acting out a movie.

“He wanted the money, so I took the $5, $10 and $20 [notes] out of the drawer and put them on the counter.

“He picked them up and he said, ‘Where’s the fifties?’.

“He seemed to know where they were, and once he’d found them he screamed, ‘Where’s the rest of it? Where is it?’.

“I said ‘That’s it, there’s no more’ and he pushed me and said ‘Where’s the rest of it?’.

“I fell to the ground and bruised my arm and hit my hand on something and cut it.

“I told him, ‘You’ve got it all, that’s it, there’s no more’.

“Then the phone rang and he said, ‘Don’t touch the phone, don’t answer the phone’.

“Then he left and as he was going he said, ‘Don’t ring the police’. As soon as he was gone, I locked the door and rang the police.”

It was initially thought Mrs Becker had been stabbed on the back of her hand, but the police have since ruled it out.

The offender stole about $700 from the video store, which is owned by Mrs Becker’s sister Judy and her husband Hans Szubert.

Mrs Becker said she was shaken after the incident and wasn’t sure when she would return to work.

The man is described as being about 165 centimetres tall, in his late teens and of a slim build.

Anyone with information can contact Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000.

Tristan returns to put Souths in the hunt

FULLBACK Tristan Hunt returns on a high from the Australian Country Championships to give Souths a much-needed boost in Hunter Coast Men’s Premier League Hockey tomorrow.

Hunt captained NSW Country to a dominant national titles victory in Geraldton last Saturday when they defeated tournament favourites Western Australia 6-1 in the final.

Former Souths striker Jaden Ekert, who is originally from Queensland, scored four goals for NSW, who conceded their only goal of the tournament in the decider.

It was Hunt’s first Australian Country title in nine attempts, four of which came with the Australian Defence Force.

He had led NSW to final defeat the past three years.

“It was one of the best experiences,” Hunt said.

“As a team, we were so cohesive. We had no individuals, we had lots of team players, which is what made us so unstoppable.”

Hunt will hope to stay on a high when he makes a timely return for Souths against Wests at Newcastle International Hockey Centre tomorrow from midday.

The Lions have lost their past two matches, to Norths and Gosford, and sit second on the table, one point clear of The Entrance. Norths are first and in the box-seat to take the minor premiership with three rounds remaining.

While Hunt is back tomorrow, utility Warwick Smith is out with a groin injury.

Smith played with the Australian Defence Forces in Geraldton and gained his first Australian Country call-up.

Souths regain Kyle Bosworth from suspension but John Fernance and Ben King are still overseas.

Norths take on University (3pm) at Broadmeadow, The Entrance take on Tigers (11.20am) and Maitland play Gosford (12.45pm) at Wyong.

In Women’s Premier League today at Broadmeadow,University’s Katie-Jayne Kelly returns against face Souths after playing with the triumphant NSW side at the Australian Country titles last week.

Oxfords will regain ADF representative Zalie Munro-Rustean for the game against Regals but teammate Shannon Dunn, who played for South Australia, is in doubt due to injury. Tigers play Central in the other match.

Cruel draw for Tritton 

THE luck of the draw has again abandoned Shane Tritton, but the Keinbah trainer was looking on the bright side as he prepared another double shot at a second group 1 win tomorrow at Melton.

Tritton has qualified Light In Every Day and Major Bonus for the $100,000 Victorian Breeders Crown Series final for four-year-old mares.

Major Bonus won her heat last Sunday and Light In Every Day was a creditable second, but both pacers have drawn poorly for the 12-horse decider.

Major Bonus will start from gate eight, the inside of the second line, and Light In Every Day is in seven, on the extreme outside of the front.

It comes a month after Tritton’s hopes with Suave Stuey Lombo and NSW Breeders Challenge winner Mach Beauty in the group 1 Blacks A Fake at Albion Park were cruelled by second-line draws.

Tritton, though, believed the Melton draws gave him hope.

“They have both drawn reasonably OK,” Tritton said.

“We like to go forward with Light In Every Day and she keeps drawing out the back, so she’s probably a little bit better off than she has been by drawing the outside. The other mare likes to sit on the fence and get a bit of cover.

“If they were the opposite way around, it would be a disaster, so it probably didn’t work out too bad. But we would have liked to have drawn one, that’s for sure.”

Born Again Sassy defeated Light In Every Day in the heats and drew gate one for the finals. She will be expected to lead, which should help Major Bonus into the race.

But Tritton believed Light In Every Day was his best chance.

“I don’t think there are too many mares going around better than Light In Every Day,” he said. “If she drew one, she’d probably be favourite. She’s good enough to win but keeps drawing badly. If she’s gets a bit of luck, she can win.”

The race will be one of nine group 1 races on the 10-event Melton card.

Labor boost to school music

Dandenong South Primary School students get into the music of The Song Room. Photo: Jason SouthThe gym at Dandenong South Primary is throbbing with #thatPOWER, a dance track by American recording artist will.i.am featuring teenage heart-throb Justin Bieber.

”And ooh, I’m alive, I’m alive, I’m alive … And I’m loving every Second. Minute. Hour. Bigger. Better. Stronger. POWER.”

The year 3/4 class are not children, they are robots, frowning in concentration as they punch the air in time to the beat, fists clenched. ”Show me your robot position,” shouts Colette MacLaren, a teaching artist from The Song Room, a non-profit organisation that runs arts and music programs at disadvantaged schools. The robots flex their muscles. ”From the top?” asks Miss Colette.

”Yeeeees!” screams the class, as #thatPOWER cranks up again, and the children enthusiastically repeat the routine.

”Look at the behaviour of the kids,” whispers leading teacher Angela Savaglio. ”A couple can be quite challenging (in other lessons), but you don’t see it when you come to The Song Room because they are so engaged.”

Eighty-six per cent of students at Dandenong South Primary speak English as a second language; 20 per cent of families are refugees from countries including Sudan, Albania, and Afghanistan. But right now the only language any of them speak is Bieber fever. The class chose #thatPOWER as their song and they are utterly absorbed in practising the dance they will perform at the school concert on August 27.

In 2010, an evaluation of The Song Room program by international research company Educational Transformations found students who participated improved their NAPLAN reading scores by the equivalent of an extra year at school.

The evaluation, conducted in 10 schools in highly disadvantaged areas in Western Sydney, also found 65 per cent less absenteeism, higher grades, including in science and technology, increased confidence and decreased levels of depression.

”The findings were stunning. I have been engaged in educational research for nearly four decades and I have not seen anything like it,” lead researcher Professor Brian Caldwell said.

Education Minister Bill Shorten said federal Labor was determined to address the fact that 63 per cent of Australian primary schools currently offer no classroom music.

”There’s a recognition that schools that are offering music do better overall … I think that’s the same for all performing arts,” he said in an interview with Fairfax Media. ”Schools should be about putting children in touch with their imagination.”

Mr Shorten said the federal government would invest $1.25 million in music education programs, including $600,000 for The Song Room to help it expand its school workshop program, develop its website and provide resources for the national arts curriculum.

It had also allocated $450,000 to the Music Council of Australia’s Music Count Us In program, which helps teachers develop song-writing skills and $200,000 to complete digitisation of Australian musical scores, manuscripts and recordings for use in classrooms. The funding is already included in the budget.

The announcement comes in the middle of a Victorian parliamentary inquiry into music education in Victorian schools, established amid fears some schools are sacrificing subjects such as music for NAPLAN preparation.

In a submission to the inquiry, Educational Transformations said about 700,000 students in public primary schools in Australia have no opportunities to participate in arts programs, which may be putting Australia in breach of UNESCO’s Convention on the Rights of the Child.

”UNESCO considers education in the arts to be a universal human right,” the submission says.  It says the tens of millions of dollars spent on other strategies to improve NAPLAN results have had minimal effect and there should be a reallocation of funds to support arts education – including music – for all students, with disadvantaged students the highest priority.

The inquiry is expected to publish its findings by the end of the year.

Meanwhile, Dandenong South Primary year 4 student Jessica Costa Tchu is ”waaaay” looking forward to the school concert.

Principal Leonie Fitzgerald says while it is too early to assess whether NAPLAN results at the school have increased as a result of The Song Room, there has been a measurable improvement in attendance among the participating year 1 to 4 students.

”The kids show up on Thursdays (when The Song Room classes are held) – they are never sick,” Ms Fitzgerald says. ”They are so engaged – it’s the sort of thing that makes them happy to come to school. That’s so important because if they are not here, you can’t teach them in other subject areas. There is a real flow-on effect, so it is very exciting.”

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History’s top ten teenaged talents

Tavi Gevinson’s first blog, Style Rookie, received about 30,000 visitors a day. She was interviewed by The New York Times and given front-row invites to shows at New York and Paris fashion weeks. Her opinion was sought by everyone and anyone interested in fashion.

All this was when she was 12 years old, an age when most kids are wistfully saying farewell to My Little Pony and contemplating falling in love with a member of One Direction.

At the ripe old age of 15, Chicago-born Gevinson developed a new-found maturity, put away childish things such as fashion, and founded Rookie, a wildly successful online magazine.

She also acts, has given a TED talk and, naturally, hangs out with uber-hipster Ira Glass. This week, the 17-year-old is in Australia to speak at the Opera House on the future of journalism.

If we’re lucky, she might just be given a Nobel prize soon, then retire having achieved everything humanly possible and leave the rest of us to get on with feeling old, bitter and unsuccessful.

And just when you were feeling intimidated by the outrageously smart Gevinson, here is our pick of teenage creative geniuses throughout history. This is not so much intended to inspire as to remind you that if you haven’t made it by 20, you should probably just give up trying.

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-91)

Regarded by many as the greatest classical composer, Mozart wasted no time demonstrating his freakish musical talent, picking out chords on the piano at the age of three. He famously knocked out that ditty beloved of nursery mobile manufacturers everywhere, Twinkle Twinkle, Little Star, at five years old, an age when most kids are coming to terms with using a knife and fork. At 14, he penned Mitridate, re di Ponto, a three-act opera that is still performed today.

By 17, he got the gig as court musician for the ruler of Salzburg. Among other achievements before leaving his teenage years, he composed his five violin concertos, some string quartets and a series of church compositions. According to The Oxford Companion to Music, even at this age he was ”a complete master in nearly every genre and had the makings of an international reputation”.

Beyond the teens Mozart lived until only 35, when he died of a mystery illness, but his output was astonishing. Concertos, sonatas, chamber music, Masses, symphonies, operas and organ music flowed from his pen during his short life.

Percy Bysshe Shelley (1792-1822)

The English poet and political theorist developed a reputation very early on as a somewhat … unusual … child. Quiet, withdrawn and bookish, he was bullied mercilessly at Eton before winning over his tormenters with pranks that included running an electric current through the door handle of his room and blowing up a tree with gunpowder. ”I could not descend to common life: the sublime interest of poetry, lofty and exalted achievements, the proselytism of the world, the equalisation of its inhabitants, were to me the soul of my soul,” he wrote of his schooldays. By 18 he had published his first gothic novel, Zastrozzi. This was followed by an anonymous book of poetry and another novel, St. Irvyne. The following year he was tossed out of his Oxford college after writing a scandalous pamphlet called The Necessity of Atheism, which was the first material printed that attacked Christianity.

Beyond the teens Shelley’s output of poetry, prose and political writing in his colourful but short life is legendary. Chambers Biographical Dictionary concludes he was an ”inspirational polemicist” and a ”poet of genius”.

Pablo Picasso (1881-1973)

Somehow, it seems, the painting giant skipped the finger-painting phase and went straight to knocking out masterpieces. Later, he said: ”I never drew like a child.” His father was an art teacher but, by the time Pablo hit 13, he admitted his son’s talent already overshadowed his own. At 14, he produced a significant work, Girl with Bare Feet, which astonished those around him with its maturity. That year he also blitzed the exam to get into the senior art course at La Lonja art school in Barcelona.

Beyond the teens No sign of burnout here, with Picasso going on to become one of the most influential and best-known artists of the 20th century. As he put it, with characteristic humility: ”When I was a child, my mother said to me, ‘If you become a soldier, you’ll be a general. If you become a monk, you’ll end up as the Pope.’ Instead, I became a painter and wound up as Picasso.”

Arthur Rimbaud (1854-91)

The French poet is perhaps the ultimate precocious teenager, in that he did all his writing before he was 20. When he was 16, he published his first book of poems, and also ran away from home in north-eastern France to live in Paris, where he became part of the decadent movement (and, frankly, if you have to join a movement, this sounds like the one to join). According to Chambers Biographical Dictionary, he devoted this part of his teenage years to ”leisure, drinking and bawdy conversation”.

He was 17 when he began an affair with Paul Verlaine, another poet 10 years his senior. Things got a bit messy when Rimbaud tried telling Verlaine ”it’s not you, it’s me”, and Verlaine shot him in the hand (he was subsequently jailed for attempted murder). The shot in the hand also proved a shot in the arm for Rimbaud’s writing, and many of his greatest works come from this period.

Beyond the teens Rimbaud famously quit all forms of writing at age 20 in favour of travelling the world as an explorer, soldier and sometime gun runner. At 37, he contracted a leg infection and died after the limb was amputated.

Vaslav Nijinsky (1890-1950)

The greatest male dancer of the past century was knocking the socks of balletomanes before he turned 10. Born in Ukraine, his parents were noted dancers. His father in particular was admired for his leaping ability, something that later became Nijinsky’s trademark. He was nine when he started at St Petersburg’s Imperial Ballet School. A high-spirited lad (he was once expelled after an unfortunate incident involving a catapult and the hats of passers-by), he got through school largely on his astonishing dancing ability. By 17 he was a soloist at the Mariinsky Theatre, appearing in classics such as Swan Lake and The Sleeping Beauty.

Beyond the teens Nijinsky went on to become a ballet superstar, in particular as the leading dancer in Diaghilev’s Ballet Russes. He had a famously complicated and turbulent private life and left the stage aged just 29, when he was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia.

Judy Garland (1922-69)

According to Garland (nee Frances Ethel Gumm), she was ”born at the age of 12 on a Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer lot”. But even by that tender age, the kid from Grand Rapids, Minnesota, was already a stage veteran. At just 2½ years old, her obsession with performing was apparent when she sang Jingle Bells at her father’s theatre and had to be physically removed after the seventh rendition of the song. As a youngster she went on to tour and make several movies with her siblings as the Gumm Sisters. She was snapped up by MGM and made several musicals with Mickey Rooney before being cast in The Wizard of Oz in 1939. She was just 16 when she won an Oscar for her portrayal of Dorothy Gale in what was to be regarded as one of the greatest musicals. By 18 she was already under the care of a psychiatrist.

Beyond the teens Garland’s well-documented battle with booze, drugs and depression began almost immediately after The Wizard of Oz. But despite her personal torments, she went on to make movies including Meet Me in St Louis, Easter Parade and A Star Is Born. She overdosed on barbiturates in London aged 47.

Anne Frank (1929-45)

When one considers precociously talented teenagers throughout history, it is impossible to ignore the work and tragic life of Anne Frank. Frank was 13 when her father gave her the book in which she wrote the diary that was to become her memorial. Shortly after that, the family was forced to hide themselves in a secret suite at the back of an Amsterdam office. They were betrayed less than two years later, and Anne died in the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp. When the diary was discovered and published after the war, it became one of the most significant works dealing with the Holocaust. The maturity and insight of Frank’s writings have made the work a classic, read by millions. There is much unintended pathos in her diary, such as this fragment: ”I keep my ideals, because in spite of everything I still believe that people are really good at heart.” One can only speculate what she might have gone on to achieve had she not been murdered at the age of 15.

Keith Jarrett (1945-)

One of the greatest-living jazz pianists, Jarrett wasted no time starting his career; he began taking piano lessons aged three. Even then he showed a remarkable aptitude for the instrument. He also had perfect pitch (the ability to recognise and name individual notes with no reference pitch). He began composing almost straight away and at six he played his first complete concert, which included two of his own compositions. At nine, he had a gig at Madison Square Garden and by his early teens he was getting professional engagements. To this point, Jarrett’s focus had been on the classical repertoire and in his mid-teens he was offered the chance to study in France with legendary composer and teacher Nadia Boulanger, which he turned down in favour of a jazz career.

Beyond the teens Jarrett went on to play with jazz royalty, including Miles Davis and Art Blakey, as well as leading many other ensembles of his own. He is also famous for his solo improvised performances, including the ground-breaking Koln Concert, the best-selling recording of solo piano music.

Stevie Wonder (1950- )

At 11, most children make extra pocket money with a paper round. By that age, young Steveland Judkins Wonder had already signed for Motown Records. Born in Michigan, Wonder was a premature baby and an incubator accident left him permanently blind. Not that his disability held him back. Just to underline his prodigious early talent, his first album (released when he was 13) was titled Recorded Live: The 12-Year-Old Genius. The Berry Gordy-produced album went to the top of the Billboard chart as did the single Fingertips.

While still a teenager, Wonder recorded smash hits including For Once in My Life and Signed, Sealed, Delivered, I’m Your’s. He also wrote Tears of a Clown, which became the signature song for Smokey Robinson.

Beyond the teens Wonder’s post-prodigy career has been punctuated by massive hits and a willingness to experiment with different genres beyond soul music. Tracks such as Sir Duke (with its catchy horn riff that has bedevilled generations of school bands) and Superstition more than made up for kitschy outings such as I Just Called to Say I Love You.

Kate Bush (1958-)

Like so many 13-year-olds, Kate Bush spent a lot of time writing her own poetry and lyrics. Unlike most 13-year-olds, her adolescent scribblings were rather good. In fact, as it turned out, they were extraordinarily accomplished. At the age of 14, she met Pink Floyd’s David Gilmour, who was impressed by the teenager with the unique voice and recorded some songs with her at his home studio. She signed to EMI shortly after that and was on top of the British charts at the age of 19 with her debut release, Wuthering Heights, which, depending on your viewpoint, is a classic pop song of romantic genius, or one of the most irritating earworms ever released.

Beyond the teens Bush has proved to be anything but a one-hit wonder. Her songs have featured in the British top 40 on 25 occasions. She was also the first female solo artist to have an album go straight to No.1 in Britain. Earlier this year, she was made a CBE for services to music.

Tavi Gevinson will speak at the Opera House on Sunday.

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