A high school band named after a bright star cluster, M22, have won the Christian Media & Arts Australia (CMAA) Australian Artist of the Year – People’s Choice Award, 2023.
Penola Catholic College year 12 students Siala Maelasi, Alannah Gouvas, Kelly Godfrey and Jordan Gioskos began performing together after their Science and Religion teacher, Dennis Alberto, encouraged them to use their gifts to dream big.
When brainstorming the name of the group, someone suggested Music Ministry 22, which was then shortened to M22. After prayer, they did a Google search to ensure that no one else had that name, because, as Dennis jokes, “they weren’t going to be naming themselves after a potato peeler.”
Landing on the NASA website, the band discovered that M22 is a star cluster that is known to be the brightest cluster of stars visible from the mid-northern latitudes. This inspired the group to develop its mission and vision, which Dennis says is to “bring hope to other young people through music and be a light in the darkness.”
“We often assume that young people don’t have a story to tell, but everybody has a story.” – Dennis Alberto
Through the writing of music and being able to worship God through their songs, M22 have been able to explore questions that many young people have asked at some point: Who am I? Where is God in my life personally? What is my calling? Dennis says that one of the most beautiful things he has seen is the “faith journey that all the students have gone on through the use of music. God has grown in their hearts through this project.”
Last year, M22 had the opportunity to do a primary school tour, playing 45-minute sets. The band found the experience moving as young people were able to experience prayer and story through music. With M22’s experience of faith having grown through music, Dennis believes that “music is powerful, and God is able to move through the gift of music in people’s lives.” He says, “We often assume that young people don’t have a story to tell, because they don’t know much, but everybody has a story.”
Dennis has had the opportunity to discuss with some classes about M22’s song ‘footsteps.’ In junior high classes, Dennis asks questions about faith and life and points out references to the Bible in the songs, creating “threads in students’ lives” towards faith. On occasion he even hears students singing the lyrics in the hallways.
While three members of M22 – Siala, Alannah and Kelly – are finishing high school this year, they have left an amazing legacy for students who come after them.