Academy of Country Music director Lyn Bowtell says it's "incredibly heartbreaking" to have to pull the pin on the January 2022 senior course, but she believes it's the right decision.
Days out from the 50th Tamworth Country Music Festival, COVID-19 is again wreaking havoc on the 10-day event, with the Tamworth Services Club announcing the cancellation of all festival shows.
The prestigious academy course was set to run in Tamworth for 10 days from January 4, and offers musicians 18 years and above expert mentoring and career guidance.
Bowtell said the academy explored all opportunities, but due to government restrictions and the health and safety of staff and students, they decided to postpone the 2022 senior course to January 2023.
"We looked out at all our possibilities of staying within a bubble, but it was just a little difficult because our accommodation and our teaching facilities are a few kilometres away from each other," she said.
"It just seemed to make the most sense for the health and safety of our staff and students and also to try and mitigate some losses.
"It's incredibly heartbreaking because of the amount of work my team and I put into everything and we had 29 incredible students coming and some incredible tutors and guest artists coming along to talk to our students.
"They were going to be learning so much over those 10 days leading into the festival."
All students who were attending in 2022 have been offered a position in the 2023 academy.
It is the third time since the pandemic began an academy has had to be postponed.
With surging COVID-19 numbers across the country, Bowtell said she had "grave concerns" for January's festival but conceded it was so important it goes ahead.
"It's a very difficult time to plan and it's very hard to know," she said.
"We have to take into account that very rightly so, people will be hesitant to go out when there's thousands and thousands of cases of COVID in the country.
"I do feel that no matter what we'll support it the best we can. I think all artists are in the same boat - we really want the festival to go ahead, especially being such a special year with the 50th anniversary."
In a statement sent to the Leader, Hunter New England Health public health physician Dr David Durrheim urged anyone considering attending Tamworth Country Music Festival to ensure they have had their COVID-19 vaccine booster vaccine when it is due.
He also urged people to participate in outdoor activities as a preference.
"COVID-19 is very active in our communities. People, particularly in an indoor environment, are at high risk of contracting COVID-19," he said.
"We remind all attendants to continue to practise COVID-safe behaviours, including wearing a mask not only indoors, but especially when they cannot adequately distance from others.
"Anyone who is a case, close contact or has any symptoms should not attend."
Dr Durrheim recommended the use of a rapid antigen test (RAT) before going out, as an additional precaution.
"Particularly if socialising in groups of people or anywhere it may be difficult to socially distance," he said.
"We encourage festival organisers to have a COVIDSafe plan for the event and to maximise using outdoor environments."
Organisers are pushing ahead with plans for the festival to proceed.
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