Category Archives: Music

StreetSounds festival hits the streets of Geelong with aplomb!

Sun shone through grey clouds gathered low over Pakington Street in Geelong West last Saturday morning, jostling to catch a glimpse of the gloriously coloured community musicians gathering in readiness on the grass below to play in the StreetSounds Festival parade and fiesta. The previous evening these same musicians had made their way to Geelong to bring the StreetSounds project to Geelong After Dark, illuminating the darkness with beats, riffs, fat sounds, fairy lights and high vis vests.

The StreetSounds project has been lead by Community Music Victoria since 2015, with funding from R E Ross Trust and Helen Macpherson Smith Trust. Over the past two years, street bands have popped up in Kyneton, Bellbrae and Inverloch; Morwell, Dunolly, and Footscray; Sunshine, Windsor and Melton, all kindled and supported with encouragement, advice and input from StreetSounds project manager, Lyndal Chambers.

Each of the bands is open to anyone and experience, skill levels and age are no barrier to joining in. What’s key is the desire to have fun and connect through making music together in a way that is mobile and can be taken out to the streets and delivered to the broader community for everyone to enjoy. Playing loud music and wearing loud clothes present people with an opportunity to escape the mundanities and worries of life once in a while, whilst making new friends and strengthening local networks: what’s not to love?

Many amazing moments have come to light as the StreetSounds project has unfolded. Horns have been dusted down, flutes and recorders have emerged from packing boxes, marimbas have been built and washboards assembled. There are several families now involved across the project: Amy plays in the Fabulous Meltones together with her three kids and her father.  In the Prahran Accordion Band, Hans has dreamed of being able to play the accordion since childhood.  And for everyone, making music in a band where there are no wrong notes adds a dimension to life, hard to beat.

The element of inclusion which has underpinned the StreetSounds project since its inception was evident at the Festival and in this safe space the crowd brimmed with palpable pride, enjoying the energy and enthusiasm generated by merging and becoming part of a bigger picture. A static crackle of excitement sparkled and sparked through the throng and across West Park on Saturday, exploding into a massed rendition of ‘Caderas’ and Shane Howard’s ‘Talk of the Town’, two common tunes learnt and rehearsed by the bands to play together at that very point.

A pop-up off-shoot of the non-conventional street band ‘Our Community Sounds’ ran an open improvisation workshop in the Park’s rotunda, drawing in members from all of the bands and encouraging them to experiment spontaneously with sound. ‘Our Community Sounds’, facilitated on Saturday by Conor O’Hanlon, shares the same philosophy as the other street bands – one of removing barriers to participation in music making but the delivery is in the form of spontaneous participatory events rather than performances.

“I realised what a unique thing we were all doing – not a Jazz Festival, not a Folk Festival, not a Brass Band Festival, not a Music Camp .. something that’s inclusive of a diversity of skill level, instrumentation and cultures.” Lyndal Chambers, StreetSounds project manager

The clouds could only contain their excitement for so long, and as the rain finally fell, the StreetSounds mob and their homemade banners moved into the hall at West Park where they played short sets all afternoon, joined by the Zamponistas, Havana Palava, Doowlla of Drum Connection and Geelong’s Tate Primary School marimba band, the Marimbataters.

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Darth Vader takes to the streets as part of Kyneton Street Band
Invy Horn Jam 2
Percussionist Steve Schultz & his son drumming up a storm with Invy Horn Jam
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Jane Coker, chair of the CMVic board of management giving cues during the massed play
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Members of Havana Palava meet members of the Sunshine Street Band, Boomulele, & the Fabulous Meltones. Other players from other bands joined in amongst the crowd for a fantastic finale!

Click the  links below to see two glorious photo stories of the event, by Dr Laura Brearley:

1: GEELONG AFTER DARK

2: STREETSOUNDS FESTIVAL

And there are oodles more photos of everyone to see on the StreetSounds Facebook page!

Written by Deb Carveth, online editor for Community Music Victoria

Further reading:

Our Community Sounds: an exciting new improv project

MELTIN’ DOWN AGE BARRIERS IN MELTON: THE INTERGENERATIONAL STREET BAND SUPPORTING FAMILY MUSIC MAKING.

Dreams Come True at Prahran Accordion Band

**To find out about joining a StreetSounds group near you, contact Community Music Victoria or jump on the website, www.cmvic.org.au

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The Countdown to Count Us In, is on!

Do you know any school aged children? Do you teach school aged children? If you love a chance to sing with your fledgling and older song birds whilst advocating for the value of music and music education in all schools, this year’s Music: Count Us In program might be just the ticket. On Thursday November 2nd at 12.30pm AEDT, more than half a million children across the country will put down their pens to sing up in ‘a celebration of music and music education.’

MA illustrations final selection-educationMusic: Count Us In (MCUI) is a free program conceived and run by Music Australia to celebrate and advocate for music in Australian schools. Now in its eleventh year, it’s a way for students and teachers to develop their skills as they learn and rehearse a specially written song over several months to be sung at the same time on the same day. Music Australia describe it as ‘the song that stops a nation’ and last year it engaged over 600,000 children from more than 2,500 schools.

While it is recognised that exposure to music in schools enhances student engagement and wellbeing, improves learning and promotes personal and social development, less than a quarter of government schools across Australia are currently able to provide a comprehensive music education.

The MCUI program is one way for children of all ages, abilities and backgrounds to access free music education and delivers professional music development and learning resources directly to classroom teachers. This year the professional development sessions will be streamed live for greater outreach to teachers in remote, rural and regional areas.

And there’s more good news. Research based on the participation of schools in previous years indicates that involvement in the program leads to greater recognition of the benefit of music education, within those schools.

 “Generalist teachers develop increased confidence and skills, and specialist teachers use the program as an opportunity to bring the whole school together to celebrate music. Participating in Music: Count Us In is also a great way for schools to engage with their local community, seek local media coverage, advocate directly to their Government representatives and create opportunities to showcase talented and dedicated students and teachers. More students might put their hands up to join existing choirs and music ensembles, Principals might decide to allocate more time and resources to music, teachers might offer more regular music classes per week ….There are so many ways to bring more music into students lives. Music: Count Us In is just the beginning!” Music Australia

A new song is written each year by a selection of school children in collaboration with a ‘music mentor’. This year, the music mentor is singer songwriter  Taylor Henderson who will be working with five students from Queensland, New South Wales and Victoria together with the MCUI program ambassador John Foreman OAM. The song and the teaching resources pack will be good to go in July.

MCUI is open to all schools from early childhood through to high school, in both the government and private sectors. If you are interested in registering or if you’d like to encourage somebody else to, more information can be found here.

The more kids who take part, the more powerful the message to the powers that be about the value and importance of a decent music education for all school aged children.

Deb Carveth: online editor for Community Music Victoria

Jamming beats books: How music making with toddlers can enhance their development

The next time you sit down to read to a toddler, consider popping that ole book back to its place on the shelf for a while*, and playing some homemade music together instead. Over time, the long term effect of your action might just make the world a better place to be. Research from the University of Queensland conducted over two years on more than 3000 young children showed that making music with toddlers could have even more of a positive impact on their development, than sharing a story. And lets face it, banging on pots and pans is loud and fun for everyone (especially the neighbours, who will love you).

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Findings from the study, ‘Being and becoming musical: towards a cultural ecological model of early musical development’ (2013–2015) indicate that early involvement in music participation has the capacity to improve numeracy, increase attention and assist with the development of prosocial behaviour and skills which, being the opposite of anti-social skills, are therefore beneficial to the good of society as a whole.

Professor Margaret Barrett, head of University of Queensland’s School of Music and a key leader in the study funded by the Australian Research Council, claims that “Children who experienced more frequent parent-child music activity at two to three years showed stronger vocabulary and numeracy skills, more prosocial skills and stronger abilities to regulate their own attention and emotion at four to five years old….The study highlights that informal music education in early childhood is a vital tool for supporting the cognitive and social development of children.”

Read the full article ‘Jamming with Toddlers trumps Hitting the books’ published on the Medical Xpress website here

*But be sure to come back to the book later on. Balance in all things, and all that…

Article by Deb Carveth based on information found in ‘Jamming with Toddlers trumps Hitting the books.’ Published by Medical Xpress. September 2015

A conversation about leading singers with ASD

This post is not written from a professional perspective. It is the shared experiences of Liz, a mother who is also a singing leader, who has a son with ASD and who was generous enough to share her observations and knowledge.

Autism spectrum disorder,  (ASD) is the term used to describe a group of disorders in brain development that includes autism, Asperger’s syndrome and pervasive developmental disorder (also known as atypical autism).  The word ‘spectrum’ is used to reflect the range and varying degrees in the severity levels of symptoms found in individuals with ASD. These typically present as difficulties in social interaction, verbal and nonverbal communication, and repetitive behaviours, to varying degrees. Autism is the most commonly occurring form of ASD.

Any group of people coming together for an activity will comprise a glorious melting pot of personalities, stories, challenges and needs, many of which are neither visible nor immediately apparent at first glance.

Many of the tips and strategies outlined below are unlikely to be entirely new to many experienced leaders,  but it’s always good to be reminded of them.

Liz feels “we don’t need to ‘specialise’ or become experts to lead a positive singing experience for someone with ASD.” To varying degrees with autism, sensitivities are more magnified and social behaviour that is unconsciously expected in our society does not come naturally.

One of the great things that I have learnt from my experience with my son is to look more closely at each individual’s perspective and story, rather than the more collective, often unquestioned, expectations of our society.”

However, there are many practical approaches you can easily incorporate into your practice as a music group leader that will help increase the pleasure of participation for a person with ASD, and put everyone at ease within the group, too.

For Liz, whose son has high functioning Asperger’s, the initial challenge in encouraging him to sing was to find a group open to all ages that welcomed the two of them at a time of the day suitable for them both. This pursuit led to Liz hearing about Community Music Victoria and attending a Gippsland Singers Network weekend at Wilson’s Prom. It was there she was first introduced to the fully inclusive concept of Vocal Nosh. It felt a perfect fit for both Liz and her son. That weekend, as always, the Vocal Nosh model was open, it was relaxed and there were no rules to be followed or broken. This created an immediate sense of ease, and if Liz’s son didn’t want to sing a particular song then he could opt out, and join back in for the next one.

“It’s awesome to be able to provide an activity that reduces the anxiety of restriction that is common with the experience of living on the spectrum.

My son enjoys a Vocal Nosh because he doesn’t have to stand anywhere in particular, he is singing with me and I’m having fun and is relaxed and so he reflects this.”

Full of inspiration, Liz returned home and decided to set up a singing group of her own, run along the lines of a Vocal Nosh and open to singers of all ages and abilities, with support from CMVic mentors and catalysts Margaret Crichton and Kass Mulvany.

As well as Liz’s son, a second young person with ASD joined the group. Liz found that having a relaxed approach was key, and also that it was essential not to take offence if somebody turned around and said ‘I don’t like that song’.

Emotion recognition needs to be learnt by a person with ASD. ASD causes difficulty in decoding nuances or facial expressions and the unspoken rules in life – of which there are so many – don’t apply to somebody with ASD in the same way. This can make others around them feel ill at ease if something is said in an overly blunt way, something which can be challenging in a group context.

Liz recommends ‘Don’t be offended by pickiness or bluntness. Keep an open mind and continue to learn about the human condition. Lead by example to the rest of the group by reacting to any bluntness directed your way with a relaxed attitude, and go with the flow.

For example, some people may find it uncomfortable if the unspoken gets said. A person might say they are bored or that a particular song is boring, causing other people to feel horrified that this sentiment was verbalised.  And then there’s that awkward silence that ensues…

Liz also recommends that singing leaders take particular care to be clear with their instructions and their signals when teaching a song.

“Sometimes these won’t be understood by a person with ASD, so explain first what your hand signals mean.”

Many people with ASD will find socialising an anxiety provoking activity because of the literalness with which they interpret situations and coding around them. A wink for example, doesn’t convey a double meaning or cheeky intent, it means ‘that person has something in their eye.’

This heightened sense of anxiety should always be considered and Liz also recommends that changes to a routine are best avoided or made slowly when considering the needs of someone with ASD. For this reason, it is important to say to everyone ‘you are so welcome here’ and emphasise the point that they can do whatever they need to, in order to be comfortable.

“I tell them, if you want to sit down, that’s fine..sit down and sing if it works.”

Once a person with ASD feels familiar with a setting and with other members of the group, everything is usually fine.

One conversation Liz always avoids is the one which starts, “this is so and so and they have autism… you just can’t do that.“  Instead, an exercise she feels may help leaders before a session, is to think up some positive ways to respond to some of the typical situations that may arise.

 “Let’s face it, life’s amazing and wonderful tapestry of personalities can bring challenges in facilitating any singing/music group, so this will not be a new strategy.”

Liz’s son gets a lot of comfort from music and a lot of fun too. Liz believes that getting autistic kids involved in music from an early age trains their brains to react to dopamine in a positive way, boosting their mood and sense of worth, as it does for us all. For adults with ASD who enjoy participatory music making, it can be particularly beneficial. Belonging to a singing group can help prevent any feelings of social isolation which may occur as the result of difficulty in easily maintaining stable social connections.

“If you meet the brain’s demands for dopamine with a healthy thing, then you don’t need to meet that demand with an unhealthy thing… Let’s get the whole world singing.”

Advice for group leaders working with people with ASD, based on Liz’s experience and observations:

  • Be clear with your directions
  • Be welcoming
  • Be sensitive to whether somebody has struggled to be present in the group on that day and whether they’re feeling uncomfortable or awkward
  • Tread carefully with body contact in warm ups or particular songs, depending on the person
  • Be prepared for bluntness and don’t be offended by it, and absorb it on behalf of the other group members
  • If you’re going to change something in the process or course of the group, explain those changes clearly and give advance warning that the changes will happen, where possible the week before. Send a message to the person it will affect most, ahead of time
  • Be aware that for some people with ASD, participation in your group may be their only experience of trying something social and you want it to be positive!
  • And finally, expect the unexpected.

For further information and to access advice about Autism Spectrum Disorder, visit AMAZE: www.amaze.org.au 

1: Australian Psychology Society: Understanding and managing Autism Spectrum Disorder

2: Autism Speaks: What is autism?

Article written by Deb Carveth with Liz  for Community Music Victoria

 

Chocolate Lilies sing out and celebrate!

The Chocolate Lily is a hardy plant well suited to group plantings with a coping mechanism for surviving all weather conditions. Not dissimilar then, to Nerida Kirov’s community singing group of the same name which has just won an Australia Day award.

The award for Community Group of the year was given in recognition of the contribution made by the Chocolate Lilies to the fabric of the Nillumbik community for their  ‘can do attitude,  pitching in and sharing their talents freely to contribute to their community, as well as their work in helping hundreds of singers gain confidence, a sense of community and have fun.’

Nerida described the news they had won as ‘rather humbling and wonderful’…

‘it was a huge surprise and we are so grateful and blown out by the nomination.’

The Chocolate Lilies, led by Nerida from day one, has been empowering people from the area to come together and sing since its inception in 1993.

Over the past 22 years, a phenomenal bond has developed between members of the group. They have sung together In celebration and shared tears with each other through the tough times, The fires of 2009 caused devastation and loss to many and from within the Chocolate Lilies alone, people lost friends; people lost homes and partners.

Throughout that period, the Chocolate Lilies continued to reach out to those suffering grief and loss and to meet and sing, not only in Hurstbridge and Warrandyte but in Strathewen where 15% of the community perished.

Talk was not necessary; singing together was primal and healing and offered an escape from the terror and grief of the fires.

Immersing themselves in beautiful songs and being bathed in beautiful sound was a form of recovery, and singers, old and new to the group forged a deep sense of connection through their support for each other. It’s now seven years later and many of the people who were inspired to sing with the Chocolate Lilies at that time have stayed on.

With between sixty and seventy regular singers, the group is based across two venues, Allwood Neighbourhood house in Hurstbridge and Warrandyte Mechanics Institute & Arts Association, with everybody coming together for voluntary performances within the community, as many as twenty times a year. A dozen or so of the original members remain from 1993, and the group now feels like a family from which other networks have emerged and grown.

Nerida Kirov believes that when leading a community group it is vital to be instinctual in the way you approach things where people’s emotions are invested, and involved.

‘You cannot be contrived, be empathic with people (who have experienced trauma). It is very important to be sensitive and aware of the dynamics.’

There is a strong social conscience within the group, and as well as attending and performing at community events, many members of the choir frequently go on marches to demonstrate their opinions. The poignancy of the awards being tied in with Australia Day which is also seen as Invasion Day is not lost on Nerida.

‘Aboriginal Elders had a significant presence at the Awards Ceremony and spoke about the history of the day from their perspective. They spoke of the wonderful diverse Australia that we are working towards and the struggle we have been through to get here, and how it is insulting and disrespectful to tie that recognition to the day that began the wipe out of our indigenous people.’

Nerida feels while it is important to acknowledge and celebrate all the great things happening in our communities that possibly, this could happen on a different day.

Australia DayMany of the songs sung by the Chocolate Lilies have a political angle or issue at the heart of them, and the group also sings original material written by Nerida. One of her songs, ‘Sleepless’ was published in CMVic songbook, Short Stuff. This song was then seen by a Canadian woman who decided to get in touch with Nerida after identifying, bleary eyed, with the words of her song.

A connection was established and the Chocolate Lilies now include material written by that person in their repertoire. Material sent from one singing leader to another, in a song swap across the seas. Which pretty much sums it all up: Singing is a fantastic way to connect!

It provides us with the encouragement we need to reach out and connect, and to remind ourselves of the rich and diverse ways we can each contribute to our society. It brings together people of all ages and from all backgrounds, and it is fabulous that Nillumbik recognises the positive values and impact of the Chocolate Lilies on connectedness, health and well being, within its community.

So congratulations  Nerida Kirov and the Chocolate Lilies! And while we’re at it, congratulations to singing leaders and their groups everywhere, for enriching life, for promoting positive ageing, for providing the perfect stress outlet and moral support through the trials and tribulations of life. And if Nerida has one piece of advice to share?

“Integrity. Love what you’re doing. It’s the bottom line. Pass on the joy of what you do to the people around you.”

For more information about the Chocolate Lilies, contact Nerida Kirov: neridakirov@gmail.com

Article written by Deb Carveth with Nerida Kirov

 

 

 

 

Going the distance: Taking music on the road to schools in remote regions.

The benefits of music in childhood are multiple, impacting and well documented. Yet in spite of proven positive connections between music and early learning, and music and emotional development, mainstream education too often seems to view it as a peripheral extra, a luxury that can easily be dispensed of, and budget cuts in schools seem to hit music departments especially hard.

So it’s particularly great to read heart warming stories such as the one about Dennis Winbanks, from North Western Victoria, who travels over 550 kilometres each week to deliver music and music making opportunities to remote and geographically isolated students at schools in regional and rural Victoria.

The story, ‘Travelling music teacher going the distance for regional students’ by Sophie Malcolm,  was featured on the ABC news website on Wednesday, and is a celebration of Dennis’s recognition of the value and importance of music and his desire to ensure kids living in these remote areas are exposed to the same kind of opportunities enjoyed by their peers living in the state’s larger towns.

Dennis teaches about 350 students in four different schools, arriving in a ute and towing a trailer full of instruments. It’s no wonder there’s a strong attendance on the days Dennis rolls up, with his musical cargo in tow.

As if its contents and the accompanying diversion from the usual school timetable weren’t magical enough, what Dennis delivers has the potential to transcend all that.

He brings not only the opportunity for these children to experience music in a way they may not get anywhere else in their lives, but the subsequent potential for personal enrichment and the development of new pathways: neurological, emotional, educational and creative. Go Dennis! Go music teachers, music group leaders and facilitators, everywhere!

Read the full article from the ABC, here.

Deb Carveth. Online editor for Community Music Victoria.

The positive impact of listening to music during and after surgery.

Whether participating in group music making or listening to something alone, the fibres of our soul react to the sound waves and vibrations in the music, and so does our brain. The capacity of sound and rhythm to affect our emotions varies wildly, from the calming rustle of breeze-blown leaves, or waves being sieved over sand and sucked back to sea, scaling up to louder, more rousing percussive beats or total immersion in a rich, treacle-thick havoc of horns. Whether you love or hate a particular genre and method of delivery, each has its own time and place and everyone has their favourite groove or go to tune to bust out in times of triumph or tragedy.

Expanding on this rationale, recent scientific research conducted in the UK has delivered a proven link in the effectiveness of using a patient’s choice of music before, during and after surgery to relieve levels of pain and anxiety, and even reduce the need for painkillers in people undergoing medical treatment and intervention, in a hospital environment.

The study, led by Queen Mary University of London, was undertaken without funding and carried out on the principle that “Music is a non-invasive, safe, and inexpensive intervention that can be delivered easily and successfully.”1

The team analysed the results of 73 randomised controlled trials involving almost 7,000 patients to assess the impact of music in aiding post operative recovery. The findings, whilst not totally unsurprising, are extraordinary because of the subsequent impact they’ve made within a fairly traditional context. Western medicine has taken time to embrace alternative methods and approaches and implement them into its practice, but a pilot scheme in giving patients access to music as part of their procedure and treatment is currently under way in the obstetrics and gynaecology unit at the Royal London Hospital.

For anyone who has experienced surgery, the use of analgesics to combat pain and discomfort following an operation are rarely entirely free of side effects and can occasionally delay or dull feelings of positivity and the psychological progression that’s so vital to full recuperation. In light of this, any reduction in the need for post operative intervention and administered medicine is a bonus, not only on the hospitals’ budget, but to the person on the receiving end.

And, what’s more, the physiological effect of the music was evident even when patients were under general anaesthetic.

So if you or anybody you’re close to is scheduled for a trip to hospital anytime soon, refresh your playlist. If you don’t own one already, invest in an iPod or borrow one from a friend, and read this article, explaining the study in greater depth. Alternatively, arrange and record a tune which you play or sing in your group as a get well message. And if you think it would be welcome, drop in at the hospital once they’ve had their op, and play them some gentle and soothing music of your own making…

By Deb Carveth based on an article published in MedicalXpress called ‘New study confirms listening to music during surgery reduces pain and anxiety’. August 12 2015

1: The Lancetwww.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(15)60169-6/abstract