As the tentative optimism emerging for some community music groups in term 3 was crushed by COVID once more, devising a resource to support leaders to facilitate online music making or to squeeze the most out of their current online practice became a priority. Saddened by the clipped wings of songbirds and the frustration of instrumentalists playing alone into the ether almost everywhere, CMVic began working on the development of resources to support an online take off as a way for groups to keep connected.
The result is a fantastic, seven page, website resource called Leading Community Music Online, researched and written by CMVic’s newly appointed tech advisor, Craig Barrie. Together with his partner, Nicki Johnson, Craig has been singing and strumming and keeping the spirits and morale of community music-makers raised up through lockdown since the very start of this corona-induced hullaballoo. Offering multiple online opportunities for people to participate and engage through his work with Nicki as part of All the Way Home, With One Voice Greater Dandenong, and as an independent music teacher, has required Craig to experiment extensively and continually refine what he’s found works best and what is better avoided from both a delivery and engagement perspective, using this format.
Craig has now written up his findings together with some of his top tips into a highly informative, engaging and accessible resource designed to support and enable community music makers’ to enjoy positive tech outcomes and less glitches. It includes advice and help-guides about how to get the best results with limited time and a limited budget.
This is all now loaded and shared on the Community Music Victoria website and we very much hope that the following index of info will help you and your groups to turn iso into calypso and remain tuned in with each other until normal service can be resumed, however far off that is, whether you’re locked down in Melbourne and Mitchell Shire or restricted in regional Victoria. The options discussed have been tried and tested by music leaders in the CMVic family since physical distancing measures took effect in March 2020 – we thank them for so generously sharing their knowledge and experience in the peer-sharing spirit of Community Music Victoria.
*Members of CMVic can also book a one-to-one tech help appointment with Craig Simply email: firstname.lastname@example.org with your issue specifying when you are available for a call or Zoom chat. Please include a description of relevant hardware (e.g. laptop/tablet/phone, Mac-IoS/PC-Android).
**Keep an eye out for upcoming CMVic Zoom sessions on specific tech related topics. These are advertised in CMVic’s Shout newsletter as well as the CMVic Singing Leaders’ Lounge and Music Group Leaders’ Lounge on Facebook, and include ongoing discussions of what our clever, creative folk are doing to make the best lemonade out of the lemons that 2020 has supplied in abundance!
Written by Deb Carveth with Craig Barrie for Community Music Victoria
Music is known to provoke the senses, give pleasure and sometimes move people to tears. Surely this has little to do with mathematical models which are so frequently associated with cold and rational logic. So what can maths tell us about this powerful phenomenon closely connected to the emotions? Can mathematics help us measure what’s sublime or ineffable about a piece of music?
Music evokes strong emotions such as frisson (goose bumps), awe and laughter – and has been found to use the same reward pathways as food, drugs and sex to induce pleasure. A shiver down one’s spine or an uncontrollable guffaw when listening to music is most often a case of the music defying your expectations. Expectations can be defined in two ways: schematic – knowing how a genre of music is supposed to go – or veridical – knowing how a particular piece of music unfolds.
On one end of the spectrum, a performance or a piece of music that does just what you’d expect runs the risk of becoming banal. On the other end, music like that of PDQ Bach – which uses tongue-in-cheek egregious violations of known expectations – makes many people laugh.
PDQ Bach: The Short-tempered Clavier: Minuet in C. EC, Author provided735 KB (download)
The craving that comes from musical anticipation and the euphoria that follows the reward have both been found to be linked to dopamine release. As a result, performers and composers alike play with listeners’ expectations, often going to great lengths to carefully choreograph their expectations, and then sometimes breaking them, to provoke and heighten emotional responses.
Playing with expectations
In tonal music, which is almost all of the music that we hear and can be thought of as being based on a scale, the note sequence sets up expectations, then suspends, fulfils, or violates them. For a simple example, sing the first three phrases of “Happy Birthday” and stop at the end of the penultimate phrase.
Anticipation for the resolution to this musical cliffhanger creates a palpable knot in the gut. This hollow feeling can be further intensified by delaying the final phrase. The release is evident when the final phrase is heard and ends happily on the most stable tone.
Two things are at work here in this miniature example: tonality and time. Tonality provides a framework through which expectations are formed – and the play on time, the delaying of expectations, uses the framework to create a musical cliffhanger and titillate the senses.
Where maths comes in
Expectations can be modelled mathematically and time can be measured – so the shaping of both expectations and time can be described in numbers. Over the years, in my research lab, we have developed models and computer algorithms for quantifying tonal properties and expressive parameters in music. Many of the tonal analysis algorithms are based on what is known as a “spiral array model”.
The spiral array can be plotted in 3D to allow us to visualise the dynamic evolution of musical keys and spot when the notes and their timing combine to do something interesting to tug at our emotions.
As music is heard, the notes can be mapped to the model, duly weighted and summarised as points inside it. Movements in the space inside the model allow listeners to see deviations from expected tonal behaviour.
Just as pitches that sound close one to another are spatially near each other; the converse is true: pitches that sound far from one another are spatially far apart. Feelings of tension translate to quantifiably big distances – notes mapping to widely dispersed points or pulling far away from an established centre of gravity.
Composers actively vary the tension over time to generate interest and captivate the listener’s attention. The shaping of tension over time also helps create meaningful long-term structure. It is notoriously hard for computer algorithms to generate music with long-term structure. But the MorpheuS system, developed by music researcher Dorien Herremans, circumvents this problem to generate music with a pre-set narrative structure by using a tension model based on the spiral array. Listen to this version of JS Bach’s “Minuet in D”:
MorpheuS-Bach: A Little Notebook for Anna Magdalena: Minuet in D. EC, Author provided582 KB (download)
It follows the tension profile, rhythms, and repetition patterns of the original piece from A Little Notebook for Anna Magdalena Bach:
JS Bach: A Little Notebook for Anna Magdalena Bach: Minuet in D. EC, Author provided605 KB (download)
The notes of the generated piece also conjures up similar degrees of tension to the original music. For example, discordant sounds follows the same patterns of discord in Bach’s original piece.
Not only do notes themselves create tension, a performer can delay resolutions to heighten suspense. Judicious use of timing is one of the most potent expressive devices for eliciting emotional responses. The right amount of delay can sweeten the anticipation – but take too much time and the performer risks losing the listener.
In music with a beat, the musical pulse forms a baseline grid on which to measure timing deviations – prolongations and reductions of the time unit. In extreme cases, these warpings of musical time produce tipping points, the feeling of being poised at the brink of an abstract hill in an imaginary roller coaster.
We can use maths to present this graphically. When a piece of music is performed precisely as written, it is displayed as a flat line in these graphs. But music is almost never played exactly as written. Performers often exercise significant creative license; as a result, anomalous peaks signal the evocation of musical tipping points.
By elongating specific notes – or words or syllables – the performer draws the listener’s ears to details that might have been missed or glossed over. Because the listener often knows what’s coming, the delay prolongs expectation – creating drama and exaggerating emotional cues.
Mathematics is the language through which scientists understand the nature of the universe. However, the extent to which numbers can explain the ephemeral experience of music has yet to be fully explored. Why does music move us? How do its variegated structures translate to musical expectations? How do performers and composers exploit these expectations to craft profound and moving musical experiences? Our mathematical forays into these questions are but the tip of the ice berg.
Brianna Slattery’s always loved rhythm. “I first picked up a Djembe drum when I was about 18 and found it to be really therapeutic, I just loved the tactile experience of drumming, it was something I did for myself. I’d go to the park and drum without really knowing what I was doing so I joined a Samba style drumming group which was my introduction to drumming within a community.”
“I became aware of how particularly powerful rhythm is in bringing people together and I felt the strength of the connections I was building with everyone I was playing with. Even though we were a really diverse group we became a tight knit community around our common goal of creating and sharing these amazing rhythms.”
Brianna trained as a teacher and began utilising the drum as her primary instrument for teaching music in the classroom. She discovered this was a highly effective way to engage the students, particularly those whose attention was more challenging to maintain. Then, around five years ago, moving over the border from New South Wales into North Eastern Victoria, Brianna returned to uni to study a Master’s in Education, culminating in her writing a thesis based on her observations from her teaching experience.
“It was really fascinating looking at it all through the lens of the context of drumming, particularly the West African drumming style and it gave me some ideas which led to me developing a Drumming for Student Engagement Strategy which I now implement in schools.”
Using rhythm analogies to teach engagement skills is a key component of Brianna’s business, In the Groove, which she established in 2017 as a way to combine all of her passions and turn them into bread and butter. “Accessibility is key to the appeal of drumming, you pick it up, you play it! For kids who struggle with learning there is instant gratification and reward to discovering that drumming is something they can immediately do. Success drives this motivation and they’re immediately engaged. When you’re engaged in something you learn stuff about yourself as a learner that can then be applied to other areas of your learning and life as well.”
“In working with students and teachers, I’m able to incorporate other analogies such as building perseverance or working cooperatively with others; becoming confident in ourselves and exploring these things through the music.”
In addition to a strong educational focus, In the Groove is about working within the community space. Brianna set up a community drumming class in Wangaratta, teaching West African rhythms she’d learnt travelling in Ghana and through her close affiliation with African Drumming in Melbourne. “In West Africa, the role of music is born out of social purpose; when you hear a rhythm or a drumming piece it’s marking a social occasion or event and there’s a whole heap of meanings and learnings tied to that. I think because of this it comes together in a way that’s quite complex, very much like society is! The music is polyrhythmic, you have many different paths all coming together and playing an important role and so the very structure of the music is a really great way to bring people together….
In fact, the beauty of this West African music and these drumming rhythms is you can’t play them properly on your own. You actually need a community of people to play all of the musical parts and to bring the right kind of energy for the music to actually work! It works around synchronicity and all of the parts bouncing off each other.”
“I started teaching these community classes which were very, very small in the beginning and they’ve grown over time. I now offer them in a number of different towns and there’s always some kind of a social agenda or outcome behind what I’m doing. Repetition is a really important aspect to the structure of each group and so is teaching people to really listen to each other. We have people from all different backgrounds and all different ages who come together to learn this musical style and so there’s the building of community around that as well.”
Often, when people head along to their first class, the most common feeling they’ll bring is the worry they lack rhythm. “They’ll tell me they’ve had a flier on their fridge for aaages but their greatest concern which has kept them away is that they’re not musical enough to be doing this activity. I say to them ‘we’ve all got rhythm, we all have a beating heart; anything that we do, any task that’s repetitive whether it’s chopping wood or filing papers or something like that, is rhythm, there’s rhythm everywhere in our world so we’ve all got it, just some of us are tapped into it more than others’.”
In addition to running paid classes and programs in schools, In the Groove gives back to the community by creating free opportunities for people to come together and connect. “At least once a month we jam somewhere in one of the towns where we run the classes, it might be at a local market or a fundraising event or it might just be that we decide to drum in the park. The aim is simply to bring the community together.”
Jams are led by members of In the Groove’s community who keep the music flowing and are structured so that musically they sound great. Brianna takes along spare drums to offer anyone able and willing to join in. “People can enter into the rhythm on any level they like, sometimes we sing a few songs too, it’s just about having fun!” In the Groove drummers also volunteer time to share their music at local aged care homes and retirement facilities.
“It’s brilliant, sometimes you just see people come to life as the music brings a whole energy change to the room.
Education, engagement, community and well-being are core values of In the Groove; they’re also the factors for driving and maintaining Brianna’s motivation and passion in her work.
“I’ve seen ways in which this musical form, this musical style can really serve different needs within the community and I’m really passionate about creating more opportunities for connection. I think we’re becoming really disconnected with our dependence on technology and it becomes very easy to become isolated and pretend to be connected when you’re not really. Music is a wonderful thing for bringing people together in working for a common goal and interacting in person with each other within that context. The underlying theme of it all is connection. Connection with knowledge, connection with yourself and connection with the people around you. The lovely thing about these classes is that they’re accessible and open to anyone, the sense of connection is huge.”
Building a business based on passion is not without challenge for Brianna and there are aspects of it she finds tricky to juggle as a community-minded musician and educator: “I want to continue to offer free opportunities for people to come together and share the music and explore and experience the benefits that brings, but at the same time it’s my livelihood and I’m relying on it as a way to generate my income. I have to remind myself that these are things I also need to offer through my business.”
When I started In the Groove it operated as an aside to my work but now it’s my main source of income. I’ve got all these ideas about ways I could be working with different social groups and connecting across different demographics using music outside of the classes, but in order to do so would require a large investment of my time and resources so although it’s something I want to be available for free to the community it needs to be something I can sustain.”
In spite of this wrangle and because of her passion, Brianna is offering a series of free drum sessions as part of Summer in the Park, a council-led initiative. These are happening in Wangaratta Park on Friday afternoons from January into February, and Brianna describes them as an opportunity for people to ‘finish the working week with a bang.’ “Everything we do is an energy exchange and drumming and rhythm make energy really apparent; you can see it and you can hear it and you can feel it. And you can feel the difference and the impact it makes too.”
In the Groove runs weekly drumming classes in Albury Wodonga, Beechworth, Yarrawonga and Wangaratta. For further information, click here or email Brianna: email@example.com
“You put something like this out there and you just hope that it might contribute to improving the situation” says Sarah Mandie, songwriter and creative director of That Girl, a song and dance-based community focussed project run in conjunction with Community Music Victoria to empower women and girls, encourage them to stand up against gender-based violence, stereotyping and inequality and say ‘stop’.
Two years after its launch in 2017, That Girl has brought together girls and women from the Indian and Bhutanese communities of Wodonga; culturally diverse groups of primary schoolgirls in Boroondara; and secondary school-age girls from Healesville High School and the Healesville Indigenous Community Association in the Yarra Ranges.
A day of song, dance and dialogue was also held at the Immigration Museum for the Prevention of Violence Against Women: Voices of Shakti was presented by Community Music Victoria, Sarah Mandie and Dr. Priya Srinivasan (ADI Deakin). Drawing on Indian cultural themes of the Goddess to educate, inspire, mobilise and create understanding between people of diverse backgrounds and genders, the program included That Girl song and dance workshops with Sarah and choreographer, Marshie Perera Rajakumar. That Girl has been mentioned in Parliament too.
“I really just wanted to make a powerful, impactful song and music video that showed diversity of origin and ethnicity and locations around Victoria to show violence against women is something which can affect anyone and everyone and that girls everywhere have faced these issues. The process then opened up. Getting involved with different communities, I couldn’t have foreseen what was going to come out of it.”
The idea of the project was to get girls and women to come together in a way which was fun, engaging, and using the opportunity to learn the That Girl song and dance as a platform for discussions and talk about how they feel as girls and women around issues of respect, and anything else pertinent to them and their personal experiences.
What transpired depended on the community. In Wodonga a connection was clearly made between the local health centre and the women who might need to access it at some point, which was a really positive outcome, as were the connections the participants built through supporting each other. “The women realised that it was okay to talk about this and that it’s really good if they talk about it together as women in their cultural community so that they understand each other. Tricia Hazeleger from Gateway Health in Wodonga was really progressive and saw the value of using a music video dance project to deliver a message.” It was this phase of the project, where Sarah worked in partnership with Tricia and the staff at Gateway Health, which led to the project being mentioned in Federal Parliament by the former member for Indi, Cathy McGowan, AO.
For That Girl Boroondara, there was a different focus and the girls didn’t come into the situation in the same way. There the workshop focussed more on what it felt like to be a girl, considering questions such as ‘do we feel respected?’; ‘how can we feel more empowered?’. A lot of the discussion was around gender stereotypes.
That Girl Boroondara became a real cultural festival which included both Indian and contemporary hip-hop style dances. Mothers of some of the girls became involved too, initially as volunteers but then going on to become part of the discussion groups which was a good representation of the community. In that sense the experience was uplifting for the girls involved, and Sarah was also touched by this development:
“The commitment of people who became involved along the way as creative or organisational volunteers and became so positively committed to the message of That Girl, sticking with the project until completion was really great. One of these people was Marshie who choreographed the dance for both That Girl Boroondara and Voices of Shakti. Marshie’s commitment to That Girl was because of the aims of the project and its message. The message is the thing that people identified with and committed to.”
In the Yarra Ranges where the girls who took part were older, some slightly more complex issues emerged, not all of which there was time to talk about. The therapeutic angle wasn’t something Sarah had necessarily anticipated when she embarked on the workshops, and she believes a need exists for further kind of That Girl styled programs in this area because of the many levels on which music and arts projects work. Working together with Wurundjeri elder, Aunty Joy Murphy, a verse of the That Girl song was translated and sung in Woiwurrung, the ‘nulu’ language of Healesville and the Wurundjeri people as part of That Girl Yarra Ranges. For Sarah, this was particularly rewarding and something she’d love to do again, taking the project into different communities and translating the song into different languages.
Each That Girl workshop was similar but tailored appropriately to the ages of the girls taking part: “I had grade four and fives in Camberwell and that’s a really different crowd to year seven. Then there’s the socio-economical and various other aspects of each group to consider, and the culture of the location, so that was interesting. Once you get to high school it’s harder to get people to want to dance and let go in front of their peers, so the method was a little bit challenging for them but very rewarding as well. The feedback was that it brought them together as friends in the year level, so again, it was good for their connections.”
Common to both school groups was a desire to be ‘the same’; for everyone to be treated as equals irrespective of their gender. Girls want the freedom to be whatever they want to be, based on who they are.
To close each of the project’s three stages, a film was produced showing the process and the journey of That Girl within the community. All three films are highly moving, goose-bump inducing testimonies to Sarah’s vision. “I just think, wow! Look at all the girls and women that were involved in this and putting their hearts and souls into this dancing and dressing up, and it doesn’t end there! They’re in a video now and they can watch it again and again…”
There was significant council support for the project each time the films were shown with people ‘blown away’ at each of the three screenings. “The principal of Healesville High commissioned a huge poster of the project for the school hall; the principal of Camberwell Primary cried when she first watched That Girl Boroondara; the Wodonga phase of the project was acclaimed in parliament and the film of That Girl Yarra Ranges was shown at the Memo Cinema in Healesville with the Mayor in attendance who welcomed the involvement and knowledge sharing of the Indigenous community. Each of the films are online and people keep watching them.”
As the project went along the priority became about getting as many people involved and participating as possible. As Sarah says, this takes time and then there’s life and unexpected things happen. “It did get hard at times to keep the momentum up when I had other personal challenges going on, so I’m very proud and happy that we kept this project afloat! Now it’s all about preparing for the launch and getting it out there.”
The film launch will showcase and promote one final, overarching musical artistic video combining footage from That Girl Wodonga,That Girl BoroondaraandThat Girl Yarra Ranges. The film, which is just over three minutes long, can be used in a multitude of settings and makes an excellent educational tool within community networks, schools and the health sector: “People can watch it and then if they want to learn the dance and the song, they can, it has all those elements to it. It’s a great resource because it makes you feel things and think things which can then be spoken about.”
Sarah’s ‘ridiculously super excited’ about this. As a conglomeration of the entire project the film will be shown and celebrated on a cinema screen at the Victorian Trades Hall in Melbourne on December 7 during the United Nations’ 16 days of activism against gender-based violence. A choir made up of individuals and community singing groups are invited to sing in a flash mob style to celebrate the success of the project and anyone is welcome to come along and get involved in the launch.
“I’m hoping that people will come together to sing the That Girl song for the first time. A few groups have learned it so far and are really loving it. We’ll have a workshop rehearsal just before the performance on the night for anyone new to the song in need of a run-through. It’ll be an opportunity for people to sing and dance and to see the end product and feel proud of being part of it or moved to share it with people. What That Girl needs next is support from the community to share, share, share, to get the message out there to offer strength to the people who need it.”
For the launch, Sarah has partnered with Impact for Women, an organisation run by ‘an amazingly committed woman’ called Kathy Kaplan. Impact exists to make a difference to women and children fleeing extreme violence at home. All money raised by the launch of the That Girl film will go to paying for any children needing to be looked after in safe, professional care whilst their primary caregiver is attending court due to family, domestic and relationship abuse.
Sarah was inspired to write and produce That Girl because of acts and crimes against women featuring repeatedly in the news from across the world, and then looking at her own two girls and thinking, what am I going to do? “They’ve now been part of something game changing and meaningful, something powerful. I want girls everywhere to watch the film and go ‘yeah!’ and I want boys and men to see it too and keep talking about this because it’s important. Above all, I want people to sing the song, watch the film and share it, I want That Girl to go viral and I want it to be valuable and used widely to raise awareness and bring about positive change.”
That Girl is for every girl. Join the film launch at the Victorian Trades Hall on Saturday 7 December.
This paper is a comprehensive review of the reasons why music could and should be used for improving the speech and language skills of children with mild to severe hearing impairments with cochlear implants and/or hearing aids, and contains a series of ten guidelines by Torppa and Huotilainen for the use of music with children of different ages and varying backgrounds for parents, caregivers, educators and therapists.
These recommendations can be found in section 3 of the paper, sub-titled How to use music to enhance speech and language skills of hearing-impaired children. Emphasis is placed on the value of using singing as your main instrument, especially with a young child, and the benefit of supporting the musical hobbies of teenagers with hearing impairments. The recommendations are made on the basis of the intervention studies and correlational studies described in the article, and on the basis of the traditional auditory rehabilitation, music therapy methodologies, and speech and language therapy methods.
“…the current evidence seems enough to urge speech therapists, music therapists, music teachers, parents, and children and adolescents with hearing impairments and/or cochlear implants to start using music for enhancing speech and language skills. For this reason, we give our recommendations on how to use music for language skill enhancement in this group.” – Rita Torppa and Minna Huotilaienen
collaboration is a slippery and elusive art. I find it a spacious and revealing
place to work. It sings to me and draws me in and on. I think it was a mixture of
naivety and courage that led me to working in this field. I am a singer,
song-writer and creative researcher with an Anglo-Celtic and Scandinavian
heritage. What I have
learned over the years is that an ocean of possibilities is available when we open
our hearts and take the risk to make genuine contact.
Anything can emerge when trust is laced with risk. What we share and what makes us different has room to come alive. There are no formulas for success and this, I think, is a good thing. The riskiness of it keeps us awake and alert.
The capacity to listen and the qualities of trust,
respect and openness are central to fruitful intercultural arts collaborations.
This is never more so than when the intercultural collaborations are between First
Nation community members and people from other cultural backgrounds. We work
together against the backdrop of colonisation, the massacres and government
policies of enforced dispossession and attempted cultural genocide. The impact
of these policies continues today and are evident in disproportionate rates of
incarceration and inequities in health, economic and educational opportunities.
The list of inequities goes on and is still being experienced by First Nation peoples
in Australia and across the world.
There are many compelling reasons why trust takes a long time to build in intercultural collaborations. Collaborations across cultures can create a bridge for connection, but it can be a perilous crossing. The potential risks of neo-colonial appropriation and misunderstanding are ever-present. The space in-between is where reconciliation can occur.
I have come to see that trust
is everything. It is slowly gained and easily
lost. Trust is what keeps the conversation alive. There are so many reasons not
to trust in this world but in my experience, a kind of magic emerges from the in-between spaces when music and art
are involved and an interdisciplinary approach is taken. A spaciousness appears. The reasons not to trust will always
be there, but creative engagement and active participation can enable people to
see and be seen, to hear and be heard. This is what bridges are made of and this,
I believe, is why the work is worth doing.
There was an opportunity to have a direct experience of these in-between spaces at the Intercultural Arts Program of the Island Whale Festival, held on the 5th – 7th July in Cowes on Phillip Island. The Island Whale Festival, now in its third year, celebrates the arrival of humpback whales and southern right whales in the coastal waters off Phillip Island as they migrate north to the warmer waters off Queensland.
The Intercultural Arts Program of the Island Whale Festival was designed to bring people of all ages and cultural backgrounds together through music, art, science and a love of the natural world. Steve Parker named the Intercultural Arts Program of the 2019 Island Whale Festival, ‘Balert Yirramboi’, which translates as ‘Strong Future’, literally ‘Strong Tomorrow’. Steve is a Traditional Custodian, an artist and musician and one of the Directors of the Yowengarra Bun Wurrung Balug Clans Aboriginal Corporation. Steve has lived on Millowl (Phillip Island) all his life.
Activities of ‘Balert Yirramboi’ included Ceremonies, Drumming Circles, Music and Dance, Song Circles, Song Exchanges, Concerts, a Street Parade and a Collaborative Artspace weaving together music, art and science. Elders and Special Guest Artists lead the activities, all of which were designed to deepen intercultural understanding, strengthen community and raise environmental awareness.
The 2019 Intercultural Arts Program of the Island Whale Festival was auspiced by Community Music Victoria, an organisation dedicated to bringing people together and strengthening communities through the power of music.
Here’s a link to a short film ‘Singing with Whales’ from the Intercultural Arts Program at the 2018 Island Whale Festival. https://vimeo.com/288066243
We acknowledge the power and beauty of the Bunurong/Boon Wurrung Country on which this event takes place. We honour and thank all the Ancestors and Elders who have lived on this land and sung it into being the strong place that it is.
Dr Laura Brearley leads a song at the 2018 CMVic Music Camp
**The latter part of this article was updated by CMVic on August 1, to reflect the fact that the 2019 Whale Festival is now a past event.
The whale migration season off Phillip
Island has begun again and the texts have started to arrive …
Wednesday 29th May 9.45am
First Island whales this season. Two whales off San Remo jetty, heading to Cape Woolamai.
4th June 3.31pm
One humpback sighted 1.4 kms of the Nobbies, heading towards Pyramid Rock.
7th June 10.48am
One humpback whale, close to shore at Cape Woolamai.
We live at Cape Woolamai and although
I was deep in work at the time that this third message came through, I answered
what I felt was a call to action. When I arrived at Anzacs Beach at Cape
Woolamai, the car park was full. A crowd of people was standing looking out to
sea. There were families with children and people who had never met before were
talking and laughing with each other. Just as I had, everyone there had dropped
what they were doing when that text came through. Excitement was in the air and
it felt like a shared experience of connection with the whales, as well as with
I’ve noticed this sense of connection
on whale cruise boats too. We board the boats as individuals and when the first
whales are sighted, any separateness between passengers seems to dissolve. We
sing and clap and whistle to the whales, reaching out to them together. Sometimes,
they’ll swim along with us, even diving under the boat. If they’re feeling
playful, they seem to dance in the water, breaching and splashing with their
bodies and tails. It’s a profound experience to be part of that joyful play.
The whale at Cape Woolamai a few days
ago was surfacing from time to time. I found it moving to see a whale in this
early stage of the season and to know that the age-old cycle of the whale
migration was underway again. With all the human interference of the natural
world and the damage done, the rhythm of the migration endures. It is larger
than all of us and that is a wonderful thing.
Humpback Whale Research
Over the last few weeks, I
have been in touch with members of a team of international scientists who have
been undertaking research on whale songs for many years. Led by Dr Ellen
Garland (St Andrews University, Scotland) and Dr Jenny Allen (Griffith
University, Queensland), the research has been tracking how the songs of
humpback whales are transmitted over time and distance in the Pacific Ocean. The
two lead researchers, Dr Ellen Garland and Dr Jenny Allen, have both expressed
interest in the Intercultural Arts Program of the 2019 Island Whale Festival.
Their research has shown that whale songs are
communicated across the South Pacific, moving from populations from eastern
Australia in the west to French Polynesia in the east. The whale songs appear
to come originally from the Indian Ocean, west of Australia representing a
transmission of almost 10,000 kilometres. The research team has found that
thousands of male humpbacks can synchronously change their song to a new
version introduced from a neighbouring population in as little as two months. Their
research in song learning has revealed that humpback whales employ some of
the same learning strategies as songbirds and humans when acquiring a new song.
Below is a short film about this research:
With the support of local First Nation
community members, Bass Coast Shire Council, Destination Phillip Island,
Community Music Victoria, Cowes Uniting Church, we are currently organising the
Intercultural Arts Program ‘Balert Yirramboi’ of the Island Whale Festival
happening in Cowes on Phillip Island on the 5th – 7th
A talented group of musicians, artists and cultural advisors is coming together to help celebrate the whales through song, story, dance and collaborative art-making. Activities will include Ceremonies, Drumming Circles, Music and Dance, Song Circles, Song Exchanges, Concerts, a Street Parade and a Collaborative Artspace which weaves together music, art and science.
Jazz pianist, Steve Sedergreen, is
composing music in response to the scientific whale song research. During the
Festival, he will be performing his new composition with his long-time
collaborators, Wamba Wamba didgeridoo player, Ron Murray and jazz drummer, Mike
Jordan. Camille Monet, who is coordinating the Collaborative Artspace at the
Festival, will be facilitating arts activities in response to the whale song research.
Participants will be invited to create visual responses to the whale songs, making
patterns on long sheets of paper which will be carried in the Whale Parade at
the end of the Festival. Aunty Fay Stewart-Muir has generously gifted local
Boon Wurrung language to a Whale Song Cycle that I have composed and that
Trawlwoolway artist Lisa Kennedy has illustrated.
We would like to extend a creative invitation to you. If you are someone who loves whales and is interested in creative collaborations, song-writing, poetry or story-telling, there is an opportunity for you to share your ideas and make a contribution to the Intercultural Arts Program of the 2019 Whale Festival.
If you are seeking
inspiration, one way of getting focussed is to reflect on some core questions,
such as …
Why do you love whales?
What do whale songs stir in you?
What does the sense of connection with whales feel like for you?
If you had a message to send to the whales, what would you say or sing to them?
If you would like to make a creative contribution to the Intercultural Arts Program, please send an email to Laura Brearley firstname.lastname@example.org COB Friday 28th June, 2019 with your contact details and a brief description of what you would be interested in sharing at the Festival, eg song, poetry, story. The program has been designed with activities in which creative exchanges and collaborations can occur. The copyright of all material will remain with the contributing artists.
are free and bookings for ticketed activities can be made on-line.
And … next time you hear that there
are whales off the coast, and you are nearby, just stop what you are doing and take
some time to be near the whales and feel the gift of their presence. I suspect
they will feel you too.
Edward Harding, a 93 year old man living with severe dementia, was affected by depression and confusion as a result of his illness. He was withdrawn and not really communicating with anyone anymore.
One day a young musician, Sam Kinsella, began working at Ed’s care home in Somerset, (UK). A connection emerged between the two men, sparked by their shared love of playing music. This film captures what unfolded next in their story.
‘Reunited’ is moving, it’s beautiful and it’s a poignant reminder of the power of making music and the positive effect this has upon the brain and the human spirit.
It isn’t only playing music which demonstrates the lasting connection between music and memory.
The clip below shows how listening to music is also highly effective in helping people affected by Alzheimer’s and dementia to regain temporary access to memories and return to presence for a short time. After listening to old tunes on an iPod, Henry is momentarily restored to his former self: “he’s remembered who is and has re-acquired his identity for a while through the power of music.”
The benefit of such experience is positive not only for the person with dementia, it offers families and carers a way to share quality moments of connection and peace with them.
You’re going to bend it, you’re going to make it, you’re going to recreate it and it’s going to turn into your style and your method and your system in your community; it’s about making community music in your community in the way that suits it best. – Jane Coker, Community Music Victoria
The information-gathering phase of an exciting new CMVic driven Leadership Program is gathering pace, steered by the Gippsland-based, community music dream-team, Jane Coker and Lyndal Chambers. With funding from Helen Macpherson Smith Trust, the duo will design a proposal for a new state-wide community music leadership program based on what people who are passionate about the power of group music making tell them is needed, to stimulate the growth of inclusive singing and instrumental music making across Victoria.
Jane says, “one thing that excites me about the project is that many of the leaders who started learning their craft with us in the early 00’s have now had upwards of 15 years experience of leading inclusive music making. If they weren’t already, they have become experts in their fields, and this project will enable them to collaborate with others who have new perspectives and energy to shape and inspire the future of Victoria’s community music-making.”
Putting a key question to established leaders and to people who have never participated in CMVic skills development before- but who know they want community music to be happening in their organisation, community, agency, or wherever they are – is the first step: “What do you need to be able to do this, in order to make this happen?”
Subject to funding approval, the findings from the research and information gathered will then be used to enable a series of state-wide community music leadership programs to be rolled out in whatever way the people say they want them to be implemented.
stage of the project we don’t know how it’s all going to turn out. It will
depend on what the people want. It’ll be driven by our ethos of collective
empowerment, ie, we share our leadership, we share our skills and resources
because that’s what makes us stronger.”
the skills and leadership training which people feel they need to go out and
make music in their community is only the start. The vision for the Leadership Program
is to ensure individuals feel equipped to go out and find a way of creating and
leading music, and making music happen in their communities, that is all their
“We’re not going to give people a model to follow, there’s not going to be any ‘you have to be like this and you have to do it this way’ We’re going to find out what you need, we’re going to source it from our collective resources, and then you’re going to use that! You’re going to bend it, you’re going to make it, you’re going to recreate it and it’s going to turn into your style and your method and your system in your community; it’s about making community music in your community in the way that suits it best.”
“What do you need to be able to do this, in order to make this happen?”
whether the resources needed to do this are right out there under their noses
or on the other side of the world, Jane and Lyndal are keeping the focus of the
collecting information from people in Melbourne, from Victoria; Australia, and
from around the western world to ask what they’re doing and explore how they’re
promoting this development of leadership capacity. CMVic has never collected
this sort of research together and so we don’t really know where we sit in a
global sense, we don’t know where we sit in terms of whether other people are
using this collective empowerment model, and if so, what can we learn from them
and if they’re not, how can we share what we do with them. If we find ourselves
in a position to be able to enable other people around the world to make their
programs a little bit more to do with collective empowerment, that would be
Lyndal are keen to hear from people who have no idea of CMVic’s history, to
hear about what they feel they need and want in order to be able to get
community music happening in their communities. Similarly, the Leadership
Program is not a review of the training CMVic has offered in the past.
“When we get together with people to talk with them and find out what they want, a lot of them will say ‘we want more of what you offer.’ We know they love what we offer and that it works, so in a sense that does review what we’ve done in the past because it tells us what people want of what we’ve done in the past, and what they don’t want of what we’ve done in the past!”
shape will this year take and how will the research be done?
Lyndal have been working to identify nine regional areas across the state. The
key objective will be to connect people in these communities, who are working
in areas where they could use singing and they could use music but they don’t
know how, with the program. This will be done through a series of consultative
conversations and workshops.
“One of the
main questions we’ll be asking is ‘how can we fertilise the soil around here?’
What needs to be done for the ecology to be healthy in order that people can
empower each other and support each other in this work?”
The first two of these consultation style workshops will be held at the 2019 CMVic Music Camp at Grantville. These will act as prototypes for the rest of the meetings, conversations and workshops, that Lyndal and Jane will be running throughout the rest of the year.
“We’ll be talking about the geographical locations of where the project will be focussing and it means anyone there from any of these regions will then be able to start connecting us into their community and taking it to their region. “People can see what we’re doing, start passing the info on and getting enthusiastic about it.”
Jane and Lyndal can’t wait to share their passion for this project with everyone out on the road. Lyndal explains:
” A number of years ago we went on a CMVic team gathering weekend and allowed ourselves to dream about the state of Victoria as a ‘Community Music Utopia’ and we shared our dreams – through music making together, in all manner of forms and styles, our community is connected and strengthened; we are happier, we live longer more fulfilled lives; we are empowered socially and politically, we share loving empathetic relationships, we have a voice and more… true, it all sounds incredibly idealistic! But what excites me about this project is that as an organisation we are taking a step to turn our dreams into reality. We hope to have more people across Victoria engaging with music in ways that are most relevant to themselves and their communities. And I’m looking forward to being surprised by the outcomes!”
By Deb Carveth, online editor for Community Music Victoria, with Jane Coker and Lyndal Chambers.
Mark Jackson knew he was doing something right when a member from one of his nine Ukestras informed him that she was ‘too busy seeing friends’ to come and play.
“My number one ticket holder said, “Sorry I can’t come to Uke today, I’m playing cards with my new friends, you don’t know what you’ve done with the ukulele, it’s been fantastic.”
Helping people to make music, building community and sustainability are three significant keystones in the lives and business model of Mark and his partner, Jane Jelbart. The pair work together as ‘The Sum of Parts’, teaching Ukulele, running participatory groups, holding ‘Ukestras’ and developing and encouraging sustainable leadership using their very own, finely honed ‘Ukestra Method’1.
They do this so well that for the past nine years it has been their primary source of income and they have now written two books packed with insights about their work: The Ukestration Manual, about ‘creating music making communities with the Ukulele and the Ukestra Method’, and The Business of being a Community Musician‘ for people who want to make a living or run a small business as a community musician.’
A chief value underpinning what they do is the conviction that being active in our community is good for us and that a decline in the uptake and participation in socially focussed, group-activities such as sport, church or clubs is mirrored by a decline in the physical and mental health and wellbeing of the people within the community.
“Community is really good for us and I think It’s really good for the planet as well if we’re together. It’s almost like making music together was the first way that we came together, and which wasn’t about fighting or reproducing.”
Once you get a community music group up and running, there’s the question of how to sustain it and offer support and mentorship to emerging new leaders.
Being such an accessible and appealing little instrument, new people are drawn into the sphere of the ukulele all the time, which is fortunate when sustainability is so integral to making a living as a community musician. “You’ve got to constantly be introducing people into this environment and that’s what’s so fantastic about the ukulele. It’s an instrument that you can play really complex things on, but you don’t have to” says Mark.
“What you need is a system of teaching and leadership that is effective and sustainable. If we just relied on the people we started out working with nine years ago, we wouldn’t have a business, we wouldn’t be connecting people up. If it was all stale, then people wouldn’t be benefiting from our values or philosophies and we wouldn’t be meeting our goals.”
Ukestras were born of Mark’s desire to find a successful business model to sustain his community musicianship and the vision emerged when he sat down to write a business plan. Weighing up what he wanted against what he didn’t want, he was encouraged to consolidate his skills in a way which would permit him to combine his previous work experience, his passions and his skills into a single, profitable stream. Ukestras were go.
“I wanted to visit Melbourne regularly, and I wanted to go to the beach everyday. Going to the beach everyday meant I didn’t want to tour. I realised if I wanted to have a life living in my community as a musician, then my options were really quite limited, and to date making a living as a community musician has often been a struggle, but I don’t feel like we struggle, I feel like we do pretty well. I’m able to fulfil my purposes, and enable other people to fulfil theirs.”
Mark began his first Ukestra after moving back to Newcastle NSW following 12 years living in Bendigo. The inaugural Ukestra was inspired by the work of various Victorian community musicians and the Melbourne Ukulele Kollective. It was backed financially by a small business grant obtained through the NEIS program being run by the Australian Government back in 2009. At that point in time, there were no other community ukulele groups running in Newcastle, and Mark’s Ukestra flourished.
Three years and a whole lot of uking later, Jane and Mark entered a business partnership, and since 2013 have travelled nationally and internationally to promote and share their teaching model, earning enough from their work to support them both. They currently run no less than 9 Ukestras each week, and two community choirs.
There are illustrations throughout The Business of Being a Community Musician which detail clearly the idea that to add value to your role and your income as a community musician in a sustainable way, it’s important to price your time honestly and be clear that the point of delivery is only the tip of the iceberg. Mark is passionate about this need to be realistic:
“Don’t be ashamed of charging for what you do as a community musician and for doing this good work, and work it all out in a systematic manner. The key thing that people need to understand is admin takes a bloody long time. Work out how you should charge for it and how it should be valued.”
An anonymous quote in the opening pages of the book is forgiving about this:
“The value you give us is far more than the few $ we give to you. Please don’t underestimate your value to the community or agonise over taking a modest bit of filthy lucre from us. Uke on!”
The book stands as an encouraging testimony to the success Mark and Jane enjoy which has enabled them to support two full time incomes doing what they love most. It encourages other community music leaders to consider their own Unique Selling Point, work out what they are offering and then find a way to market this, with advice around how much to realistically charge and how to set your teaching rate. It’s packed with practical advice too about databases, staffing and how to keep in touch with your community using platforms such as Mailchimp, website and social media.
Mark sees The Ukestration Manual as essential pre-reading to The Business of Community Musicianship, and feels it has a broader appeal based on the detail it goes into around what constitutes good leadership skills and good teaching skills. These skills hinge around the values required to create a successful ‘third place’ in the community,2 a place which facilitates accepting and non-judgemental social interaction.
“I suppose I have an evangelical goal with The Ukestration Manual too and that’s based on a sometimes less than generous view of the ukulele community, which can be stuck on nostalgia and be less about progressing people’s musicianship…there’s a lot of latest hits and greatest memories …”
Using Mark and Jane’s tips on effective community leadership and taking a professional approach to guiding a Ukestra, the potential musical cul-de-sacs of nostalgia can be instead harnessed to explore the delights of the broader musical world, and all its glorious repertoire is your oyster to open up and explore including, sneakily, the occasional bit of musical theory.
Each of the books is immediately accessible because it’s written from the heart and is compiled from first hand experiences shared in a genuine way. The Ukestration Manual is analytical and descriptive about what Jane and Mark have done through their work as The Sum of Parts and yet the message isn’t really about the journey of Jane and Mark, it’s about encouraging the reader to harness and own their potential, as James Hill states in the introduction:
“This book isn’t a memoir, it’s a manual. It’s not about “look what we did” but rather “look what you can do”.”
Article by Deb Carveth, Online Editor for Community Music Victoria with Mark Jackson
1: Ukestra Method: ‘Teaching people to play ukulele in a social environment so it combines the structured learning of the teacher-led learning with a fun social vibe.’
2: Third Place: Where home and work are considered the first two places, a third place is somewhere which offers people an opportunity to congregate and connect.
The Ukestration Manual and The Business of Being a Community Musician are now available as e-books from the CMVic online store. $29 each ($23 to members of CMVic) or $49 for the two books. ($39 to members)