Tag Archives: connection

Learning to play music and deal with hearing loss: Part One

DealingwithhearinglossBy Shirley Allott

I was born with normal hearing and attended school and did nursing training without any problems. Music education was not part of my upbringing even though my father played harmonica and concertina and my brother learnt mandolin. I taught myself to play the recorder and to read music and I sometimes played with my father and brother in family music sessions. However, my main interest was painting and textile arts.

As an adult I had some piano lessons with my children, and then we all had accordion lessons but I continued to find relaxation in textile art.

When my children were finishing school I decided it was time to get my bachelor of nursing so I went  to university and over several years completed a number of degrees in the health sciences. By this time, I was starting to experience difficulty with hearing which made lectures and tutorials difficult but I still managed to do well.

While at university, both my older children became involved in historical re-enactment. I was fascinated and got involved too. With my knowledge of textiles I made costumes for myself and for others. I went to a feast where I heard medieval music being played and I was fascinated.  I brought out and dusted off my recorder and started to play again. My daughter decided to teach herself violin and she and I played music together. She started to have a monthly session at her place with friends.

My daughter knew I was having difficulty hearing and she would always face me whilst we played. I really enjoyed these times.

My daughter decided to leave university, and do an apprenticeship as a baker, then she moved to Western Australia with her partner. I missed her desperately, and our times playing music together, as well as her support with my hearing loss.

As a response, I took up a new challenge: English concertina and went to Celtic Southern Cross Summer school. I experienced playing music with others and loved it.

Over the next couple of years my hearing loss markedly increased and I found myself withdrawing socially. I stopped going out with friends and going to gatherings. I was embarrassed as I often had to ask people to repeat what they had said. I’d looked into hearing aids but they were very expensive, far too expensive I thought. George (Shirley’s partner) was very supportive and encouraged me to get hearing aids. I think he was finding communicating with me difficult.

There was a period of adjustment to the aids and I could engage socially again. I found the concertina became difficult to play as I heard a different sound with my hearing aids and the concertina echoed.

I wanted to play music so I needed to find an instrument that would work with hearing aids and to find a way of dealing with the change I was experiencing with sound through wearing the hearing aids.

I was at an event in Western Australia when I met a lady  playing a harp and she invited me to have a go. I had bought a harp a couple of years previously at Maldon folk festival but I hadn’t done anything with it. I realised as I plucked the strings that I could both hear and feel the vibration of the harp, and I knew that when I got home I would have to learn to play my harp.

Read in part two about how Shirley learned to play the harp using determination and technology too, and Shirley’s insights into the benefits of playing the harp for a hearing impaired person. Part two is here!

Host a Singing Gathering – it makes you happy!

By Jane Coker

It was really sunny and verging on warm in May when four community choirs gathered in Victoria’s Mirboo North, South Gippsland to sing together.

Sweet Sassafrass and VoKallista from the Dandenong Ranges visited Acoustic Kitchen and GrandRidge 245 (Mirboo North’s Community Choir), repaying a visit we had made to them, in the Dandenong Ranges last year. Friendships between the groups had previously been established via CMVic singers’ gatherings and had spurred us to get together.

We first met in Kallista last year and it was such immense fun that we just had to do it again!

Each choir leader taught a song to the whole group, the choirs all performed a few songs for each other (the most appreciative and receptive audience you could ever have!) and we also sang lots of short easy rounds and part songs.

The Locals provided a magnificent afternoon tea. The venue had a fabulous view of the Strzelecki Ranges and as the glorious sound of people singing together filled the room, we watched the sun go down over the hills. Afterwards some of the Mirboo North choir members, who have only recently started group singing, sent me these words:

“I can honestly say I have never felt so happy”

“The performances by all the choirs were sooooo good.  I enjoyed every minute and the people were all so friendly.  Let’s do it again soon. “

“a wonderful afternoon, we enjoyed it immensely.”

It’s a really easy type of event to organise because you have a guaranteed audience! Here’s how:

  1. Pick which groups you want to invite,
  2. set a date together,
  3. book a venue,
  4. Confirm numbers attending from each group
  5. Organise volunteers to bring afternoon tea, do the door etc
  6. Charge people a nominal entry fee to cover costs (we included a fee for the choir leaders too)
  7. Have a great sing together!

Why not give it a go?

Jane Coker

Jigarre Jammin’ – a musical phenomenon

by Gwen Potter

JigarreMusicians2 (1)Jigarre Jammin’ Our motto: Don’t die wishing you’d done it! Jigarre Jammin’ is a musical phenomenon! Up to 70 community-based musicians meet at Girgarre every month for up to five hours of playing, singing, sharing knowledge, catching up – and they love every minute of it! Girgarre is a tiny but very important dairying centre of fewer than 200 residents, located midway between Echuca and Shepparton.

Musos of all ages and stages come from everywhere in northern and central Victoria. Some older players have waited for years to learn; others have never stopped and generously share their skills. Everyone joins in with an enthusiasm and regularity that must be unique in country Victoria.

JJ began when a small bunch of players found the annual Girgarre Moosic Musters were not enough – they needed more sessions to keep them going month to month. A winning format was devised back then which is still followed – in fact, it’s been expanded due to demand. We meet on the 4th Saturday at the Girgarre Town Hall in Winter Road. The format goes something like this:

  • 10.30am: A Celtic jam for all the lovers of Irish and Scottish music
  • 11.30am: A jam for all the fans of Australian bush music
  • 12.30pm: BYO lunch in the supper room
  • 1.30pm: Jigarre Jammin’
  • Arrival, tune up and jam for about 35 minutes, with leaders introducing some new songs
  • Welcome and announcements
  • Workshops for beginners or join in another jam
  • Afternoon tea (country-style – it’s huge)
  • Walk-ups (only if you want to perform)
  • Final jam to take us to a 4pm close.

Styles played cover country, folk, blues, bluegrass, traditional Aussie bush numbers, Celtic, golden-oldies pop, gospel and contemporary. Instruments include guitar, ukes (lots), banjo, mandolin, bass, harmonica, and violin.JigarreJamming1 If you don’t want/need a workshop, you can continue jamming or find a corner with your mates and practise a walk-up number. A number of musos have found kindred souls and formed bands of their own from this process.

Jamming our way It’s important to define “jamming” the way we do it – we make it really easy by putting both lyrics and chords up on a screen via data projector. That way everyone can join in, regardless of expertise or familiarity with the song.

Free instrument loans Want to experiment or try before you buy? Use our free instrument bank – guitars, mandos, ukes, even a banjo or two. Thanks to donations from Fender and other supporters, we have lots to offer.

The cost of all this is a mere $2 per person, and a plate, no membership or subscriptions involved.

And there’s more! Musical camp-overs twice a year, held around a Jigarre Jammin’ weekend!  The first camp-over in 2012 was a total success. Tents and caravans on the reserve next to Girgarre Town Hall, music Friday to Sunday, happy hours, communal meals if you wanted and everyone getting to know each other better as we played on into the night. The May 2015 campover featured a concert with a lineup of bands that are connected to Jigarre Jammin’ in some way and was a great success.

Save the date! Soon planning will begin for the 10th anniversary of the Girgarre Moosic Muster in early January 2016 – check out our website We’ve emphasised playing music in this article but the Muster contains heaps of workshops and opportunities for non-playing singers. JigarreJammin4

Some secrets of our success: Our organising team, led by real community-action dynamos, Jan Smith of Girgarre and Di Burgmann of Shepparton, have long histories of involvement with our communities and helping to bring opportunities to people. We are devoted to acoustic music and devoted especially to encouraging beginners. We often see that musos find themselves the only one of “their kind” in a small community and we aim to counter this isolation by bringing them into our music fold.

Contact Irene Labbett: jigarrejammers@bigpond.com to receive the monthly email newsletter, or for more information about Jigarre Jammin.’

All Will Be Well – Vic Sings in the Recovery Room

By Jessica Nabb Those of you who came along to the recent Treetops Festival may have had the opportunity to meet my little ‘community music baby’ Indivara. Jess1We call him a community music baby because he’s been born into a lovely community of honorary aunties, uncles and grandparents in our local singing community here in the hills. He also participated in loads of community singing in-utero including weekly Sweet Sassafras rehearsals, the Millennium Chorus, the CMVic Singers Weekend in Mt Evelyn, Circle Singing and Vocal Jams in the Hills, and local flash-mobbing project ‘The Voice Mob’.

Throughout all of this time, one song that followed him through the entire pregnancy was ‘All Will Be Well’ a song arranged by Juliet Prager, from CMVic’s song book ‘Vic Sings’ which I learned through the Voice Mob project. I sang this song to Indi all of the time throughout the pregnancy and regularly had the opportunity to sing it in circle with other singers, even recording a version of the song to be played throughout the birth so that Indi could enter the world surrounded by familiar music and familiar voices.

In the end, Indi had to be delivered by cesarean which meant that we had to be separated for a short while after his birth. Luckily his ‘Nina’ (our word for ‘nanna’) was there to take him to the recovery room for me with strict instructions to sing to him until we could be reunited. She sang ‘All Will Be Well’.

Apparently as soon as she started singing to him he stopped crying and just stared at her. The whole room fell silent and mum got some lovely feedback later from the other patients who had benefited from hearing such a calming song during their own recovery.

Jess2Now, whenever Indi is upset we sing ‘All Will Be Well’ to him and he calms down. And those of you who were at Barb McFarlane’s Peace Songs workshop at Treetops will now understand why I got all choked up when we sang that song! Jessica Nabb is a singer and vocal leader based in the Dandenong Ranges. She is a big believer that everyone can sing and should be given the opportunity to participate in singing and music making on a regular basis. She leads local groups Sweet Sassafras and Soul Mamas, runs her own teaching business Singing With Heart, and regularly participates in group singing herself. You can find her online here! For info about this year’s CMVic SInging Camp, head here. ‘Vic Sings’ is available on the CMVic website

Singing & Swinging in the Treetops

Here at CMVic, we love hearing your stories and experiences of our events and workshops! Here’s one reflection of the weekend at the Treetops 2015 Music Camp, to get the ball rolling.

Blog3What do you get if you combine 150 people, two marquees, marimba building, singing and music workshops, mulled wine, giant bubbles floating skywards and tasty food? Why, Treetops 2015, of course! We arrived home from camp in the dark on Sunday evening, happy, tired, and muddy. It was a similar feeling to the one I’d have as a student after Glastonbury festival, only this time round, there was a washing machine on hand to take the strain, we hadn’t jumped the fence to get into the weekend and we’d been encouraged and welcome to participate in all the music making going on around us.

Treetops was a success in so many ways, it’s impossible to capture it all here. It was brilliant to see so many kids and adults of all ages mingling, singing and playing together. For the most part the threatening grey clouds behaved and during the day there were so many great workshops, the weather faded well and truly into the background. Volunteer firies stepped up and kept the wood stocked and burning. The heat encouraged people to pull up a chair and strike up the jams, and when the little coffee van rolled into camp on Saturday afternoon, life couldn’t have got much better.

My teenagers took part in strings and horn workshops, something I was quietly chuffed about cos it’s increasingly uncool for them to show interest in anything I’m around or involved with these days. Younger children got stuck into marimba playing with Dani Roca and Adam Burke, and hovered around the sessions and workshops, watching the leaders and just soaking up the general vibe of musicality. For the real littlies, Katie Hull Brown was up with the kookaburras leading a Sunday singing and music session before I’d even had my morning muesli.

It’s always good to have the opportunity to try something new so I gave Indian singing a whirl in two separate sessions led by Parvyn Kaur Singh, a totally new experience for most of us in the group, and one I found very moving.

I think it was the combination of new sounds, the beauty of the tone and the singing blended with Parvyn’s harmonium, that unlocked something in me. I was still trying to pull myself together to focus on lunch, half an hour later. (My second new experience of the weekend.)

As the sun emerged from the clouds and finally set, the two marquees strung with coloured lights offered refuge from the evening chill and for those inclined to indulge, Jess and Oli’s mulled wine was available from the bar, banishing further thoughts of pesky draughts.

Saturday night’s Jam Dance Party with The Scrimshaw Four and members of The Horns of Leroy was a whole heap of fun. I didn’t deliberately set out on a one woman mission to inflict ultimate embarrassment on my kids with decidedly dodgy dance moves, though the thought did occur to me that I was toast if they clapped eyes on me at any point in the evening. Turned out I was safe as they’d been too busy having a good time to notice. Maybe it’s time to head to no lights, no lycra and be a dancer in the dark.

The all in ensemble with Aaron Silver and Matt Sheers was a rambunctious riot of fiddles and strings, horns and voices, and the song, ‘Warm heart of Africa’ by Architecture of Helsinki, became a definite ear worm and one we’ve downloaded since being home.

Sunday afternoon rolled around and the procession swept through camp. Everyone congregated with an assortment of instruments, percussion, coloured hats, streamers and flags, all spilling out into the autumnal afternoon light. IMG_0594

This musical stream of people wound its way through the trees and across and around the unsealed road of the camp, led by Declan and The Seduceaphones, with Matt bringing up the rear still wearing the white dressing gown he’d won in the raffle the night before. I bet any lyre birds around Riddells Creek have been singing ‘Single Ladies’ by Beyonce ever since.

Andy Rigby and Dave Paxton’s marimba builders all emerged from their shed in time to join in, proudly sporting beautiful, freshly built marching marimbas ready to go out into the world and be played. What a great thing to be able to take home from an absolutely awesome* weekend and how cool to be able to build a playable instrument from scratch! (*I read on the internet the other day that we shouldn’t use that word anymore: it’s kinda like my style of dancing all over again.)

There was a stash of fantastic sounding stuff in the program that I didn’t make it to but I got to connect with people I haven’t seen for ages, play my accordion and sing and soak up so much inspiration. Another year, inspired by the fat happy sounds of the horns, I’d love to join the buddies for beginners program and get to grips with the saxophone.

That’s enough reflection for now, but we’d really LOVE to read about what YOU made of it all. Drop us a line or too below if you came to Treetops 2015, and if you’re feeling really motivated, write something about a workshop you attended that we can use on the CMVic blog, over the coming weeks.

See y’all again next year, Treetoppers!

Article by Deb Carveth

Pollyphonics 6 min documentary – The start of a great musical journey

Give people an opportunity to feel good - Polly Christie, Pollyphonics Choir Leader

Polly has shared this video on our CMVic facebook page and we thought it was a fantastic example of how powerful music can be in connecting with others.  Runs for 6 minutes and offers a great insight into the many benefits of community music from both a leader’s and participant’s perspectives.

Here’s a little of what’s covered.

  • Deciding to become a leader
  • Where to start a group
  • Objectives
  • Fee structure
  • Going from being the conductor, facilitator, coordinator to introducing section leaders
  • Challenges

Here’s what the choir participants had to say

I got my mojo back

When I come here I know that I’ll feel so much better

It’s the start of a great musical journey

This link will take you to the video:  Pollyphonics Choir documentary Sep 2014

Documentary created by Rebecca Fitzgibbon for her music course at Northern Melbourne, Institute of Technology in Melbourne, Australia.

The Pollyphonics Choir is located in Woodend, Victoria Australia
Website: www.pollychristie.com
Facebook:  facebook.com/PollyphonicsChoir

Article by CMVic Team

Helping a Singer Match Pitches: Handy Hints for the Teacher

Sing It - CMVic Publication - Cover PageAn article from Sing It – A quarterly publication created by Community Music Victoria. 
To download your FREE online copy visit our website: https://cmvic.org.au/resources/newsletters
To purchase a hardcopy for $12 AU ($10 AU for CMVic Members) visit our store: https://cmvic.org.au/resources/store

Most people can learn to match pitches if helped constructively. Some may need more assistance and experimentation than others. I don’t accept that there is a condition in some people of ‘tone deafness’, although where there is a physical injury to voice or hearing apparatus, it may not be possible to match pitches.

  1. Singing in a large group may help, but can also mask the problem or limit the singer to particular tunes or a particular group.
  2. I have discovered or learnt various things that will help the teacher who is helping a singer to match pitches (sometimes referred to as ‘singing in tune’). I would welcome feedback on these:
  3. Work with student/singer alone. Avoid group situations where family or peers act as an audience
  4. Work with a recording device if the student feels comfortable with this. They often discover extra ideas from listening to it later.
  5. Many will know this one. Experiment with slides, hoots, yells, growls, etc. Play with the sounds. There is no right or wrong in this exercise. Avoid the words ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ – use ‘comfortable’, ‘uncomfortable’, ‘matching’ as appropriate.
  6.  At first, the teacher can try matching pitches with the student rather than the other way around. If you don’t have the same registers (e.g. other sex) use an instrument to match the student’s pitches (piano is best even if you don’t play). This shows the student how ‘matching pitches’ feels. Later, get the student to match pitches with the teacher.
  7. •Once the student has started to match pitches with the teacher, find out which notes or area of notes (low, middle, high) they feel most comfortable with. Most recently I have worked with female students whose range focuses between middle C and F below it. (Later, in two cases, we have explored up to an octave in range).
  8. See if the student can distinguish between low and high areas of her/his own voice. There are tests but you can just ask the student to make what they hear as high or low notes in their own voice. (Men are usually weaker on this point).
  9. Extend the range gradually, using three or five note runs. It will also help if you can find songs in the student style of preference, first songs in their comfortable pitch area and later others.
  10. If the student is almost matching pitches but not quite, encourage them to slide their voices around in a small way until they match. Whatever method that helps is OK.
  11. Get the student to make positive affirmations about their voice (e.g.‘I am now discovering new areas of my voice’). The student rather than the teacher needs to do this, though the teacher may guide.
  12. Often people who sing off key are quick to pick up on technique.
    I have developed an abridged and adapted version of (classical)
    technique, which works well for beginning singers in all styles,
    especially relaxing the throat. Student’s confidence can increase
    quite a bit on this point, even if they are struggling to match specific pitches.

Further reading: Judy, Stephanie Making Music for The Joy Of It Wigglesworth, Leigh Post Graduate thesis on types of out-of –tune singers.

Article by Jill Scurfield
Singing Leader

Lose your troubles in the trance of making music – an interview with Pete Gavin


Pete Gavin wandered into the CMVic office (Melbourne, Australia) one Monday morning, with a few hours to spare and has been a valued member of the volunteer team since. Pete is a Ukemeister Extraordinaire from Bendigo where he leads Bendigo Uke Muster and The Uke Joint Jumpers who set a record in November 2013 for the ‘the most ukuleles playing on a poppet head’.  His earliest memory of community music making began at home, as it does for so many of us even if we’re not aware of this until we reflect back, “dancing around the lounge room” with his four older sisters and his younger brother.

Pete found his way into music making whilst he was still at school “One of my mates played guitar. That seemed cool, so I booked in to have some lessons and it stuck. It suited me.” While plenty of people take up the guitar at school, many will cast it aside as other things supersede that moment of interest and all too soon, the guitar is left to gather dust and sit forlornly in a corner. This obviously wasn’t so in Pete’s case, so how did he come to be so passionate about community music making and what is it about leading a group, which resonates so strongly with him?

“I’ve long wanted to share the amazing benefits of being able to lose your troubles in the trance of making music.
Being approached to guide the Bendigo uke group was a perfect fit. I never tire of seeing people discover that they too can make music.Ukulele: Great as a painkiller and an antidepressant. Only known side effects – joyous laughter and a sense of belonging.” Pete also speaks of seeing the light come on in people’s eyes as they grow in understanding and confidence.

We all look forward to catching up with Pete at CMVic on a Monday morning and this short interview came about as material for the CMVic blog, when we decided to ask him some random questions about himself which he was good enough to answer.
Whilst we knew that Pete is partial to good coffee, we’re now seeing him in a whole new light as his penchant for soup…. and chocolate has been revealed. (Stand by Cadbury’s!) But he’s far more likely to be found putting energy into promoting and sustaining his uke groups than cans of chocolate soup because he’s devised an effective method of facilitation and is clearly able to convey the magic of this simple instrument: “You need a number of them in order to sound good. The bigger the number, the more joyous the sound. Therefore you need friends and if you don’t have any you need to find some.”
As with so many interviews, we threw in a couple of daft toe-curling questions in an effort to be random and you know, a bit edgy, but they didn’t perturb Pete at all and he rose to the challenge admirably.  Eg: if you could choose one super power, which one would it be? He kept everything in context beautifully. His answer? “Perfect pitch or the ability to spell rythmn rythym …..you know what I mean…”
Pete’s answer to our final question provided further testimony to how community music making increases fulfillment. We asked him if he could make music with one person or band from any point in time, who would it/they be? To which he replied:
“Too hard….actually, you know what? I reckon I already do get a chance to play with the people I’d like to play with. Chief amongst the list, Pretty Miss Kitty and the rest of the Tequila Mockingbirds, James, Geoff, Steve, Del, Matisse and Mick the Filthy Gringo. Not to mention all the part time Mockers, too numerous to mention. The page isn’t long enough and besides, who knows when, where and with whom you’ll have the next amazing musical connection. The best moments are unexpected.”
We couldn’t have said it better.
Massive thanks to Pete Gavin for stepping up to the mark.
See here for more information about the Uke Joint Jumpers and Bendigo Uke Muster

Article by Deb Carveth
CMVic Online Editor

What do we want a Blog for, anyway?

Why blog?For ages, we eschewed social media at CMVic. We were almost afraid it would alienate us from each other; that we would sit at home screen gazing in increased isolation and forsake hooking up to make music. Because we prefer not to rush, but to relish things slowly in life (read funding shortfall, folks) the reality dawned on us only gradually that there was a whole online community thing happening under our very noses that wasn’t going away any time soon, which we’d be bonkers to let pass us by and that contrary to our initial perception, heaps of goodness, connectivity, and learning was coming from it.

Having accepted that this phenomenon had potential to be a great tool and not the cruel master we’d once feared, CMVic moved to embrace social media. Actually, ‘embrace’ might be slightly emphatic, it was more of a luke warm hug to begin with (even my grandparents beat CMVic to starting a Facebook page) but then another amazing realisation occurred: In terms of developing networks, communicating and resource sharing, the social media landscape in some ways, is an online echo of the very essence that drives us.

Hang on to your hats, world! Having gained momentum we quickly found our feet, collecting account names and logins all over the place to YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter among others and now, finally, we are blogging. We’ve propelled ourselves into the blogosphere, such a great word and synonymous – to me anyway – with the sound and feel of walking in wellies through mud.

Working as we do to promote and facilitate connections through music making, we have dreams that our blog will enable us to extend the CMVic network beyond Victoria, beyond Australia to a worldwide community of music makers, leaders and activists, and help us to promote the uniqueness of what we do here in our home state, as leaders, pioneers and supporters in the field of community music.

To connect with an audience of bloggers and followers who are like-minded people, to read and share their articles and to hear of their projects, philosophies and dreams for sustaining and growing the future of music making, whether they’re from just around the corner or somewhere around the globe is a magical and empowering thing. The CMVic blog is our glass against the wall to listen in to what’s going on out there, and it’s our tin can on a piece of string for telling everyone all of the great things that we do and what we’re all about.

Deb Carveth
Online Editor Aug 2014