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
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)
When Annie Fletcher and her family moved back from WA to Melbourne, Hurstbridge seemed a nice spot at the end of the train line. It wasn’t until they’d been living there a few months that Annie realised the rich arts community they’d been fortunate to move into.
Keen to get into more hand-drumming, Annie decided to hook into the local scene, in particular the regular jamming sessions at St Andrew’s market, which at that time had a weekly drum circle. This lead to a conversation with the local neighbourhood house about starting a beginners group and, fourteen years later as Drum Connection, the beat goes on.
“I wasn’t a particularly experienced drummer at that time but, because I’d been a teacher for many years, I used my teaching skills to work out what I wanted to teach and how and it just grew from there. My intrinsic love of rhythm had also been honed over many years with my passion and tertiary study in Dance.”
Numbers were low to start with, but running the group gave Annie an opportunity to assimilate into the community, “it helped me find my place and it was just so rewarding”.
Participation in the new group continued to grow with spots of natural fluctuation, but the community music experience continued as a weekly dose of positive good fun.
“I always say there are no mistakes in the drumming, there are just variations on a theme and a bit of jamming is fine. People like that and if they struggle with a particular rhythm, they can just play the first beat of each bar or the main beats of the rhythm and when the finishing call comes, they can whack the drum again and finish with the group, so it’s accessible to all.”
Annie has found that some drummers just keep coming back while others take time out and return after an extended break. Consequently, a consistent core has developed with several drummers having earned themselves a Drum Connection ‘10 Year badge’!
“Over the years we’ve built up a community which is really very special and the group always welcomes and nurtures whoever walks through that door.”
Drum Connnection participants vary widely in age, ranging from a few older school-aged kids through to seniors. Everyone jollies each other along, learning, nurturing and playing as a collective group. Annie runs two long sessions, one on Thursday evenings and one on Friday afternoons. Within these sessions, levels 1, 2 and 3 are covered in particular time slots, which allows specific groups to learn layers of the shared rhythms at a complexity appropriate to them.
Drummers are offered an opportunity to perform at community events and when this occurs all of the different drum voices are combined within a structure for the whole rhythm, so that the entire group can play as one ensemble.
Annie also likes to introduce a singing element into her workshops, when simple parts of traditional songs can be taught to accompany an appropriate rhythm. Annie saves this ‘surprise’ until around week 3 by which time anyone new has settled in. “I’ve had people say to me, ‘oh you’ll never get me singing but of course, in time, they all sing!”
Occasionally, people will express concern that they lack enough rhythm to join in, and some people certainly find drumming a bit trickier than they expect to, but Annie has found that when she can assist them to relax, the drumming falls into place more easily. A number of drummers come to Drum Connection as part of a personal recovery process. For people who have suffered some sort of trauma, loss, bereavement, separation, anxiety or illness it can be of assistance when they are at a transition phase in their lives. “Often people will say to me afterwards, “that was just the best thing”.
“Some people find they can actually switch off from the big thing in their life because they are concentrating so hard on drumming, others find they can go into this quite meditative state and those people might have one or two rhythms you can see really working for that person and they totally zone out.”
Annie believes it’s unnecessary to highlight the healing or meditative aspects of drumming for discussion in the context of these community classes, preferring to consider these positive outcomes as an added bonus of the experience of participation and rhythms in a shared music-making context:
“People will discover this for themselves, it doesn’t have to be labelled… it can still be having this effect for many people whilst other people are just enjoying the music or the social aspect. Drumming can be different things to different people and we don’t necessarily need to put a label on any of those.”
Kids have joined in with Drum Connection workshops over the years, usually accompanying a parent although not always: “Anyone over the age of around 10 is welcome. I have occasionally had someone as young as 7 and although it’s an adult class there’s no problem them joining in if it works for them. It can be a nice thing for a parent and child to do.”
This month Annie is starting a series of drumming workshops in Hurstbridge specifically for kids, to gauge interest and uptake. “There are some good music programs in the local primary schools but for any kids who can’t get in or are too young, it could offer a good transition… I’ll give it a go and see!”
Article by Deb Carveth, online editor for Community Music Victoria, with Annie Fletcher
If you would like any more information about these classes or single workshops for specific groups, contact Annie: Mob: 0407 102 578; Email: firstname.lastname@example.org; fb: Drum Connection Aus
You never know where life as a Singing Leader will take you next. Several years ago now, The Lucky Wonders, an indie folk pop band from Byron Bay, toured Germany. In need of a break after a few gruelling years in the music industry, Jessie Vintila and her partner Emma Royle took off for a drive through Spain and France, and found themselves in St Jean Pied de Port, a small French town at the foot of the Pyrenees.
Turns out, St Jean Pied de Port is a common starting place for people walking a spectacular stretch of the Camino Francés, the most famous of all the Pilgrimage routes across the mountains, and on this particular day the atmosphere of the town captivated them both in a powerful and life changing way.
“We saw all these people in hiking gear with walking poles and there was a kind of magical hush over the town. There and then we got the bug for the Camino. Emma has been a keen hiker all her life and she was determined we would walk this track as soon as possible.”
But with return flights booked and paid for it was time to head home to Australia leaving the two women unclear about how they could justify an imminent trip back to Europe. “Being musicians it’s not that easy to travel across the world”, Jessie laughs. Their quest was something to ponder, something requiring time and creative thinking but the vision and the place persisted to play in their thoughts.
On a walk out one evening, an idea and a solution to the situation popped clearly into Jessie’s head…and after all that thinking it turned out, rather ironically, to be a bit of a no-brainer.
Jessie was fortunate to be born into a singing family. As a multi-instrumentalist for most of her life she has also been a passionate choir leader since she was 18: “I can’t get enough of it, I’m an absolute harmony addict, I love having people all around me singing harmonies all the time.” Emma, who is also a musician, is an ardent fan of walking.
The freshly hatched plan combined all these skills and, most importantly at that point in time, gave Jessie and Emma a legitimate reason to head back to the Camino together to explore the idea of setting up their potential new venture: A Singing tour of the Camino for other people to do.
“If we could go over there and set up this project, we could do it!”
Within a few months of their original visit, Jessie and Emma went back to Spain and walked all 800 blister-busting kilometres of the Camino. They decided to focus on the final 200km stretch which they decided would be the ideal distance for singing walkers to cover on a twelve day tour. A significant amount of their time on that first trip was spent researching places to stay away from the traditional and crowded boarding houses or ‘albergues’ typical of the region, and immersing themselves in the culture and lifestyle of the area.
“We found all these special little stops run by families to stay in along the track and pieced together an itinerary which, by the time we’d finished, was gorgeous. A lot of the self-organisational skills we’d honed from being in a band came into use… I only had about 12 words of Spanish but I managed to book 12 rooms for the following year for people who didn’t even exist yet…”
Jessie acknowledges that a huge part of being able to take the plunge and do this was the trusting, welcoming nature and enabling culture of the Spanish people. And it worked.
With Jessie’s vision and Emma’s pragmatism, the women established ‘Sing the Camino’ and, in 2014, took their first group of 9 singers on a 12 day, gospel singing tour through Spain from Ponferrada to Santiago. They were living their dream. The following year they took two groups of 16 people each.
Each of the groups who have Sung the Camino with Jessie and Emma has its own unique character. Some of the singers will know each other and have booked in as a group. Others arrive as individuals on adventures of their own. The tour is inclusive to singers of all levels and experience and non-singing partners often come along too, though they rarely remain non-singers for long.
“Singers of all abilities are welcome… we have found that in a supportive environment, with the right help, everyone is able to experience the joy of singing.”
There will be people who want to flash mob along the track every single day, or put on a performance for the town they arrive in at the end of a day, whilst other groups are not open to these capers at all, and that’s fine too.
As Jessie says, the singers who go out on a limb always have an entertaining story to tell at dinner that night, about how they made the man in the cheese shop cry, or how the man in the fish shop is a fantastic singer and he went and brought in his brother and they sang a song together. Beautiful spontaneous things can happen, but none of them are planned. Which is as it should be.
One of Jessie’s favourite aspects of these trips are the nights when local guest musicians come and sing for them all, and Jessie and Emma have spent a long time building relationships with these people:
“We’ve had the good fortune to discover some really amazing genres of music we didn’t even know existed… like Tuna which I knew nothing about. One evening staying in a little apartment in the town square in Ponferrada, I was already in bed in my pyjamas and almost asleep when I heard this wonderful music come floating up. I hurried to change into my clothes as quickly as I could and ran down to find the musicians as they were packing up. I had to chase these guys – again with my very limited Spanish – and in a garbled way ask them if they’d come and sing for our group on Thursday. They said yes, and have been coming along ever since wearing their traditional capes and singing sonorous harmonies with lots of string instruments of various kinds, accordions percussion and tambourines, sometimes they even have bag pipes, they’re a cheeky bunch.”
Singing the Camino is like a roaming Vocal Nosh. Whilst everyone does the day’s walk at their own pace, they all come together again for a big feast in the evening and an hour’s singing to re-energise, re-connect, and round off the day.
“We always do some Spanish and Galician songs” (Galician being a language of Spain which is more like Portuguese). “We’ll sing in Galician because this is the region of Spain where we spend most time on the tour and the people there proudly identify as Galician, speaking Spanish mostly because they’ve been made to. Generally, we make sure we’re singing whatever people have the energy to do at the end of a day’s walk.”
Jessie enjoys the challenge of meeting a fresh new group of singers, assessing what they’ll respond well to and selecting the right material and repertoire she feels will work best for them all. For this, she draws on her experience of leading singing groups in all sorts of community settings over the years including groups for people with disabilities, kids’ groups, and a rehab choir. “It’s a nice challenge to feel you can rise to.”
“We change the repertoire every time depending on whether the group is an amazing choral group which can nail four part harmonies, or whether they’re there simply because their friends came and then we might want to sing some Carole King or some Abba songs. I keep a printer handy so we can bring in new material if that’s what we want.”
Self care is also an important element of the tours for Jessie and Emma. They find that meditation is a fantastic way to retreat and restore their energy levels. “It goes an incredibly long way to keeping the battery fully charged and we feel a lot less exhausted at the end.”
A significant number of their past singers have been asking if they can all Sing the Camino Portuguese and so Jessie and Emma have done the research and are embarking on this next, in an exciting new phase of their venture. After all, there’s a lot of world to walk out there, and a lot of songs to be sung.
Findings from new research conducted in the Netherlands show that structured music lessons have a significant and positive effect on a child’s cognitive abilities, improving verbal intelligence, inhibition and planning skills.
“Despite indications that music has beneficial effects on cognition, music is disappearing from general education curricula,” said lead author Dr. Artur Jaschke, who is a researcher at the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam. “This inspired us to initiate a long-term study on the possible effects of music education on cognitive skills that may underlie academic achievement.”
It’s never too late to pick up a musical instrument. In fact there are many reasons why it’s a great idea, particularly in old age.We normally hear about reasons to increase music education for children, and for good cause. There are many cognitive and social benefits to playing an instrument that aid a child’s development. Consequently, as an older adult, there are long-term effects of having taken part in these musical activities, as it can limit cognitive decline.
Even a small amount of training can have long lasting effects. But this doesn’t mean that those who have never played an instrument in childhood have missed the boat. The ageing brain is plastic: that means it is able to learn new things all the time. So, should we consider an increase in music programs for those in the third age?
Playing music as a workout for the brain
Learning to play a musical instrument is an extremely complex task that involves the coordination of multiple sensory systems within the brain. Many instruments require precise coordination between the eyes, the ears and the hands in order to play a musical note. Using the resulting sound as feedback, the brain prepares for the next note and so it continues. The act of music-making is quite a brain workout.
The relationship between the motor and auditory parts of the brain is strengthened when physically playing music. This may explain why adults trained to play certain melodies have an enhanced representation of music in the brain compared to adults only trained to listen to the same melodies.
As playing music involves many different parts of the brain, even a short-term program for older adult musical novices can lead to generalised improvements for cognitive ability.
Music as a workout for the fingers
Learning to play an instrument such as the piano involves many complex finger sequencing and coordination tasks. As such, it can be a great test-bed for learning to move fingers independently.
The creativity of music and the enjoyment people take in playing is particularly important for rehabilitation, as it encourages sustained practice leading ultimately to higher benefits.
It’s thanks to this that piano lessons have been used to successfully retrain hand function for patients who have had a stroke. The immediate auditory feedback from each finger movement is thought to help adults reduce errors in movement and work towards moving at a more regular pace.
Music training is an excellent environment to train cognitive and motor abilities, both in the contexts of child development and for rehabilitation. The question for older adults is this: can learning a musical instrument not only put the brakes on cognitive and motor decline, but actually allow development of new skills?
Of course many activities can be novel such as juggling or knitting, but the advantages of learning an instrument can be found in the breadth of skills required to play. At Western Sydney University, we are currently investigating how piano training can be used with healthy older adults to improve their general hand function in unrelated daily tasks.
Music for health and wellbeing
Often, the worry is that playing an instrument will be too difficult for older adults to manage. On the contrary, learning to play an instrument can provide a great sense of achievement and satisfaction.
It’s suggested that this is a consequence of decreases in stress that can happen when taking part in musical activities. However, further research is needed to determine exactly how this relationship functions.
Music for all
It’s vital to understand how we can aid the current generation of older adults, in terms of both health and personal enjoyment. With the myriad benefits provided by playing a musical instrument, it would seem beneficial to have a wider variety of musical activities on offer to the older generation.
Wouldn’t it be great if the third age wasn’t viewed as a final descent from some mid-life peak, but some new act of life that opens up these opportunities? Perhaps we should give older adults the chance to develop in ways they could never have imagined before.
Activities such as singing in a choir, or playing the piano can provide this opportunity, as well as offering many general benefits to health and wellbeing.
Contra dance… que’est-ce-que c’est? For those of us who’ve never dipped a heel or toe into this aspect of the folk or social dance scene, a quick spot of online research explains contra dancing as ‘social interaction, meeting people, and making new friends, set to music.’ A hot stepping cousin of square dancing or bush dancing, contra dancing is done in pairs with couples moving up and down a line or in sets in response to a caller. It originates from North America and is steadily gaining an enthusiastic following of new, young dancers here in Australia. It is also a fantastic way to link social dancing with community music making.
Melbourne based musician, Judy Oleinikov is a big fan of the inclusive nature of contra dance and for the past three years or so has been doing her bit to bring a wider awareness of it to musicians and dancers alike: “ Contra dances can be more vivacious and also a little bit more informal than some of the other dances we have here… unlike something more structured such as Scottish Dancing, it isn’t intimidating to beginners.”
It may be a relief to hear that a sleek technique isn’t required and you don’t need to point your toes to take part. Contra dancing is open to anyone of any age and people seem to find it highly addictive due to its inherent element of fun. That and the amount of spinning involved.
For Judy, Contra dance kicks come from her involvement as a fiddle player for the dance:
“What I love about social dance is seeing a roomful of people in sync, the dancers and the musicians. There’s just nothing better, that buzz of live music and everyone responding to it.
In addition to the fact it’s fun, Judy considers the resurgence in contra dancing important in helping to sustain a complex skill and a vital element of musicality which she believes is at risk of becoming lost: the ability to play for dancers.
“A lot of Celtic musicians learn the music completely separate from the dance and so they haven’t quite got the feel… they can be brilliant players but to a dancer it just wouldn’t be right. We’ve grown used to hearing recordings or playing tunes in pubs and so what I really like about bringing a dance back is doing it while people are learning the music to go with it.”
Contra dance music is lively, and drives and energizes the dancers. Like all forms of music, it has originated from a blend of traditions, noticeably Irish, Scottish, Breton, Québecois, Cape Breton, New England, and Appalachian, and is constantly evolving, as living traditions do. As an avid player of Celtic music herself, Judy explains that the origin of this form of music was in playing tunes for people to dance along to as entertainment.
“People used to dance every week. There’s the story of how in Ireland, people used to meet on the crossroads whenever there was a full moon because there were no halls big enough to fit everyone into… it’s been people’s enjoyment for so long.”
While this form of dancing fell out of favour as other new and exciting ways to pass the time were thought up and invented throughout the twentieth century, there’s plenty of evidence to suggest that when people rediscover it as a form of unplugged entertainment, it becomes a bit of an addiction.
As a musician, one of the things Judy loves most about this form of traditional music is that tunes are learnt and carried by ear. There are no scores to follow and whilst a framework is essential to prevent chaos breaking out on the dance floor, musicians can be spontaneous and creative in their playing and because they’re not following markings on a piece of paper, their interpretation can come across.
“Because there are no hard and fast rules about chord choices and where the notes should be played, you’ll hear something different about the melody each time… there’s no break out like there is in jazz, it’s more about taking the framework of the tune and finding elements in it to change around or highlight, and that’s really exciting.”
For the past four years, Judy has run the Quasitrad Quebec Fiddle Weekend, a music camp dedicated to French Canadian music, a type of Celtic music that’s “as much fun to play as it is to listen to” which has remained very rhythmic, very lively and is a style extremely well suited to contra dancing.
Each year, Judy has included a dance in the camp’s program, inspired by the social dancing she’d seen in Quebec to this particular style of music. “I thought it would be absolutely brilliant to run a dance like that here at my camp!” Two friends of Judy’s are dance callers and dancers in different styles, and they each asked if she’d consider a contra dance.
“They’d fallen in love with the style and knew of hardly any contra dance happening here in Victoria. Once we had a go I could see their point – it’s a really great form of social dancing.”
Jeanette Mill, who is an experienced Contra dance caller from Canberra, has worked with Judy for the past three years. “Jeanette is highly experienced with a range of dances up her sleeve for whoever comes along and, in order to be as inclusive as possible, starts each of the dances quite simply.” As Judy points out, the skill of the caller has to combine with the skill of the musicians to ensure that the dancers can pick up and maintain a rhythm and flow.
“We have kids, we have parents holding toddlers, we have more elderly people and even teenage boys joining in! It’s great to get all the age groups up and dancing with people they may feel too shy to sit and talk to and, as some of the dances are progressive, it mixes everyone up.”
Whilst Contra dancing isn’t actually a French Canadian thing, it’s been carried across the borders into Quebec from the New England states of Maine, New Hampshire, and Massachusetts, the heartland of Contra Dance. Subsequently, a lot of the musicians from that region make their money as dance players and tend to be extremely good at it.
In November this year, Judy will once again be hosting a four-day French Canadian music camp in Gippsland ‘which will honour the traditional way of learning music by providing an environment open to all players, teaching the music by ear and enjoying a great community atmosphere.’
The Quebec Fiddle Camp will offer musicians and dancers the opportunity to participate in an afternoon’s contra dance workshop led by visiting musicians from Quebec. “Australia has very few musicians who can play for contra dances so far, and it’s great to have the opportunity to book visiting musicians here who are strong in the genre.”
Judy is keen to encourage players who attend the weekend to have a go at the dancing in order to experience it from a dancing perspective, to feel the music and the impact it has.
The 2018 Quebec Fiddle Camp will take place over cup weekend, (Nov 2-6) and on Monday November 5, (Cup Eve), Judy is planning a big contra dance in Trafalgar. This event will be open to anyone out there in the community who’s keen to join in and – literally – give it a whirl.
For information about the annual Quasitrad Quebec Fiddle weekend, visit www.quasitrad.com
Article by Deb Carveth, online editor for Community Music Victoria, with Judy Oleinikov
Researchers found that young men and women who shared musical experiences with their parents during childhood — and especially during adolescence — report having better relationships with their mums and dads as they enter young adulthood.
“If you have little kids, and you play music with them, that helps you be closer to them, and later in life will make you closer to them,” said study co-author Jake Harwood, professor and head of the UA Department of Communication.
“If you have teenagers and you can successfully listen to music together or share musical experiences with them, that has an even stronger effect on your future relationship and the child’s perception of the relationship in emerging adulthood.”
Researchers surveyed a group of young adults, average age 21, about the frequency with which they engaged with their parents, as children, in activities such as listening to music together, attending concerts together or playing musical instruments together.
Read the full article written by Alexis Blue and published by the University of Arizona, here.
Feature photo: Markus Spisk; Violin and Flute: Micaela Parente on Unsplash
In just one year, Pub Choir has revolutionised the community music scene in Brisbane and beyond, bursting forth in a blast of fresh energy and zest and attracting hundreds of singers to its informal fortnightly singing sessions. The success of Pub Choir can be attributed to a combination of zeitgeist mixed with a twist of right time right place all shaken up with a direct, no frills attitude to music making. That and the fact it’s in a pub…
The ingeniously simple idea for Pub Choir was dreamt up in a conversation between co-founders Astrid Jorgensen and Megan Bartholomew. The women who met at uni, share the belief that everyone can sing and that music belongs to everybody. In talking, they realised that whilst music was their livelihood, they were no longer singing for fun and so, in March last year, Meg called a pub.
Astrid and Meg then recruited guitarist Waveney Yasso, whose job is to keep everyone singing in time and in tune. The Pub Choir dream team came into being and with support from a photographer and videographers to capture the magic, they were set to prove to the world it could sing.
“The hope was that if we put it in a friendly setting then people would come and remember that music is fun with friends. We should all be making music an everyday experience, and if we’re doing it more often and in casual ways then it becomes less ‘scary’.”
Astrid and the team put a single post on Facebook before the first session stating, ‘No Commitment, No Auditions, No Sheet Music, NO WORRIES!’ They smashed their hopes for 30 people that first night when 70 rocked up, and every event from then on has sold out. As Astrid says, “It’s been pretty crazy!”
The Bearded Lady in Brisbane trusted the vision, provided a space and supported the idea of Pub Choir at a time when it wasn’t a ‘thing’. The event soon outgrew the capacity of the room there, but its walls play a significant part in the success and history of the choir’s first year, something Astrid is very thankful for.
So does alcohol play a significant role in the success and phenomenon of Pub Choir? Even though it’s available, Astrid attributes the sense of anonymity that goes with being in a pub along with lots of other people, as the reason new singers feel disinhibited enough to relax and have a go. And once they start singing, the release of endorphins and the sense of connection can work their magic and do the rest.
There is no place for judgement at Pub Choir, it’s all about enjoying yourself and singing to have a good time. Astrid chooses well known songs, something she finds makes life easier for everyone:
“For each upcoming session I try to pick something in a different style to the last so as not to be too repetitive; something very well known so that the melody doesn’t have to be taught too much, and; songs that are achievable in 90 minutes. I also am constrained by whether or not I can obtain the relevant licenses. Occasionally publishers will say no, so I try to have a few options up my sleeve.”
To teach the song, Astrid, who is qualified in choral conducting and voice, divides the group into three sections, taking them through line by line and within 90 minutes everyone is revelling in the buzz of singing in three part harmony.
There has been such an amazing outpouring of support for Pub Choir from the online community, that Astrid and the team are now in the process of booking dates for a tour. The idea is to travel around the country later in the year and share the experience of Pub Choir more widely in its original format. Astrid likes to combine elements of comedy into all aspects of her work including Pub Choir in the belief that if people are having a laugh they will relax and sing better, and she’s keen to share this out on the road too.
“Everyone is saying the same thing: We could really use this in our community, this looks so much fun.”
Pub Choir has received hundreds of emails from people across the country who are keen to use the same model, and asking if they can start up their own Pub Choir. This includes requests for Pub Choir’s budgeting, licensing, event planning, and even web content creation – some of which Astrid admits makes her feel a little uncomfortable.
Whilst the level of interest from other singing leaders keen to borrow and learn from the model of Pub Choir is flattering, Astrid feels this has to be done in conjunction with a good dose of self-assessment and points out that the Pub Choir model might not translate and work as well for everyone. She explains:
“I like being at the pub and I like joking around and I’m definitely more into casual community music making than something more ‘high brow’, but I think people may try to copy and paste something that might not necessarily fit their skill set as an educator, or even their personality. I mean, consider 500 drunk people who you don’t know,” laughs Astrid, “it won’t suit everyone, so play to your strengths and find what you are passionate about!”
An unexpected challenge faced by Pub Choir is the number of costs involved in running such a simple idea. Each singer pays $10 cash on the door and pretty much every cent of that goes back into licensing to pay for arranging and then filming the song. “Sometimes it’s thousands of dollars.”
This was an area they didn’t anticipate but their popularity and strong online presence thrives as a result of the high quality film clips they post, and their recent clip of the Cranberries song ‘Zombie’ sung and posted as a tribute to Dolores O’Riordan was shared by the band and went viral, a real high point for Astrid and everyone involved.
Pub Choir will be celebrating its first birthday in March with a party to end all parties at the Triffid in Brisbane, a venue with capacity for over 700 singers. It’s a beautiful old aircraft hangar which is a brilliantly apt place to celebrate a singing group that has taken off so fast. Go, go Pub Choir: the sky’s the limit.
Featured image by Jacob Morrison, supplied by Pub Choir
**Interest in Pub Choir has come from each of the capital cities and beyond and the team hope to have visited them all by the end of the year, returning in between times to sing with their Brisbane crowd. If there are any pub landlords or venue managers reading this in Victoria who are open to the idea of hosting Pub Choir, hop onto their website and express your interest now!
Can music actually make us smarter? Research suggests that from as early as 16 weeks of pregnancy, when auditory function is forming, babies begin their musical development. Their early adaptive exposure to sounds, including those familiar sounds of parents’ voices, enhance extraordinary processing skills.
Neuroscience teaches us that a child’s brain is plastic. By this, we mean it is malleable and has the ability to change. The first year of life, more than any other year, will see the most rapid change in brain size and function as all the sensory receptors activate. Intriguingly, neuro-imaging shows that music alone turns on large sectors of a child’s brain, opening crucial neural pathways that will become the highways and byways for every piece of information the process.
We’d all love to think our children will grow up intelligent, blissfully free from academic struggle. Truth is, the learning journey is speckled with challenges, and each child will have a unique intelligence and learner disposition. One thing we know is that parental involvement in cognitive stimulation from the earliest years will help form solid foundations that underpin a more successful schooling journey.
So, what can parents do to prepare young learners for school?
Sing like no one’s listening
Singing nursery rhymes to your child, however old fashioned you may think it is, will get them off to a flying start. Children become particularly responsive because reciprocal communication occurs as they begin to mimic you – pre-empting certain sounds, tones or words that they recognise. Using pitch and rhythm in the rhymes and lullabies we introduce to our children will begin to create neural stimulation that develops the brain’s auditory cortex, transforming their ability to communicate.
Bang on those pots and pans
While it may fray the nerves, banging on the pots and pans is a fantastic way to improve spatial reasoning. With background music blaring, children first develop the coordination required to hit the metallic targets, and as their sensory cortex develops, they begin to keep in time. Research shows that spatial reasoning, along with a sense of beat and rhythm (which invariably includes an aural and tactile sense of measure and counting) will enhance mathematical abilities.
Join a children’s music group
Early childhood music-based playgroups offer a unique learning context for children. The songs and activities employ beat patterns, movement, repeated chorus lines and echo singing to engage with young participants. The cerebellum at the base of our brains is responsible for movement and balance, and interestingly, is where emotional reactions to music form. Universally, early childhood educators use rhyme and song to teach children how language is constructed, and with good reason. Movement, foot tapping and dancing to a beat are also good ways of developing the brain’s motor cortex.
The ‘Mozart Effect’
There is a popular hypothesis that listening to Mozart makes you smarter. The “Mozart Effect” refers primarily to a landmark study in 1993, where participants listening to Mozart’s music (rather than to relaxation music or silence) achieved higher spatial-temporal results. Importantly, spatial-temporal reasoning is crucially active when children are performing science and maths tasks. Listening to music in any capacity induces endorphin production in the brain, causing improvement in mood and creative problem solving.
Learn an instrument
Many parents wonder when a child should start learning their first musical instrument. Importantly, instrumental tuition is not about producing the next Mozart or Delta Goodrem. Music lessons, for even the briefest of periods, are enjoyable and establish a life-long skill. It has also been noted that musicians’ brains develop a thickened pre-frontal cortex – their brains are actually bigger. And this is the area of the brain most crucially involved in memory. One thing researchers and music educators endorse is the amazing impact it has on the development of executive functions such as working memory, attention span and cognition.
Many schools are putting research into practice, and Queensland is leading the way with music taught in 87% of schools. Immersion music programs, where all students learn an instrument for a one-year minimum, have become commonplace. The results speak for themselves.
Psychologists from a Californian University conducted research on pre-school aged children, and proved that those who had weekly keyboard lessons improved their spatial-temporal skills 34% more than those who didn’t. The benefits did not stop there. Children developed fine motor skills, reading, auditory recognition, resilience, and increased their memory capacity. All of these benefits of instrumental tuition bode well for the classroom journey ahead.
Chelsea Harry is an Academic Researcher and Music Educator, University of the Sunshine Coast. Currently completing a Masters in Research with USC, Chelsea is a professional Musician and Classroom Educator of 20 years experience. Her research follows the journey of 6-8 year olds and the impact of instrumental music tuition on the brain and executive functions.
Chelsea also works as a conductor, cellist, pianist, music educator, musical director, primary classroom teacher and mum!