It’s been an interesting week. A week that has made me very proud to be a musician. It has made me cherish what it is I do.

Raff and Janet, my two guitar playing friends turned up to our last rehearsal before the start of our run of concerts really upset. Their friend, guitarist and composer, Phillip Houghton, had suddenly died. I had met Phillip through these guys – he was a kind, gentle man. He’d also written some music for us. The Aussie guitar ‘family’ is pretty close, but for Raff especially, Phillip was a dear friend, and he was very affected. We decided, as a tribute to Phillip, we’d change our encore – rather than playing the Bach piece we’d chosen, we’d play something of his. We’ll do this at every concert we play (this is in the present tense ‘cos they’ve not all yet happened). We’ve played one concert with this encore – and it was a very fitting way to pay tribute to an excellent man, and dear friend.

Also I heard from an old school friend that her mum had died. I used to stay at their house a lot growing up. I remember her helping me with a school project about the desert, and teaching me how to make flowers out of cake icing. She was a wonderful woman, and her family loved her dearly. The next day I sat and played a Bach suite for her – the same Bach suite that JSB wrote after his first wife died. It seemed the right thing to do.

And it got me thinking….. there’s not many professions that can do that. I can’t buy a house, well, really anywhere in a major population centre in this country. I’ll never have a flash car. But I will be able to pay tribute to people who are good and special in the world in the best way I know how. I will be able to honour their memory. And that means something.

This isn’t going to be a long post today. I feel a bit thrown by daylight savings, to tell you the truth. I love the light-in-the-evening thing, but it makes it really very hard to get up in the early morning to practise at the moment. I’m sitting typing this feeling slightly jet-lagged, and drinking umpteen cups of tea.

The other day I got sent an email that was anti-Muslim. One of those forwarded things. First off, the facts were wrong (and when I pointed this put to the person who sent it to me, they copped it on the chin, and corrected themselves. Good on them.) – but its not the first time this has happened. I then went to have a bit of a surf around the internet, and I found all sorts of hateful things – anti-Christian, anti-Catholic, anti-Aboriginal, anti-right wing, anti-gay, anti-open-minded….. it’s all out there. It’s horrible, actually.

I spend so long teaching children not to see differences. So does every other teacher I know. It doesn’t matter the skin-colour/ height / freckles / religion / clothes (insert what you want here) of the person next to you. They are your friend. They are kind, like you. They need kindness, like you. The Timorese say “We all eat from the same bowl of rice.”

All children I see are taught this in primary school. When does it change? And actually, why does it have to change?

Most of my music lessons I plan – and also can pretty much tell you the outcome of what will happen (unless there’s something really odd happening, and the kids are really hard work). I’ll be able to tell you which kids will struggle, which of them will be able to do most of the lesson etc. I make it my business to watch things very carefully, although it might look like I’m just horsing around up the front (someone once said to me after a day teaching Early Childhood Lessons ‘Rachel, I don’t know why you are so tired. You’re really just rolling around on the floor with children….’. I’m not sure whether to take this as a total insult (you are doing nothing with these kids), or a compliment (you make this look so easy) – who knows.).

But every so often, I’ll plan something for a class that is actually really hard. I’m not sure how most of the kids will cope. And these lessons start like this….

“So….. year four. I’m going to teach you something I don’t think you’ll be able to do.” Children start grinning.

“I think I’ve chosen the wrong thing. I think this is too hard for you. If you are sitting next to someone you are going to be distracted by, could you move now.” Children continue to grin. A few kids will get up and move, and nearly always make good choices about where they will sit.

“OK. Here we go….. this will probably be too difficult, but let’s give it a try.”

And do you know what? These lessons have always worked. Kids try their damnedest. They all concentrate. They all achieve. And they all go out of the music lesson feeling really good about what they’ve done.

Would adults do that, I wonder? If you were told that something was too hard for you, would you throw yourself into it? I think most of us would say no. We’d walk away. So when does this change? When do we stop grinning at a challenge, and when do we start only staying in our comfort zone?

On the weekend, I read an excellent article in the ‘Good Weekend’ (It’s here, if you are interested.) It came at a timely point for me, as I’m reading B.K.S. Iyengar’s ‘Light on Life’ for a yoga course I’m taking. Last week I read a paragraph where he was talking about not letting your own truth be anyone else’s.

This is hard for me. I feel like there are so many things that everyone should agree with me on (like being allowed to end a sentence with a preposition, for one.). Like music education should be taught well, by people who know what they are doing, and compulsory in every school. That creative artists should be paid properly. That there shouldn’t be a big divide between people who can pay for education and who can’t. That teachers and nurses should be better paid. That more money in my tax dollar should be spent on education, rather than defence. That politicians should behave like responsible adults in parliament and be responsible for their own actions (and actually represent the people who voted them in… but don’t get me started.)

But I have to learn to actually let people have other viewpoints. Don’t think I’ve just rolled over and played dead here. The backbone has not left this ranga yet. I will not agree with you. I will judge you for what you say. (Yes – I judge. We all judge, although we’re not meant to admit it. But I will judge you and see if I need to change my actions. You can do what you want, as long as you don’t hurt me.) But I will not get angry with you. Or at least, I will try not to. Because that makes me no better than the people I judge and find lacking.

I think this will be easier to do when I’ve not had any wine.

I’ll let you know how I go with this.

Here’s an interesting thought….. It’s been shown, time and time again that creativity is affected by how much ‘space’ we give our brains. You must have experienced this – you’ve come back from a holiday, and come up with a really good idea, or gone for a big walk and had a solution to a problem that you’d puzzled over. If we stop doing stuff, our creativity can bubble up to the surface.

I’m not just talking about playing music, or creating art – but creative solutions to problems, or great lesson plans, or even a really good present for someone.

And yet we don’t stop. We don’t let our kids stop. We just keep going, keep stimulating. We play games on our phones instead of watching the world go by. We don’t gaze out the window. Instead of just sitting and drinking a cup of tea, we read, or check email as well.

I am bad at this…. in fact, I am terrible. I find it really hard to stop. But lately I have been experimenting on myself. I have been having a cup of tea and sitting and doing nothing. I have been gazing out the window at times. I have lay in bed, not reading or listening to music, but just been there, in the moment.

And you know what? I think my cello playing is improving. (Well, it’s getting a bit wackier. And more spacious. I like it, actually.) These two things could be unrelated, but I don’t think they are.

So here’s a challenge for you. Try it. Don’t worship your phone all the time. Look at the sky. Don’t read and drink tea (or coffee, or wine, or cider, or whatever) – just drink. I think you’ll feel better for it, you know. And probably more creative.