I’ve just spent the first week for 2013 back in schools. A few things have popped into my mind this week as I’ve been dealing with the setting up of programmes and stuff…..

The children are genuinely excited to see their music teacher. They are keen to get back into it. The kids I see are not the sort that are polite and do things because they think they should. They want what I can give them. So why isn’t this stuff in every school? Why doesn’t every school have a qualified music teacher? I know that there would be far less behavioural problems in schools if there were more creative arts taught in an engaging way. If kids had a twice-weekly music lesson, and twice-weekly art lesson, and maybe also some drama classes, how good would that be? We’d come up with a nation of creative thinkers. Kids with low self-esteem would blossom. Kids would want to come to school. I know this first-hand. I’ve seen these things happen, just with the little bit of music teaching I do.

I also keep reading reports about ‘equality in education’. This is total and utter rubbish. Equality in education will never, never be achieved until every fee-paying school is closed. This won’t kill society. It’s worked in Finland. Equality in schools will never be achieved until teachers are trained better, paid more, and respected more. No government can fix this in the short term, and certainly not by some report. Have these government people seen some of these schools? Classrooms without heaters, or fans? With awful desks? And then gone to other schools with indoor swimming pools, shooting ranges and grand pianos all over the place? I mean, really……

I’m now climbing off my soapbox and going to eat some dinner…..

I have just spent three days teaching adults, at a music camp for amateurs down in Wollongong. I am typing this yawning, and with eyes that feel like someone has thrown sand in them, because not a lot of rest was had by yours truly. There was a fair amount of chatting over wine to be had – and I didn’t count on the kookaburras waking me up at dawn, after a few late night conversations. So if there are a few typos, or rambling sentences, you will know the reason.

The weather was hot, and steamy. There was no air-conditioning to be enjoyed. But the music-making atmosphere was quite incredible! All these people, playing music, simply for the joy of it.

I play a lot of chamber music. It is the music I love the most, if truth be told. But I very rarely get the chance to sit and play something, just because I can. I am always preparing things for concerts. I get to play with some incredible musicians, and the rehearsing process if very exciting and inspiring – but I can’t remember when I last sat down to play a sextet by Brahms just because I was with five other string players who were all in the same place as myself, with instruments, music stands, and the correct parts.

I am humbled by being there, with all these devoted players. One of their number described them as ‘chamber music tragics’ – but I think us pros could learn something from these guys. I think that I forget the joy of music-making sometimes as I am struggling to learn some really tricky passage in some duo sonata. I forget how magical Mozart can be, when I’m in the thick of it.

And this weekend has reminded me of all those things. Thank you to the Amateur Chamber Music Society. May you live long and prosper.

I go into two Sydney schools where the kids do it tough. Many of these kids wouldn’t be taken to much – possibly, apart from footy games.
Four years ago, I asked the band from the Royal Australian Navy to come and visit to play a concert for the kids. I also arranged for a group of children to drum water bottles with the band – which was very loud – but the RAN band were hugely good sports about it. The concert was a HUGE success. Kids whooping, kids dancing, teachers grooving – and me grinning at the back of the hall.
Now the band has come to all the schools I’m in – including a school 800 kms west of Sydney.
The impact these concerts have had are enormous.
Children have had a FABULOUS time, listening to really good music, played by really good musicians.
Teachers (the unsung heroes of our society, in my opinion) have had a really good time.
Children have learnt about various instruments – the piccolo, the oboe, the bassoon – they’ve heard them, and seen them played.
And it seems the band have had a really good time too.
Here’s a video of some of the kids I teach playing ‘Watzing Matilda’.
RAN band and 30 big water bottles
The kids had such a great time! Kids walking off saying ‘That was the best fun! I was so nervous, and then it was so fun! It’s been the best day!’
The band have just agreed to come back to  both my Sydney schools.

It’s such a great day. The musicians are so incredibly professional. And yet, when the Navy want to cut back funding, it’s things like the band that gets the chop. Doesn’t make any sense in my head at all.

So many times people I talk to about my teaching tell me I should write a book. I think they do this for different reasons. Mostly, I think it’s because so many times I find myself in incredibly amusing situations that make a good story. Sometimes I think it because my stories of the kids I see are inspiring for those listening. Anyway, I’m not going to write a book. But I have decided to keep a blog. Maybe one day it’ll be made into a book. Maybe it won’t.

I am starting off 2013 with a new type of job. I’ll still be teaching. But not just kids. I’ll also be trying to write down what I do, in order to share it with teachers. Some of these teachers will be music teachers, and others will be class teachers with no musical training. I’m interested to see how it all goes.

Most of my teaching I do on behalf of the Australian Children’s Music Foundation (ACMF) – www.acmf.com.au. They are a charity that takes music into disadvantaged schools. I teach kids, who for whatever reason, wouldn’t normally have the chance to get music lessons. They could be considered low socio-economic. They could be at a remote school. They could be at a behavioural school. But they aren’t the sort of kids who had the education that I did. Sometimes I work with the Australian Chamber Orchestra and the ACMF. Sometimes I work for Mary McKillop International, mentoring music teachers.

I am constantly inspired by the people I work with – the teachers at the schools I visit are incredible people. I get extremely cross when I hear people slagging off teachers who work in the public sector. I am constantly inspired by the kids I see – listening to their stories, and seeing things from their perspective.

So this will be a diary, of sorts. I’m not sure if anyone will read it – but I’ll write it anyway. It’ll probably help to keep my head in order!