Over the last few weeks I’ve been playing in out-of-town venues. I’ve been sitting in the car, doing lots of driving (or being driven). I’ve seen some beautiful countryside – dry fields full of brown grasses, sparkling blue water, burnt bush-land, snow falling just as the light was fading. I’ve seen a lot of road. I’ve listened to some excellent podcasts (I’m turning into a bit of a true-crime-podcast addict, I confess…).

Whenever I play to audiences out-of-the-cities it feels totally different to, say, Sydney. There’s a real feeling of gratitude – I have trekked to wherever they are to play to them. And it makes me angry when I hear that money for regional touring from arts organisations has been cut. In previous years, Government finding bodies funded about 20% of applications. This year, they’ve funded 2.7%. (And yes, my decimal points are correct.) Where is the money going? To make a surplus? (I have no idea, and I’m sure someone will tell me.) Arts organisations, big ones, are cutting regional tours…

But here’s a thought…. You see, ALL of NSW is in drought. This is hard. There’s a lack of colour. There’s worry. Anxiousness. People are concerned. And concerts make you forget about stuff. You would all have experienced that – just for a small amount of time. And good music feeds the soul. It makes you happier. And I’m not just talking about classical music here – any music. SO why doesn’t someone, somewhere, making these types of decisions have a bit of think.

Hay, money, feed – yes, this is all totally important. I do not disagree. But balm for souls is also hugely important. Allowing young kids in the country access to arts and music and seeing live music is hugely important. Actually, not just young people…. I know there’s a huge amount of money needed for all sorts of stuff. But isn’t mental health just as important as a state in surplus?

Perhaps even more so?

I am going to preface this post by saying it’s going to make me sound like a grumpy old woman. Ah well. But I feel like I need to say it. It’s about people being noisy, you see.

So I am a big practiser. I’ll sit at my cello early in morning a lot. Sometimes late in the evening. There might be days where I’ll play for up to five hours. Sometimes I have the door open in my practise room, which goes into the front garden. I know that people can hear what I’m doing, because I see them stopping and listening. It makes me really aware of noise that I make – and also that other people make too.

Did I miss some kind of announcement that it’s ok to talk on your mobile phone in public on speakerphone? When did this become a ‘thing’? When is it acceptable to sit anywhere where there are others and talk to someone on the speaker part of your mobile? I don’t want to hear your conversation. I don’t care if it’s in English or not – I don’t want to hear it. Turn off your speaker (it distorts the sound) and HOLD YOUR PHONE UP TO YOUR EAR.

And why is it ok to allow your kids to run around in public spaces and yell? I can remember knowing about my ‘inside voice’ and ‘outside voice’ and realising they were something different when I was a little tacker. OK – I give you a few exceptions. School playgrounds. Sporting fixtures shouting support for your team. But the pavement? The shopping centre?

And since I’m having a rant about it, why do people listen to videos on their phones WITHOUT HEADPHONES in a public space as well?

It makes me smile that the house of two musicians is one of the most quiet on our street. Ironic, isn’t it?

I’ll stop ranting now, and get down off my soapbox. Very quietly, mind you. You won’t hear a thing.

Last week I was lucky enough to teach an Early Childhood Music class. This is a music lesson for pre-school aged kids. These particular kids were 3-and-4 year olds (mostly 4, I think), and there were about 20 of them. It was part of an Open Day program for Hillston Central School – a stroke of genius, I think (Hooray for Mrs Murphy!!)

It was a fabulous lesson. And I’m sitting here reflecting on it for so many reasons…. I don’t teach this age group much at the moment – I used to do it a lot. In fact, I had most of my training in it. It’s something that can be done really badly. But when it’s done well, it’s so wonderful for the children participating, in so many ways. It builds on social skills, aural skills, motor skills, vocal skills, patience, confidence – you name it, a good early childhood music lesson will probably cover it.

My most favourite part of these lessons is handing out instruments. You see kid’s faces light up. Mini cymbals? For me? And I can BANG them? Really? A lot? This is the BEST day EVER….

It reminds me to take pleasure in the small things, you know. One children let out a loud squeal of joy when he realised he was going to be able to play an egg shaker AND a bell AT THE SAME TIME.

So – adults out there. I know that we all have bad days. But this little boy reminded me of something. There’s a lot in those bad days that might be good, but we forget. Your car has heating? That’s a good thing. Someone made you a coffee? That’s brilliant!

And if someone gives you an egg shaker and a bell? Shake them will all your might. And squeal with happiness. You’ll feel better, you know…

I have messy hair. I deliberately make it messy. I neglect it on purpose, and love the fact that it’s unkempt. Of all the hairstyles I’ve had over the years (and there have been oodles), it’s probably the one I like the most – the one I think is most, well, me.

I know that as a classical musician, it’s not so normal. I am meant to walk on stage in smart black, with tidy hair, and sparkly jewelry. I am supposed to be part of an establishment. But I realised that the establishment wasn’t for me ages ago. I wear bare feet. There are no sparkles. My hair is everywhere. In fact, most of the time, I’m not walking onto a stage at all – just some floor somewhere. I have found the way I like to perform, and others seem to enjoy it too…

I know that the kids I teach love the hair. It’s part of the whole music teacher persona – a teacher who is a little bit different. Who makes them smile and laugh. Because a kid who is smiling and laughing is more likely to learn and to try things new, I have found. (And the teachers I work with worry more about what I deliver rather than what I look like. Well, to a point, anyway.)

I get comments – often from conservatively-dressed, older people. They don’t like the hair. But here’s the thing – I do. Very much. It’s part of me. As is the orange, the laugh, the energy and the slight disrespect for authority. And isn’t how I wear my hair so minuscule a matter? Don’t you want to talk to me about my politics, or how I feel about the education system? Or even my favourite recording of the Bach Suites?

I’m off to tease a few locks….

Once you hit the time of your life that I am (OK, I’ll say it. It’s middle age. I should be wearing twin sets and ranting about the stupid haircuts of the youth-of-today…), you don’t often make new friends. I mean, you have colleagues – perhaps from work, and you see them occasionally, but it’s not often you meet new people where you start to think of them as friends.

As a musician, this is slightly different, because you sometimes play with people and just fall in love with their musical soul, and so they become someone you trust. But this is a slightly different friend. You don’t know them, or their lives particularly well, but there’s a very deep and strong bond there, through the art of playing music together.

And then, as a teacher, it’s easy to make friends with other teachers, because you can always talk about the act of teaching – it is an endless topic. It bores EVERYONE else around you who isn’t a teacher. Some of these teacher friends of mine become actual friends as well, rather than just colleagues too.

But this other thing has happened to me over the past year that has surprised me. I did a year-long yoga course, over a number of weekends. It involved some pretty scary (well, for the precious musician here…) things. I was a long way from my comfort zone on most weekends. And I was helped – both physically (assisting by holding ropes, my hips, my knees, my legs. Not all at the same time, mind.), but emotionally by a number of other people who were doing the same thing. And I have a bunch of new friends from it. People who aren’t musicians (well, one of them is…), or teachers – but who have different jobs. One works in real estate, one is in a council, and some others I don’t really know what they do. And I really like seeing them. I know what they are up to over their weekends. I’m interested in it.

And, well, it has surprised me. Because I expected to get bendier. But I didn’t expect to get friendlier. It makes me hugely happy, you know!