1. They love the children they work with. Genuinely love them. And want what’s best for each and every one of them. They will try and work out ways to engage kids who don’t want to be engaged, make kids smile who are shy, make not-fun things as fun as possible and stick up for the kids in their care wherever they can. Every day.
  2. Despite often having all sorts of stuff told to them by parents, or not being supported by parents, or being asked unreasonable things by parents, they do not let this affect their relationship with the child of those parents.
  3. On days that they come to school sick, or tired, or stressed, or with something else going on in the background, they walk into their teaching space and don’t let that show. I find that amazing.
  4. They will give ANYTHING a go if it’s going to benefit the kids they see. Dress up as a wrestler to encourage kids to read? No worries. Let their whole classroom be covered in glitter? Sure. Teach music lessons even when it may make them feel deeply uncomfortable? Yep.
  5. They always love biscuits and cake. Or both.
  6. They think about the job they do most of the time. They work on weekends. They prepare things on their time off. They are nearly always thinking about ‘their’ kids. They buy stuff to bring into their classrooms to help.
  7. They aren’t paid well. Lots of them work in classes without adequate air-conditioning, or that are freezing cold. Or that leak. And that doesn’t stop them from doing the best job they can do.
  8. They don’t really take themselves particularly seriously. Because you can’t really. Kids see through that. And if someone takes the mickey out of them in the classroom, they will always go along with it.
  9. They do stuff for their colleagues. Need chairs moved? Onto it. Need a classroom dismantled. Yep. You want a timetable created? Sure thing.
  10. They have incredibly strong bladders. This is a superpower, in my opinion.

So the idea for this project started after a live-stream I did in July. To celebrate the Aussie composer Martin Wesley-Smith’s birthday, I did a live-stream of lots of his works. I used to play his music a fair bit when he was alive, and have kept doing so after he died in 2019. One piece I avoided though (called ‘Welcome to the Hotel Turismo’) as it’s HARD – both to play, and to perform – as it involves projections. It also makes me quite upset – it’s about the Timorese struggle for independence. The backing track is full of gun-shots, and sounds that make me imagine bodies falling to the floor. I remember stories that my Timorese friends told me about the occupation and violence over there (everyone has a story, and if they trust you, little-by-little it comes out…). The piece is also incredibly clever and well-crafted, and makes me miss Martin.

So why on earth am I recording it? After the live-stream, I was inundated with emails from people talking to me about this piece. How moving it was. How powerful. How come they had never heard it, or seen it before? So, sitting over a bowl of noodle soup a few days later, Ben and I wondered about recording it. My way of playing it. Ben said he’d edit and sound engineer and I trust him and his work totally.

It’s always a thing I think when I record – does the world need another version of this particular piece? There are two recordings already of this piece – but I think this will stand up to both of them. I play it very differently. I hear Martin in my head a few times ‘Yep, Rach. You can do that. Actually that’s quite good. Keep that in.”

December 31….It’s the day before we start recording, and my practise today wasn’t good. It never is the day before a concert either, so I shouldn’t be surprised. I’m allowing myself to be quite raw emotionally through this process. I am hoping this will lead to my playing being able to conjure up the feelings that Martin hoped to convey in the piece. C.P.E. Bach wrote once A musician cannot move others unless he too is moved. He must feel all the emotions that he hopes to arouse in his audience…” So I’ll see how I go.

I know the backing track incredibly well now – where the chickens crow, where the helicopters fly over, where the gun shots happen.

The room is set, and clean (I hate playing in clutter), and Ben and I have talked over the order that we’ll record. I am a bit frazzled emotionally. And I am edgy. So I’ll spend the rest of the day in the garden.

January 1 – first day of recording. We’ve spent most of the day recording. I had already decided that we’d record the piece in sections, and this morning decided to start at the end first, which wasn’t what I’d planned yesterday. The last chunk is probably the most playable, and I thought it might settle my nerves. Turns out I was right.

There are three really hard parts in the piece – we recorded two of them today. Actually, it was neither of those parts that I needed to do over, and over, and over (and then walk away and come back and do them again…). Who knew an F sharp minor arpeggio was THAT hard???

I also have to sing in various bits – and Ben needed to place a microphone REALLY close to my mouth. I discovered that’s one of the best ways to make me feel really nervous and uncomfortable – so if you are near me and want to make me shut up, that’s what you need to do.

We’ve done 2/3rds of the piece now. I never really know how I play in the moment of performing (either in a concert, or recording), but I trust Ben’s ears, and he seems pretty happy.

January 2 – second (and final!) day of recording. “Why don’t you like recording much?” I am often asked. To me, unless it’s a live recording, it’s trickery. Things are mostly recorded in little chunks. The same bits happen over and over. Sometimes one note is grabbed by the clever engineer from take 3, and slotted into most of take 4, which is tacked onto the end of a particular magical end of take 2. And that’s what is presented as ‘the piece’.

There was trickery happening today. Because we did the hardest section. I’ll be interested to hear it all once Ben works his magic with the editing software…. And there were SO many mikes used eventually. One even with a ‘pop’ screen (it softens plosive vowels) for me to use as I sang.

But I’m pleased. Pleased it’s done. Pleased that I could play with integrity. Because I want to do justice to this magnificent piece by Martin. It’s incredible, when it’s put together with the images and his music. It’s clever, and heart-breaking, and achingly beautiful. And I can’t wait for you all to hear it.


I got an email from someone last week that comes to concerts. I don’t think they meant be as rude as they were, but I raised my eyebrows as I read it. I won’t quote from it, but it basically said that I wasn’t doing enough to promote the music of women composers, and I should include at least one piece in every concert.

Now, this got me thinking. Should I be doing what they wrote (not asked. Told. Yep.)? And why? Why should I have to include a piece that I mightn’t like, or want to play, for the sake of supporting women music-makers? (I hear a lot of music by women on the radio. Some of it I like enormously. Some of it underwhelms me.) The good bit about this weird email is it got me thinking about why I program particular things in concerts, and why.

So I got to wondering…. what do I want to get out of every concert? I choose things to perform to challenge me technically, musically or emotionally. I choose to do pieces that I want to play. I might want to feature the music of that particular composer (be it male, female or prefer-not-to-say). I might ask the other artist I’m playing with what they would like to do, and take their recommendations.

I know that female composers have been underrepresented. And if I like something that’s been written by a female, then of course I’ll play it. But will I play something just because it’s been written by a female? No. Would Fanny Mendelssohn want me to play her trio because I love it (which I do), and want to share it, or because it was written by a woman?

Because having to practise something that you don’t like is a drag. And I spend hours practising things before I even start rehearsing them. So I’m not going to feature pieces to appear like I’m ticking some kind of gender-balance box. It might work for others, but not me. I’d like to feature things I love and want to share, regardless of who wrote them.

So, no. I won’t play things because I feel I should, or because I’ve been told I need to. I will play things I want to, and love. I will play them to audiences as best I can. (Because I will have loved practising them, exploring them, making them a part of me.) I don’t really care who wrote them – male, female, old, young, if I would have liked them personally or not. Because for me, that’s not the important bit.

Please know, as you read this, I’m not trying to change your mind. And I’m not going to get on a soap-box, or get all ranty. I’m just going to say why I’m going to do what I’m going to do, when it comes to the referendum. And why. I want to tell you a story…

I was working at a school the day after Kevin Rudd’s Apology. I listened to it on the radio – I thought it was a great speech. But I wasn’t prepared for what happened the next day. At the particular school I was at, there were a lot of Indigenous kids. And they were SO excited. SO proud. They were tall, and seemed to be physically bigger. Because what had been said, for them and their mob, was huge. For them, it wasn’t just a speech. It was a validation.

I was at another school when the conference was happening that created the Uluru Statement from the Heart. And there was a girl in year 6 who had family there. She was hugely excited at what was going on. At the change that she thought would happen. The fact that her family was going to help her country. She was proud of who she was.

I still work with Indigenous kids. Lots of them. And I see that many times they don’t feel proud of who they are. Their little lives are hard. They don’t stand up straight. And so I will be voting yes. Not for me. But for them. To validate them. To let them know that I stand with them. And they are important. Because they are the future of this country.

I have listened to the people who say we should vote no. That there’s lack of detail. That this will divide things further. But I see something else. I see kids who want hope. And I will try and give it to them.

You can do what you think is the right thing to do. And I will respectfully agree, or disagree. But for my little friends, I will be voting yes. I will do it with them at the front of my mind.

J.S. Bach wrote his cello suites between 1717 and 1723 – no-one really knows exactly. I’m playing the second one at the moment, for a concert of spoken word and cello. A dear friend of mine is reading from her new book, and I’m playing music that we think fits to her words. It’s not a hugely crazy concept – if you feed the sound of a cello through an oscilloscope (the instrument that measures soundwaves), the graph that is produced very like the human voice – so she’s speaking, and then the cello is speaking back. Same, but not-same, as my primary-school friends might say.

I read her excellent book, and found passages that I thought would match with movements from the second suite. And we are now fitting the whole concert together. (It’s really exciting, experiencing all the pieces falling into place!) This book is partly about being on a sheep farm through a drought year. And in one part of the book she describes a day of shearing – the energy, the gestures, the sounds. And you know something? It fits PERFECTLY with the gigue. And this amuses me as I play.

Bach solo cello and a Tassie shearing shed. Who’d have thunk it, ‘eh?