I’m really lucky that I work in a school with an amazing Principal. This person has been incredible during this time – they have carefully looked after their teachers – supporting, shielding, guiding, laughing and leading. I have been one of those people who have been looked after here too, by this particular person.

This Principal wanted music to keep going face-to-face, safely for everyone, for as long as I was comfortable. They went out of their way to check that I was happy and comfortable, and allowed to teach as I saw best. I was hugely grateful that I was respected through all this – and I did my utmost to be the best possible music teacher, and continue to do so.

It’s pretty exhausting – but hugely, hugely rewarding. This is what I’ve noticed over the last little while….

Children and staff have been anxious. There have been some weird things going on – tears, tantrums, kids who stutter are doing this more. Teachers have been really ‘in their heads’ as they juggle on-line learning, dealing with parents, teaching kids who show up to school. And people – everyone – big or small, have responded incredibly well in music.

I’ve done a lot of really active lessons – lots of drumming, hitting things, body percussion, singing up-beat stuff with big actions.

Lessons seem to go like this. For 6- 7 minutes (sometimes longer), most people in the class have been really passive. Very quiet. Very inward. And then something happens. It reminds me of watching one of those Chinese tea balls opening up in hot water. Petals open. People relax. Smiles start to happen.

Then I can really teach.

And then it just spirals – kids start to laugh. Mistakes happen and giggles happen. Teachers grin. Things get louder. And it keeps happening.

And again I am reminded of the power of music. Of all creating something together. The magic of it. I realise how important this all is – especially now.

Most of what I do has been thought over. In fact, it’s no doubt been really thought through. It’s most likely also been discussed with long-suffering husband, and two of my closest friends. I don’t do much without thinking about it.

Especially if it has to do with my performing. So when I set a ticket price, it’s done with a lot of thought. I’ve had a number of people email me to say that they think the ticket price I’ve set for the live-streaming concerts I’m doing is too low. I’m sure they are trying to help. But there are reasons. And I’ve not asked for their opinion either.

I’ll often get ‘Hi Rachel. Insert venue here is charging X amount. And you are only charging Y. I think ….’ And then it continues.

Now insert venue here is often a standard concert venue. With lighting rigs, sound engineers and good acoustics. I am at home, with my reading lamps, and a pretty good sound set-up – but it’s still a home.

I also know a lot of people who have lost their jobs. A lot of people, actually. What I’m charging can be afforded by nearly everyone. (Actually, if you can’t afford it, let me know, and I’ll send you a free ‘ticket’.) Right now, people need music. They need beauty. And I can give you that, just a little bit. I’d rather make you feel better than make a lot of money.

I’ve also been poor. Really struggled. And that feeling of hand-to-mouth never quite leaves you. So I don’t want people who have not-so-much to be excluded.

Call me foolish. Call me altruistic. Call me what you want. (People have done in the past, and they sure as hell aren’t going to stop now.) But I have a pretty firm moral compass. And this is how it’s leading me.

It’s a strange, strange time at the moment. We’re all in this together so I know you know what I’m saying. Some really awful things have happened to me lately – as I’m sure that they have to you as well. People who I thought would behave better haven’t. They’ve spoken (or written) without thinking of the consequences their words or actions would have. They’ve bullied. They’ve acted totally and utterly selfishly.

I’ve had conversations with people who are teachers – and they’ve been totally overwhelmed with things. They’ve been pulled in a thousand directions, and yet they are trying desperately to do the right thing for the children they see.

I’ve had conversations with artists who are sinking low into dark places. They are worried, and creatively silent. They are watching their livelihoods slip through their fingers – like they are trying to hold milk in their open hands. And it’s all very well to say ‘This won’t be forever’, but it’s hard to see the end of the tunnel.

And then I’ve been truly humbled by other things. People who have been so incredibly selfless. Who have put others first. Who have righted injustices that they’ve seen.

I am putting on a concert at the end of this week. I’m live-streaming a program that got cancelled in mid-March, which seems like a lifetime ago now. I deliberately chose a low price so that everyone could have access to it. And then put in a button for donations. I have been overwhelmed by the generosity of people who have booked tickets. At first I watched donations come in wide-eyed. Then I cried. Then I smiled. Then I told my fellow artist what was happening, and sensed the same reaction going on. And it has been actually life-changing. It has reminded me of the good in people. Of the love for arts, and artists. Of the need for music.

So if you are one of these people who have changed my life, thank you. I truly thank you. From the bottom of my heart. You have all inspired me to play. And to be kind to others. Because this all comes around, doesn’t it.

I love my various jobs.

I love performing – but that has been put on hold. It was a really hard day when concerts started to get cancelled. I was anxious, very low – and at one point physically sick. But it was the right thing to do in these times, and I understand that. We move on.

I also love music teaching. I love going into schools and seeing children discover the magic of music. It happens every day I teach, and I relish it. But today I don’t want to go to school. I am worried. If the Government, in all its wisdom, is closing cafes and bars and restaurants (don’t talk to me about the cruise ships…), why isn’t it closing schools?

I have heard all the arguments. The children of health-care workers. Yes, I’ve read that, or heard it. Endlessly. But at no point have I heard a teacher being interviewed about what they think. You know those people? The ones in the classrooms? The ones in a small room with 30 children? The ones dealing with the anxiety, the worry of the kids they see. The ones still trying to teach. I’ve not heard them speaking in the media.

The ones that I see are still trying to do their job. Amazingly so. They are cheerful, and trying to teach. They are encouraging hand-washing, and trying to get children to read by keeping away from them. They are not being paid any more than usual. They are not being helped in their shopping hours to try and get the things that are running out by the time they get to the shops.

But they aren’t having a good time. For this music teacher, I’m feeling it too. I see whole schools of children. SO many little people. And no, I can’t social distance. I can’t wipe down every instrument played after every music lesson. There isn’t time. I’m nervous.

Why is it that everything else can close, but not schools? And why is it, in all these discussions about school closures, EDUCATION HAS NOT BEEN TALKED ABOUT? ‘We don’t want to close schools because children need to learn?’ Rather than ‘We don’t want to close schools because of the parents that can’t look after children?’

I don’t have the answer. I’m glad I don’t have to make the decision. I’ve heard a few good suggestions from teachers. But I don’t want to go to school today – and that feeling is rare. Very rare.

Yesterday I had to let everyone who was coming to the next set of concerts that they wouldn’t happen. It filled me with great sadness. I know it’s the right thing to do, and anyway, the decision was made for me. St James decided that the concerts wouldn’t go ahead.

In all my years of playing, this has never happened. I’ve never been due to perform and then not. It’s a strange feeling. Ben Ward, my associate artist, has been nothing short of fabulous. Totally understanding. The people who I’ve spoken to at St James have also been very helpful. But still I feel terribly sad.

I listened with horror to a radio program yesterday about all the performances, shows, gigs and festivals that are stopping. Opera Australia may have to sell off assets. Will the already battered and fragile arts community in this country survive this crisis, I wonder?

It’s a sad time to be an artist. I feel strangely muted. Anxious and unable to speak through my cello. I know that this will pass – both the feeling and the crisis. I know that come the spring time, things will be different. This is not the end-of-days, and a friend reminded just at the time I needed to hear it.

But it’s hard. Standing apart from people is difficult. Not hugging people I see if difficult. And not performing what I had practised and rehearsed and got really excited about is also difficult for me.

I know that in a few days I’ll feel better. And I know what I will do. Because I know how it will make me feel. I will sit down at my dear, dear cello, and I will play Bach. And it will soothe and calm.

Thank you, J.S.B.