Like most creatives, every so often I get overwhelmed with black thoughts. After so many years of this, I know what I need to do to turn the tide – and most of the time, it works. I don’t sink for very long. I might have a week of not being particularly sunny, but for the most part, I’m okay.

And then I find it really helpful to then sit and reflect on what was the trigger for the slide down to see the black dog. Not instantly, but a week or so later, when I feel stronger.

The reason I’m writing this is it’s one of those times. I’ve had a few black days. They are over now – but there was a while where I wasn’t very strong at all. I am hugely lucky. I have a rock of a husband, who will prop me up. I have some hugely supportive friends – including one who’ll drop in with a coffee and a hug whenever I need it (how good is that??!!). I have work that inspires me. But every so often I slip.

I am hearing about all the stimulus packages in Australia post-COVID. There’s building stimulus packages, and help for sports codes. There’s a lot of talk about getting crowds back to sports games and into shopping malls. There’s nothing (yet??) to help artists.

Now, I am lucky. I’ve been able to run on-line concerts. I’ve had overwhelming support from audience members. I’ve been able to employ others. This post is not about me, and how I am hard done-by. Oh no sirree. This is about my fellow artists. Who have been brought to their knees. Who will continue to struggle for months. For years. And seem to be overlooked by the powers-that-be. We are working, doing what we can, even through we are doing it very much on our own.

And every so often, not very often, but every so, I reflect on it for a little too long. And I drop my head in my hands. It’s all too much.

If I was ruling the country for a while, I’d change a few things. (This is a fun game to play. I recommend it.) I’d stop NAPLAN. (Children are not all the same, so don’t test them like that. It’s not useful, or helpful.) I’d pay teachers more. I’d pay politicians less (at least until they behave better). I’d make tampons free. I’d make arts education compulsory in every school. And I’d change the way the arts are viewed in this country. I’d help all the artists who needed for a long while post-‘rona. Actors, painters, poets, musicians – anyone who was struggling. I’d give money to theatres and small venues. I’d make music licenses easier to get. Because who relied on the arts to get you through lockdown? Who read more, watched more, listened more?

Thought so.

Today I’m fine. And I’ll continue to be so. And I am very lucky. Thank you to everyone who has helped me be so. And to my fellow creatives? Hang in there, my friends.

So here’s a type of email I’m getting a lot at the moment.

“I booked a ticket on insert date here. I don’t have the link. Why hasn’t this been sent to me?”

There’s no please. No thank you. No wondering if in fact the person has made an error.

This is the email I send back.

“Dear insert name here. I’m sorry you are having trouble. You mightn’t have realised, but the link for the concert won’t be sent to you until two hours before the concert, on the night of the concert – which isn’t until insert date here. So you’ll hear nothing from us until then! Hope it works for you. Please do let me know if anything is unclear, though. Happy to help!”

Sometimes the emails even come in CAPITAL LETTERS, which as far as I’m concerned is SHOUTING.

And that’s the last I hear from these people. No ‘Oops’. Or ‘My mistake.’ Not even a ‘Sorry I got a bit angry.’

I know these are hard times. Goodness knows musicians know that. People are reacting in all sorts of ways. But could we all just remember our manners, please? Please?

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.