Red dust and emus

You know, I have a pretty amazing job. I get to go to some pretty fabulous places, and do some fabulous stuff. Unfortunately, it also involves getting on some little planes. That part I don’t like. But the rest of it I do.

Last week I had to catch one of those little planes. I was looking out the window in Sydney, in a huge storm, dreading it. And as usual, the pilot looked about twelve, and I was horribly nervous. And when I sat down in these incredibly uncomfortable seats, my knees were up around my ears. (Who builds these planes? Midgets? Who is EVER comfortable in these seats?)

But I landed in Broken Hill in one piece.

On one day I taught at Broken Hill primary, working with selected groups of 20 kids at a go. They were all very keen, and it was great fun. I was aware, though, that those were the good kids, or the ones that had some kind of musical interest. At the end of the day, I had all 220 kids in the school singing, which was pretty fun.

The next day I was picked up to be driven 4 and a half hours away from Broken Hill to a station called ‘Reola’, which is pretty famous in those parts. It has a HUGE sheep-shearing shed. It’s really big – not like the big banana in Coffs Harbour, which isn’t really that big, up close. But HUGE. (Did I say how big it was?) And it was dusty. And a bit breezy. And it was my classroom for the next two days. I had nearly 100 children from the School of the Air, based in Broken Hill, come to join me for their first-ever group musical experience at their latest ‘mini school’.

The kids learnt a whole pile of stuff. New songs (one in parts). Rhythm reading. Rhythm games. Percussion parts. Names of instruments they’d never seen before. Performance skills.

Here’s what I learnt in the shearing shed…….
Country kids are great. (Well, I knew that part already. But I was reminded of it again.) I wonder if it’s a lot of time spent getting dirty outside, or a lack of screen-time, or a certain wildness that doesn’t get trampled on. I don’t know the answer. But I like them.

Most of those kids had never done anything musical before, and loved it. They sang children’s songs, and drummed to wind band music, and danced to Don Spencer, and played along to Tchaikovsky. They reacted no differently to any of the music I played – they just loved it all.

If they don’t know any different, boys love to sing.

Orange trousers don’t show the dust so much.

If I jump around enough to ‘I can run as fast as you’ by Peter Combe, first thing in the morning, I can take off my coat and not feel like the Michelin man when I teach.

Dads wearing big hats will also sing ‘A Ram Sam Sam’ as long as you tease them a bit first.

Dams are called ‘tanks’ that far west.

And don’t let the Dorper sheep in with the Merino sheep, otherwise the price of the merino wool goes down.