Students as composers

remy-ruby-and-saskias-piece As a very good example of children as composers here is a composition written and played by 5 grade six students. They were given a one hour class to come up with this piece and then performed nd recorded it at the end. You can hear it is written for four parts with both an A and a B section. These children have been with us for the five years I have been teaching at Fitzroy North PS so are very used to the idea that they are composers, an idea that myself and fellow teacher Andrew Williamson really believe in and try to teach . It was exciting for me to hear this composition as it justified alot of the philosophy

More Explanation on Cowboy and Miniman

My Band Des Peres named our new album The Adventures of Cowboy and Miniman and huge numbers of people have been asking for the meaning of the title.
On October 14 in my third blog I gave my explanation on who Cowboy and Miniman were (Scroll down to see). Here is a little further insight int the type of brave and creative men they were.

Cowboy and Miniman loved to fight, they loved to attack, burst forward, charge, surround, launch missiles, block, thrust, encircle, destroy.
But that last word was the one thing they seemed incapable of doing. Their strength and military knowledge was of such equal footing that neither of them could shift their opponent even an inch. That’s not to presume that losses weren’t taken, in fact huge loses were taken on both sides.
Battle forces were smashed and women lost husbands. But just as armies were lost they were rebuilt. Both these foreign adventurers and warmongers had the persuasive gifts including the tongue and the gold coin.
Their spirit of discovery had long since changed from the desire to find lost treasures. Instead rare powers were sought by both leaders to gain the upper hand.
Miniman possessed a great talent in his voice. He had the type of voice that could sail, drift, or float but more importantly when really turned up to its full volume through methods of diaphragm control it could pierce through shards of glass, shattering them into a million pieces.
At nights before a battle or on a long march through the thick jungles when his men were tired he would use his voice to calm his men by singing out over the camp, but it was his voices vengeful side that became his interest in his current position, trying to discover his inner weapon.
If he could train others in his army the power of the human voice to reek havoc over whatever it was aimed at surely he would have a weapon at his disposal to crush his weak eared opponent.
There were reasons for both the beauty and sharp ugliness of his voice, the most significant of these being that he was indeed a miniman. With his newly chosen choir of soldiers who were to become his highly skilled killing machine he trained them in all the most modern techniques of singing, how to hold your note, how to produce articulation of the highest order, how to fire out rhythm, how to lull your enemies in with slowly shifting melody, who to control your breathing and stomach muscles to increase in pitch but most importantly he had them all castrated. And then they were ready, for they to had become the ultimate miniman army.
So one evening he marched his choir out……..

Northcote Social Club

Pre gig the venue is great, they work with you in regards to publicity etc and know what they are doing.
The sound system cost a trillion dollars and there is the problem. Sounds to clean, , band room is great except in Summer because their isn’t airconditioning up there, but it has a TV, generous rider. Venue staff don’t like it if you make a mess, they will charge you a carpet cleaning bill. Hard to get a vibe in the venue. Food isn’t good

Bennetts Lane –Melbourne JAZZ

One vibe and if you don’t like that you wont have a good time. No rider whatsoever

My Music teaching philosophy

Fitzroy North Primary School

The music programme at North Fitzroy is an incredibly rich, exciting and stimulating programme that embraces composition, creativity, participation technology and fun. The main emphasis behind almost all our work is to empower the students with a sense of belief that their compositions are worthwhile. The role of the composer must be demystified and children’s compositions need to be highly valued. If our music department can do this it will create a lifelong love of music in children but rather than just being observers of music these children will go on to be participants and most importantly creators.

Every child gets to participate in a generalist music class once a week. It is in this class that the core understanding of composition is taught to the child. We try to cover a huge range of concepts and presentation styles to allow for as many different learning styles as possible. These include sound sculptures, movie soundtracks, abstract compositions, loops based composition, recording techniques, traditional notation, rap and hip hop and rock music. By teaching through composition you can teach the basic concepts such as pitch, rhythm texture and melody in a way that has personal relevance for the students and therefore will remain with them for their life. In their generalist class we have also done lots of work in instrument making, singing and African drumming. Almost every class starts with a listening session where the children listen to a variety of music and are encouraged to make comments on the compositional techniques as well as a personal judgement on whether they like it and why. A lot of these “listening” exercises are now done using DVDs and a data projector giving children a greater visual awareness of the music. On top of the generalist lesson children are encouraged to participate in the ensembles that we provide. We run a mixed percussion ensemble for each year level. This uses xylophones, glockenspiels, djembe drums, marimbas and hand percussion. . Each part is sung to the children and the learning is done by ear encouraging the children to learn all parts (a piece might have 5 different parts to it ranging from bass, middle, high melody lines as well as different beats). The students in collaboration with Kynan and Andrew compose most of the pieces we play. Improvisation in this ensemble is encouraged. We also run a couple of rock ensembles and a choir. As much opportunity as possible is provided for these ensembles to perform within the school at music assemblies, at the school concerts and outside the school. Strong links have been made with the local high school and region where groups have been invited to our school for mutual concerts and we have taken groups to other schools and community events. Finally we also run an EYT (extend your talents) programme for children who show a very keen interest and ability. In this programme they form their own groups to perform, record and look at other areas of the music industry such as advertising and management. They can also make their own short movies and animations using programmes such as imovie and istop motion. In this creation process they are required to score all the music for their movies and animations.

We believe our programme is innovative in a number of areas. Our core philosophy of valuing the idea of students as producers rather than just receivers of information, is what drives all our innovation. We have fully embraced technology as not only an important learning tool but we see it as merely being another valuable platform to allow for meaningful learning. A lot of our teaching revolves around understanding the role of music in various situations but to fully learn this children need to create those situations. With this in mind the children work on a lot of multi media projects such as film making, animations, the creation of radio shows and podcasting. Through programmes such as radio waves we have been able to podcast a lot of the children’s work on the internet thus forming valuable relationships with other schools and community groups throughout the world. By doing this we are allowing the children to produce work that has wings out side of the classroom. No longer are they producing work for merely one person, the teacher, they are now producing it for vast communities found and created by the internet. Technology is intricately woven into all aspects of children’s lives and therefore should be woven into all aspect of their school life. All of the children’s work is recorded and given back to them in the form of digital portfolios or uploaded onto the internet. This recording process is also handed over to the students in many instances.
One of our major innovations however is to integrate the music programme into the classroom programme. If you are able to do this your programme is no longer viewed as a marginalised idea falling into line well behind literacy and numeracy but rather it becomes valued as a nessasary aid to those things. We have done this by pushing the value of multimedia projects because they work with visual literacy. We have run many PDs teaching the classroom teachers various music programmes such as garageband, imovie etc. By doing this the fear of music has been removed from the teachers and they are confident to allow the students to integrate music into many of their projects. We have encouraged teachers ideas and tried to provide the infrastructure for them to do this. All classrooms have 5 computers in them and we have a Mac lab of 20 Computers as well as a small recording studio.
The impact we have is an exciting one. On a very grass roots level many of our students gone into high school with the innate believe that they are creators and their creations are valuable. They are not content to merely play a role but want to have a very personal involvement in the creation of that role. A number of our rock bands, which were formed when the children were only 10 years old, have maintained and are now gigging professionally. We have developed significant relationships with local community groups such as the Old Colnialist home for the elderly and the Croxton Special School. A special project is being run with the Croxton Special School where 10 of our students are working with 10 of their students every week for a term playing music and ultimately leading to a performance. This is being filmed by the kids and will be turned into a DVD for the performers. This has been a very valuable experience for all involved. Our programme is fortunate in the way it has been terrifically supported and valued by school leadership. This has allowed us to develop our programme. To pass on some of the skills we have learned we have been running PDs for our cluster groups to help share some of our information as well as learn from them.

Magic Dirt

When we checked into the airport this morning, in the line behind us was another band. This is a key moment on tour and can easily go ugly if you don’t know how to handle it. I for one do know how to handle it. Taking in that they had more tattoos than us and were of a slightly higher profile I knew quick tactics needed to be handed out and someone needed to don the generals hat and non of the other patsies I was with was likely to. So I circulated carefully amongst my team members and informed them of the situation we were in and how we were to proceed. Both bands checked in side by side, gear sprawling across the airport floor in a ocean of black. Trolleys were quickly loaded and a rush was made to the oversize baggage and out of that initial battle. Conveniently Qantas had seated us next to each other on a packed aeroplane so the avoidance of acknowledgment was getting progressively more difficult especially if one had to make his or her way to the bathroom. At the other end of the flight the situation played itself out in reverse as we raced to find free trolleys and load ourselves up once again at that battlefeild where many a soldier has shed pools of blood – oversize. The intensity did not let up at as we stumbled and crawled to the rental joint , injured but determined to find 2 all most identical vehicals parked next to each other manned by red uniformed monkeys with their performing caps bouncing on their sad thin heads, eager to please and eager to betray.
Our van was a 12 seater theirs was a 14, the edge had been handed to them. Load Load good man Load. And drive
Down the highway tears rolling we had one, then there they were, pulled up right beside, cannons loaded, a mad admiral screaming
Fire all guns
And we sank
And we sank
And we sank

Venue Review Number 4

The Metro Theatre – SYDNEY, NSW
Love it. Its big, ugly and only exists to serve one purpose, like an old fat drunk


The Brass Monkey – CRONULLA, NSW
The venue owner showers you with his outstanding collection of Taquilas and Absinths (he has over 70 different tequlas of which only 30 get sold to the public) and his grand fathers special moonshine. But you have to play his game to get the service. It’s a game that shows you hows boss and is done in a slightly confusing form of generosity.
The room is as cold as a brass monkey and you can never forget that you re in Cronulla


Australian Venue Rating System

Over the next little while I will be reviewing all the venues that I have performed at this year. These reviews will generally fall at the end of my blogs and are designed to help other musicians, audience members and bands to make decisions on where to hold a gig or whether to go to a gig. This will then continue on to me rating everything. The idea came to me during the tour I’m currently on. Touring days are filled with a lot of time wasting. The sound check happens at about 5 and then you are usually sitting around in the venue until you play at 11 and then more sitting after the gig till about 2 when you leave for the hotel. In that sitting time you look at all the band posters on the wall and I have begun to give them a score out of ten – scoring both the posters and then also the band. I will post those ratings at a later date which will help you decide on whether to download their albums for free or not cause you’d be stupid to actually buy a CD these days.

Here is the list of venues I have played at this year that will be rated.

The Speigeltent, MELBOURNE VIC
The Powerhouse – BRISBANE, QLD
Clarendon Guest House, KATOOMBA NSW
The Heritage Hotel, BULLI NSW 

Bathurst Theater
The Metro Theatre – SYDNEY, NSW
Joes Waterhole – EUMUNDI, QLD
The Brass Monkey Cronulla NSW
Lake Kawana Arts Theartre– CALOUNDRA, QLD
Mullum Music Festival. Civic Hall – MULLUMBIMBY, NSW
Ruby’s in Belgrave Melbourne
The Peninsula Lounge – MORNINGTON, VIC
The Corner Hotel – MELBOURNE, VIC
The Governor Hindmarsh hotel– ADELAIDE, SA
The Bakery – PERTH, WA 

Fly By Night Musicians Club – FREMANTLE, WA
Republic Bar Hobart
Northcote Social Club Melbourne
Bennetts Lane Melbourne
Q Bar/Spectrum – Sydney
Tabu Nightclub – Brisbane
Pony Melbourne
45 Downstairs Melbourne
Revolver Melbourne
The Tote Melbourne
Transit Lounge Melbourne
Pure Pop Records Melbourne
Trades Hall Melbourne
Bar Open Melbourne
Point Cook Shopping Center Victoria
Birmingham Hotel Melbourne
Noise Bar Melbourne
Sydney Warehouse Parties
The Grand Prix Melbourne
303 Melbourne
Federation Square Melbourne
La Mamma Theartre Melbourne
Federation Square Melbourne
HiFi Bar Melbourne

Because this is the first I will review four this time. Feel free to add your own comments if you have any experience.

The Speigeltent, MELBOURNE VIC
While this joint has all the history of a Charlie Chaplin silent movie and seems to attract crowds by itself, the staff, while desperately trying as hard as possible to make us believe they have been teleported from the era the venue was originally built, are a little “to cool for school” while having no cool at all. Once was great now is tired but hey it’s old isn’t it.
No free drinks for the band loses this slightly desperate venue marks


Clarendon Guest House, KATOOMBA NSW

Fantastic The staff are exactly what you want from staff at a guesthouse – they are kind of like your Uncle and Aunty for the night, they give you anything you want, put you up for the night in their antiquated, ghost infested guesthouse, free drinks, dinner and breakfast the next morning, all the food tastes slightly strange but you appreciate the effort anyway, the stage has red curtains, is there anything more that needs to be said


The Heritage Hotel, BULLI NSW

Weird, hard to like even though I want to.
The staff here are trying very hard because they know they have to.. they are living on the outskirts of Wollongong for goodness sakes. Actually because they live on the outskirts of Wollongong it gives them slightly more credibility. The women who run the joint are hard nosed, all of them and they are the ones in power. You would have to be hard noised to be a female running a pub on the outskirts of Wollongong. The sound guy used to be an overly energetic pleaser but about a year ago he started to date one of these hard noise women who manage the place and appears to have had all the life driven out of him
Bed bugs in the rooms

Bathurst Memorial Entertainment Center
As far as community theaters go (and they all go exactly the same) it’s OK. Unfortunatley they named the place before looking at it and left out the key component of memorability. Being Bathurst this is not the center of entertainment we all know that is instead a car racing track.