I recently returned from a two-week trip to Australia! My trip included a music education conference in Perth, which is Australia’s biggest city on the West Coast, as well as a three-day drum course that took place in Sydney.
My deepest gratitude and thanks go out to Carolyn Watson from Optimum Percussion in Sydney, for organizing the three-day drum course. I also have to thank my gracious hosts from the national or Orff-Schulwerk Association of Australia for their kindness and well-organized conference. I’m sure I can speak for all the presenters when I say that the conference was not only well organized but that we all felt very much at home and appreciated.
I knew that I would be experiencing some jet lag when I arrived, so rather then take a 4 hour flight from Sydney to Perth upon my arrival, I decided to go a few days early and join my friend, Gary France, and his family during a camping trip on the eastern coast. I was able to take a bus from the Sydney international Airport in meat and dairy in Canberra the capital city of Australia. From there, we drove down to the coast and stayed at a campground near Bateman’s Bay. Given that December and January are summer months in Australia, the vast majority of vacationers head to the beaches during this time. We stayed at a campground where most of the people brought caravans, or what we in the US would call a tent trailer. There were also people staying in small mobile homes and tents. The ground was walking distance to several beaches and home to many thousands of wild parrots. Every morning they would sing me awake at about 5:30 or 6 AM! –Although I’m not sure it’s entirely accurate to call the sounds they were making “singing.” Despite my jet lag and parrot–alarm clock, I had a wonderful time at the coast, thanks to Gary and his lovely family.
From the coast, I flew to Perth, Australia’s gem in the West – and the only large city in the region. In fact, Perth is so far away from other cities in Australia, that most of the people there fly to Singapore just as easily as they fly to Melbourne or Sydney. Perth is quite beautiful, largely due to the Swan River which winds its way through the heart of the city and out to the sea. I was especially impressed with the clarity of the air. Being from Los Angeles, I’m used to being able to see what I’m breathing! The skyline of the city stands in sharp contrast to the deep blue sky. At night, while most city lights would be flickering through the pollution, Perth was as clear as ever. Although the conference schedule kept me fairly busy during most of the days, I was fortunate to be taken out to Freemantle a couple of times during my stay there. Freemantle is a progressive area of Perth on the Oceanside, and features some of the areas best restaurants, colonial architecture, and interesting people watching. My friend John Croft took me to a restaurant called Little Creatures, which is actually a microbrewery right on the Marina. The atmosphere and the food were both amazing! If you’re ever in Perth, I highly recommend a trip out to Freemantle and a meal at Little Creatures.
The Victoria Orff Schulwerk Association hosted the conference, which featured four international presenters, including myself. The other 3 presenters were from Rome, Italy; Salzburg, Austria, and Melbourne; Australia. In addition to us four, there were many national and local presenters who all did a fantastic job offering music and movement sessions for the conference attendees. I was fortunate enough to be able to make it to several of the other presenter’s sessions. Everyone at the conference really made me feel welcome and appreciated–and I appreciate that very much. There is a certainly a sense of family that one often feels when in the company of fellow musicians and music educators.
Following the conference in Perth. I returned to Sydney for the drum course. There were about 20 participants for this 3-day program. We studied world rhythms and drumming techniques from many cultures, including Native American, Brazilian, Caribbean, West African, and Arab. Some of the participants had prior drumming experience, however some had very little. There were music teachers and music therapists taking the course, which meant they did have musical backgrounds. Whenever I teach drumming courses these days, I always like to emphasize that the drum is in fact a musical instrument after all! I know there’s been a lot of hype recently about how drums are accessible and supposedly easy for anyone to play immediately, but I also know that, despite what many may say or think about drums, the do actually take years of practice and experience to master. My hope is that the participants at the Sydney drum course left with a new appreciation for the art of drumming and are excited to learn, improve, and be on the path to more successful drumming in the future. It’s only through focused, quality attention and diligence that we can realize the true potential of the drum as both a musical instrument and the means for effective and positive change.
The drum course wasn’t just about drumming–it was about music. As always, I played my ukulele and did some teaching of the ukulele so others might enjoy this simple and beautiful instrument from Hawaii. In my opinion, the ukulele is as easy to learn and accessible as the drum–if not more so. I love that everyone took to it and by the end of the course, there was as much strumming as there was drumming going on!
I’m looking forward to the drum course coming up in the Chicago area in July. To find out how you can be involved, check the playsinglaugh.com website and musicmattersschool.com. There is also the five-day DCM cores coming up in Los Angeles in July, where will drum, dance, sing, strum and create new friendships as we celebrate together. Along with the DCM course, will be holding the first ever kid’s uke and drum camp! This is a day camp for children ages 9 to 12, featuring drumming, singing, dancing, and ukulele lessons. Perhaps I’ll see some of you in LA at the DCM course or at a music conference coming up soon.