Back to University and Beautiful Friends

Well, today is momentous. I am now officially back at University! I’m a little scared still but very excited about getting back into scan reading mountains of papers and books for references, making coherent arguments in essays and referencing it all correctly – oh dear, what have I done??!!! No, seriously – it’ll be fun once I get back into the swing 😉

Thanks to my beautiful friends Lauren and Patsi, I’ve been able to log on and join in the discussion board and download extra material that Griffith University didn’t post to me. Yes, I still don’t have a dedicated internet connection at home and sadly, I haven’t been able to keep up with my NaBloPoMo committments, but I’m doing my best.

Over the weekend, I also had some great times with other beautiful friends, namely Jax and Malcolm Battersby. Mal and I played a really nice gig at the Richmond Festival. It was the inaugural Songwriters Concert at the festival and we got to work with some great local artists and the organiser – champion of original music, Roger Joseph.

The other truly beautiful thing is I heard a new song Jax’s written (as yet untitled) and it’s just gorgeous. I understand she’s going to debut it live at the ASA December 11th gig and I can’t wait to hear it again! I heard a rough from Belfry Studio but once the mix is finalised, it’ll be up on Jax’s Triple J Unearthed page. It’s so satisfying to see someone with so much raw talent start to blossom into a confident and accomplished writer and recording artist – it’s really inspirational!

All in all, a very satisfying time in my life – despite the lack of home internet.

Take care everyone and have a wonderful day too, wherever you are

Debra 🙂

Mal & Jax 24 Nov 2013

Online Music Lessons Available in 2014

On Stage at Casbah Cafe

On Stage at Casbah Cafe

Due to enquiries from interstate and overseas, I’m setting up online music lessons from January 2014 on Skype. And for those of you who fill out the following contact form – the first lesson is free!

(Please note: I value your privacy and all information provided will never be passed on to any third party or displayed anywhere by me without your permission.)

Take care everyone!

Debra 😀

Mentoring – What Makes The World Go Round

On Stage at Casbah Cafe

On Stage at Casbah Cafe

As a songwriter and performer, I think there’s nothing better than actually getting on a stage and plying my craft. But as a teacher, there’s nothing better than to see the results of my work, as a student stands on a stage for the first time.

Mentoring can take so many different forms in creative arts. Some of the most productive things can come out of a casual chat over coffee rather than a formal session. Just a quiet word from the right person has been like gold sometimes, reassuring me that my path is true. I’ve found particular people who’ve been wonderful in assisting me in areas that I didn’t have that much knowledge in, such as finance and bookkeeping, understanding how the live music industry can be radically different in non english speaking countries and the never-ending ferris wheel of public liability insurance.

Sometimes it’s been as simple as an exchange of networks or as complex as a full “how to” on a particular area – but I suggest don’t feel compelled to act on all advice given! In my opinion, the best mentors always will say “well, that’s my thoughts but it’s your decision”, rather than “you must do this”!

No matter how you go about it, it’s important. Singer/songwriters are for the most part involved in a solitary existence, both a creators and performers. We stand on the stage alone, singing songs we wrote alone. Outside input, particularly from folks who’ve done or are still doing similar things can be gold!

Recently, I had the joy of mentoring one of my students Cassie O’Keefe. We played on the same bill at Casbah Cafe’s regular Women Songwriters’ night in Hobart and it was (as Cassie put it) her first grown up gig. Yes, she made mistakes but she carried herself onstage with honesty and dignity and has learned a great deal from the experience.

At 17, this girl has a wonderful future ahead of her as a performer and songwriter and if you’re in Hobart next month, Cassie will be playing again at Casbah Cafe on Thursday 11th July.

Cassie at Casbah Cafe

Cassie at Casbah Cafe

For me, mentors have been a part of my entire life and have taken many guises. I attribute a lot of my success to good advice and assistance from people who have and still care about my professional development. I’m interested in hearing your stories about mentoring too – let me know what you think. For me it’s the stuff that makes the road just that much easier and makes my world go round.

Take care and see you soon,

Deb 😀

Performing v Teaching – The Great Divide

“I Want It All!!!”

Every since I can remember there’s always been a debate as to what musicians should do – perform or teach.

As a small child I recall being present when my father (possibly the finest musician I’ve ever met) was discussing with a couple of performer friends the merits of his teaching work, who were shaking their heads sadly. The implication was that he’d somehow sold out by going down the teaching route. He was still performing at that stage too!

I don’t remember this but apparently they asked me what I wanted to do when I grew up and (true to form) said I wanted it all!

The story goes like this. If you teach, you must be a second rate performer and if you perform you can’t ever be a decent teacher. Personally, I’ve always found it a vacuous argument – I do both and have done for many years. How well I do them is a matter of conjecture of course, but I have managed to balance the two – and I believe I am a better performer and music educator for the experience.

I know most of my students would tell you that they come to me because I am a performer and understand what it takes to be that kind of musician.

Recently, I had a phone call from a family member, who took the teaching route after graduating from a prestigious Australian music conservatorium. She teaches at an International School in South East Asia and many people I know would be jealous of her career and lifestyle. Nevertheless, a touring musician made a thoughtless remark at a concert she recently attended that amounted  to saying teaching was second rate compared to the exciting life of touring.

Touring is hard work. Yes, it’s exciting going to new places and playing to new audiences but very risky financially, physically very draining and (no matter what anyone says) can be grindingly dull when you’ve played so many dates you can’t recall what town you’re in anymore. These days I try and break up my performance schedule with a little time off, a day for relaxation and sleep and just playing tourist or catching up with friends or family. Fellow Tasmanian musicians The Sign are a good case in point. Currently touring in the US, they’re making it a road-trip holiday and family get together plus a very slick and professional music tour. Smart people!

In many respects I think teaching is the harder gig. One-to-one or groups, students hang on your every note and word, and they’re very happy to question if  you do anything that might contradict what you’re trying to get across! The process of educating for me is a different kind of performance, with it’s own specific skill set. And it must be said that just because someone is a brilliant live performer that does not follow that they will be an equally brilliant educator!

For me the old “those who can, do – those who can’t, teach” chestnut just doesn’t stack up – I love both and will continue to educate and perform to the very best of my ability.

If you want to read more, this 2007 blog from professional double bass player & educator Jason Heath is recommended.

I’ll finish by quoting US classical pianist Joshua Nemith;

The path to a narrow musical career is paved with good intentions. Today, more than ever, that path needs to widen rather than permanently branch into two unconnected avenues: educators who are not performers, and performers who are not educators.

Next Newer Entries