Kaboom Percussion, Part 1

Introduction

Here is the Crescendo Music Education Podcast – Episode 36. This episode, along with next episode, are two episodes coming up, where I’m going to speak to Catherine Betts and Joshua Webster of Kaboom Percussion. We know them best here in Australia as Cat and Josh, and even my students at school, they see them on the screen and go, it’s Cat and Josh.

They are absolutely amazing musicians who have done some really useful things for us in the classroom. I know you will love listening to me have a bit of a chat with them over the next two episodes. And if you do not know of Kaboom Percussion, look it up, it is so worth it. Sit back and enjoy Cat and Josh, Kaboom.

About ‘Read the Episode’: Sometimes, we would rather skim visually than listen to a podcast! That’s a great way to learn too! The transcript of episode 036 of The Crescendo Music Education Podcast is below.


Episode 36 “Read the Episode” Transcript

Introducing Cat & Josh of Kaboom Percussion

Debbie
Welcome to Josh and Cat. Hello.


Joshua Webster
Hello. Thanks for having us.

Kaboom Percussion Biography


Debbie
Now, Josh and Cat, many of us know from Kaboom, and we love Kaboom, the music teachers in my circle, absolutely love Kaboom. We’ll get more into what you give to us as music educators. But first I’ll start with your bio. Okay, so here we go. And by the way, your individual bios are much more extensive. This is our little like combined bio. Yeah.

So Kaboom Percussion was founded by Catherine Betts and Joshua Webster. That’s you guys, we know you as Cat and Josh, in 2014. And since then, they’ve taken the world by storm with their own unique, original and enormously successful repertoire. That’s true. Their popular education programs have been extremely well received, and they have performed their highly sought after school shows to more than 100,000 students across Australia and New Zealand.

This huge demand has made Kaboom a full time job for Cat and Josh, we need to talk more about that. I want to hear about your actual life what you do day to day, wow. In 2021, the Kaboom team grew to include the highly talented percussionists Grace Kruger, Laura Harris, Lochie Dormer and Nathan Gatenby.

Kaboom now has three permanent schools show teams based in Perth, Melbourne and Brisbane, allowing for an even greater flexibility in booking and allowing them to teach even more students. At its core, the Kaboom team are passionate about harnessing the fun side of music, showing the world that music can be played with even the simplest of objects. Sparked by their popular version of the Cup Song, this approach has seen the growth of their YouTube channel to more than 330,000 subscribers, with their popular videos being viewed more than 100 million times.

Oh my goodness, I’m responsible for some of those. And I do subscribe. They are active in a number of different areas, including performances, recordings, touring, composition commissions, workshops, school residencies, education programs, self publishing, radio and TV appearances, YouTube, and you attend and present at education conferences.

And there’s a list of those you’ll see in the show notes. Wow, there’s so much we need to talk about. But before we go on, is there anything else you want to add to that, that you think’s important to say to my audience of music educators?


Catherine Betts
Well, I think the stuff that’s listed there is all like the fun stuff. And then outside of that, there’s a whole lot of admin and all the boring stuff, which makes up our lives. So yeah, it’s a mix of yeah, really, really fun stuff. And then your more day to day kind of things that we do as well. But yeah, we love it all.


Debbie
And do you have some VAs to help you though? I hope.


Catherine Betts
We have one of our Kaboom players also helps a little bit with admin. But yeah, majority of it is still the two of us.

How Kaboom Percussion Began


Debbie
Wow. Okay. That’s a lot. All right now, so many questions. But can we start with how you came to be Kaboom.


Joshua Webster
Sure. So we’ve known each other since university.


Catherine Betts
Since we were 17.


Joshua Webster
Yeah. So about 18 years now.


Catherine Betts
More than half our lives.


Joshua Webster
That we’ve been playing music together. And when we were leaving university, we both at different times, we joined a percussion quartet that our teachers, like our high school teachers, had started when they were at uni, called Tetrafide Percussion.

So we were playing in Tetrafide, I was in there for about five years, Cat was in there for three years. And we got to do lots of great touring around Australia, we went to, where did we go? India, China, the UK, Canada, and we were also doing a lot of school shows, then our two teachers who are about a decade older than us, when they hit their mid 30s, they were starting to have families and they needed to have a bit more time at home, and rightfully so too you know, be around for little ones, we were sort of left in the spot where we wanted to do, to keep doing similar things, so we decided to start Kaboom.

Originally, we were just going to be writing some percussion ensemble music for mainly for like, we were writing our own percussion ensembles. And we thought it’d be nice to publish that. And we’re going to make some YouTube videos. So we started off with those two things. And then our first YouTube video did really well.


Catherine Betts
That was the Cups one.


Joshua Webster
Which has had more than 20 something million views, which is just yeah, pretty incredible. And then people asked us, you know, can you come and perform? Can you do this? And so we just, it was firing.


Debbie
Wow, that’s an amazing story. So the education side happened when you joined this, the original group, and you were doing some things for schools? Because it seems it’s become like a major part of what you do now.


Catherine Betts
Yeah, totally.


Joshua Webster
Definitely.


Catherine Betts
So we were touring with Musica Viva a lot, that group gave us a good insight into the kind of whole school show. Kind of how it works. Yeah, how it works. Yeah. And how to present for kids, because it’s not something that we’re taught at university. We’re taught to play for adults and to play your piece and you get applause and you take a bow and you walk off stage. And that’s it kind of thing. So yeah, presenting to kids is something that you really have to learn on the job as a musician. I think it’s a totally different skill set to playing for adults, I think.


Debbie
Yeah, it’s absolutely different to engage children.


Catherine Betts
Yeah.


Joshua Webster
Yeah.


Catherine Betts
And now that we’ve done it so much, we really prefer playing for kids. And when we have to play for adults, it’s like scary for us. So yeah, we learned all that on the job through Tetrafide and then, yeah, it all kind of spiraled from there after that.


Joshua Webster
But we do often jokingly say that we because we both have master’s degrees in classical percussion. And now we sort of play cups and buckets for a living. It’s quite a funny turnaround.


Debbie
Yeah but it’s so important. You’ve ended up in the part of music that’s the most important part in the world.


Joshua Webster
And we love it, we absolutely love it.


Debbie
Like that’s you teaching, it’s the next generation.


Catherine Betts
Yeah, yeah.


Joshua Webster
Yeah, exactly.


Catherine Betts
They’re such lovely audiences to play for, like, they’re so happy to see you. Every time we go to a school, the kids are happy. And we just get to get them excited about music, basically. Which is yeah, what an amazing job to have.


Debbie
Yeah, it is pretty cool, isn’t it? It must have been a bit. No, I don’t want to say difficult. You must have had to be careful in selecting your new team members.


Catherine Betts
Yes.


Joshua Webster
Yeah, so we were always planning on expanding our team. So pre-COVID Cat and I would drive across Australia every year.


Catherine Betts
Perth to Brisbane.


Joshua Webster
Perth to Brisbane and back, it took us about three months.


Debbie
Oh, and for those people who aren’t from Australia. How long does it take you to drive from Perth to Brisbane?


Catherine Betts
We’d drive for four days to get to Melbourne, and then kind of go up from there. We would drive for two straight days and still be in our own state. Take us two days to get out of WA. And there’s nothing much out there.


Joshua Webster
It’s a beautiful drive, I would recommend it.


Catherine Betts
After you’ve done that five times you’re like, Yep I’ve seen this road enough now.


Joshua Webster
It was on the fifth journey home where Cat was saying to me, Josh, I think we’re kind of at our limit don’t you?


Catherine Betts
We were doing 230 shows a year across Australia and New Zealand. And that was like as much as we could fit in essentially.


Joshua Webster
So on tour for about six months. Yeah, it was just it was it was big. And so Cat was saying I think we need to, I think we need help. It’s funny, like initially, I was quite resistant that whole, you know, no, you know, we’re the best people to do this. And yeah, you just you get very attached to the thing that you’ve created and it’s a very scary prospect to open that up to other people. But we’ve been so impressed. And I think we’ve got really lucky with wonderful team members now in Kaboom.


Catherine Betts
Yeah, all the players are kind of fresh out of uni. They’re all super energetic, great players. And we’ve been to see lots of their shows over East and it’s cool that we sit at the back. Now the kids know who we are. They don’t care about us. They think like Grace and Lochie, or Laura and Nathan, are like the best thing ever and they’re signing autographs after the show. And yeah, it’s really cool to see that. Yeah, the show that we have is good enough that you get some good players in there and you can take it anywhere. So yeah, it’s cool.


Debbie
Yeah, that is so good. But it’s hard to give up your baby isn’t it.


Catherine Betts
Yeah.


Joshua Webster
Yeah


Debbie
I like having that control. Yeah.


Catherine Betts
You’ve got to let go of the controls.


Joshua Webster
Yeah. But it’s been exciting.


Catherine Betts
They have ideas that we don’t have. So when they come to learn the show, we kind of have a show that goes for two years, and then we change it. So we’re about to teach them a new one in January. But when we taught them the original show, they would come up with things and we’re like, oh, we kind of like that. We’re gonna do that when we play it now. So yeah, it’s kind of a collaborative process as well.


Joshua Webster
Seeing it through different lenses. Yeah, it’s pretty cool.


Debbie
Fabulous. That’s truly intentional collaboration. That’s one of the things I love to do.


Joshua Webster
Yes, yeah. Yeah, great to share the joy of what we do with other people as well, to see them get excited, because they’re sort of essentially doing the job that we have straight out of uni playing with our teachers, we didn’t have to do any of the hard work or the admin, the writing of the shows, the bookings, we just turned up and played, and it was the best job. Now they get to do that. So it’s really nice to be able to pass that on to the next generation.


Debbie
Oh, that’s lovely, nice little circle of life thing. I love it. So before we dig into a bit more about Kaboom, and the great resources that you make for music educators, and I can talk a little bit about the things that I sneak into my classroom all the time. That’s fabulous, because it is, sorry, I’ll sidetrack just for a sec, it’s getting harder in schools to actually have shows coming to you. And you’re probably very aware of that.

And I think there’s two main reasons. Well, there’s a cost issue. But I really don’t think the main thing is cost anymore. It’s the overcrowded curriculum. And the fact that administrators and other teachers do not want to give up their valuable teaching time to do “fun stuff”. Like, we know that what you would offer would be so much more than fun stuff, and would be probably better learning than their whole classroom year put together.

But we may be slightly biased, but it’s actually true. But you’ve got to convince a whole lot of people that having a show is worth it. Once it’s part of the school culture, that’s fine, but it is difficult, you get a change of admin. Yep. So it’s just getting harder for people to book shows. So your other resources are also very important.

I do want to dig into that. But before we dig into that, I like to ask all of my podcast guests about gratitude. Because I just think it’s essential in our work, especially our work that involves so much heart and soul. And I say our, I’m sticking myself in your category here as a music teacher.


Joshua Webster
You’re very welcome.

For What Are You Most Grateful?


Debbie
Thank you, thank you. But if you can talk about gratitude a little for what are you most grateful? And also people that have been influential in your lives?


Catherine Betts
Well I think, first and foremost, we both come from very supportive families. I think a lot of kids like nearing the end of high school, when you are trying to decide what you’re going to do at uni or not go to uni and that kind of stuff. I remember saying to my parents, I think I’m going to study percussion. And I know a lot of parents would probably be like, maybe, let’s have like a backup here. My parents were like you know, we’ll make this happen, that kind of thing. So, and I know your parents are the same.


Joshua Webster
Exactly the same.


Catherine Betts
Yeah, couldn’t be more excited for us to go on this journey. So having that kind of support behind us is amazing. makes our life so much easier.


Joshua Webster
Yeah. In terms of gratitude, I mean, what is there not to be grateful for living in Australia, you know, it’s just, we’re very lucky. You look around the world, especially with what’s happening at the moment, and you just think, Oh, my goodness, we’re so lucky to be where we are having the freedom to do the things that we want to when we want to that kind of thing. It’s just it’s such a such a privilege. So yeah, very grateful for life in general.


Catherine Betts
In terms of people, we’ve had the amazing support of our university, lecturer, mentor, teacher, Tim White.


Joshua Webster
He just got an IM last year.


Catherine Betts
An OAM. He’s been so supportive of our entire journey and continues to be. I mean, we haven’t been at uni for many years now.


Joshua Webster
About 15 years.


Catherine Betts
15 years, but anytime we need a space, big space to rehearse or anything we just ask Tim, he’s like, com into uni, use it, it’s fine. You need instruments, use our instruments. So having that kind of support from someone continuing after uni is Yeah, incredible.


Joshua Webster
Yeah, And all of our teachers, we’ve both been very blessed to have very wonderful teachers who are not only very good at their instrument and their teaching profession, but they’re just lovely people who’ve always been there to inspire and we’re still good friends with them. Yeah, which is awesome.

Perth has a really great percussion community, which has definitely filtered down from people like Tim who really tried to instill the values of teamwork and cooperation amongst the crowd you know, the person who’s studying with you at university, they’re not your competitor. I’m pointing to Cat here. They’re not your competition. They are your friends. So support each other, go to everyone’s gigs together, their recitals.


Catherine Betts
Help them move their gear.


Joshua Webster
So it’s always been instilled from us since day one, from day one that it’s, you know, we’re part of a team. And I think there is always something nice about percussionists, because I think because we do have to move a lot of gear together. There is a lot of inherent teamwork that comes with that.


Debbie
Yep, yep. Yeah, I could see that. Oh, that’s great. And then of course, you’re passing that on to the next generation and the one beyond that.


Joshua Webster
Hopefully.


Debbie
That’s wonderful. I love everything Kaboom. But I don’t know everything Kaboom I guess, I just know my bits that I use. So I bought a bundle, the classical play alongs and the pop play alongs. Ah, seriously, they’re gold guys, like really they’re gold. So I’ll give you an example. I used it a couple of weeks ago, we had a celebration sort of thing at the end of the term and the kids could for you know, an hour and a half, the kids went to whatever sessions they wanted to all over the school, you know, someone was painting, someone was doing this song and I go, I’ll do cups and boomwhackers, right just open the classroom and they come in.

And it’s just yes, there’s a variety of YouTube, but there’s also your, your play alongs and I just had a whole lot of stuff queued. Ready. Okay, what do you feel like doing the kids that happened to wonder in, we want Boomwhackers. Click here you go. Tell them what boomwhackers they needed, grabbed, away we go. It was just like, instant happy. And I’m pressing buttons, helping them as they’re sort of sorting out, going hold on guys. I know they’re not as exciting because they’re smaller. But we do need some B’s and some A’s. You know, and so I put the boomwhacker stuff, the cups, let’s grab the cups. Which one do you want to do? Here’s a choice.

So the cups and the drums. I’ve just bought myself a set of drums, I do have a problem with hearing above the drums. If you’ve got 30 Yeah, anyway, and in your play alongs that we use, that’s the cups and the drums and there’s pens, there’s desk, there’s body percussion, that’s really good. The boomwhackers I tend to get off the internet. But those play along books are just fabulous. And I’m trying to sort of just weave them in through the classroom through the year and your YouTube channel.

At the end of this year, we watched the series of you tipping things over each other’s heads. We watched, and it was so good. And the kids were so funny because they’ll be the boys gonna win. No, the girl, I was like no, no, it’s Josh and Cat, use their names. Because we all feel like we know you because we’re watching you on YouTube all the time.


Catherine Betts
That’s cool to see that like when we go into schools kids already know us. Which is yeah, really cool to see. They’ll say Hi Cat, and I’m like, I’ve never seen you before, but Hi. They feel like they know us as well. And they’ll put comments on our videos saying I watched this in music class today.

So it’s cool to see that follow through from they’re seeing that music and then they liked it. So they went home and spend their free time watching it at home as well, which is really cool to see.


Joshua Webster
Yeah, definitely. All of our YouTube things. So much positivity has come about from it, which is I know, that’s not always the case for people putting themselves out there online. But yeah, we’ve been very lucky to have overwhelmingly positive sort of feedback, which is fantastic. And just you know, really touching messages, people sharing time with their parents learning, you know, some of our cup routines or things like that. It’s just Yeah, it’s really, really special.

And as Cat said lots of kids. And then for them to get the feeling that they know us is really great, because we have quite a strange job, in that we’re always basically working with people we don’t know, lots of incursions. So by having that, and for them to feel that they already do know us you kind of you get a bit of early rapport, which you might otherwise have to build within an hour or, you know.


Catherine Betts
We had a great one last year. It was a mother in the UK, who emailed us and said, My son does your videos in music class. He loves it. Can you like come to his zoom birthday party? This was during COVID and we were like, ah, that’s cool. We weren’t available on the date. So we thought we’ll send him a little video.

So we found out a bit about him his dog’s name and what he likes about the videos and stuff like that. We recorded a little video, sent it to him and his mom sent one back of like when he watched the video and it was so cute. He was so excited to see us in real life. But yeah, it was a two minute video and once it finished, he said can I watch it again.


Debbie
That’s magic, to have that sort of influence is amazing.


Joshua Webster
It’s very cool.


Catherine Betts
Yeah very cool.


Debbie
Thank you for joining me for this podcast. Don’t forget that you’ll find the show notes on crescendo.com.au/36 Also, you can find the transcripts there. So you’ve got all of the detail that you need. If you found this podcast useful, I’d really love it if you share the link with a colleague. Remember all I can be is the best version of me. All you can do is be the best you. We’ll meet again, I hope we will. Bye.

Sign Off

This podcast is brought to you by Crescendo Music Education, connecting, supporting, and inspiring music educators. You’ll find links to Crescendo’s social media platforms in the show notes. Please connect with me and be part of the Crescendo community. You might consider becoming a Crescendo member. You can access hundreds of files, worksheets, printables workbooks, repeat workshops, and webinars for a low annual fee and receive great discounts on events. So come and connect with me, Debbie O’Shea. See you in the socials.

Just for Laughs

As we know laughter relieves stress. Don’t lose sight of the funny side of life.

You know that writing with a broken pencil is pointless.


Links Mentioned in the Episode:

Famous CUPS! Video

Connect with Kaboom (Cat & Josh):

Where to find me:

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