Rohan Hardy, Part 2


This is the second part of my chat with Rohan Hardy, this is Episode 44. If you missed Episode 43, go back and have a listen to that (or read it) first.  It’s really good being able to speak to a secondary music teacher, I think there’s not enough communication between the sectors of primary and secondary. So I’m very happy to make this extra connection. Enjoy part two of my chat with Rohan. 

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 044 of The Crescendo Music Education Podcast is below.

Episode 44 “Read the Episode” Transcript

Now, did you want to say anything more about the process of what you’re doing? Or shall we leave that there and go on to the nuggets?

Rohan Hardy
Well, I think I’ve pretty much summed up the essence of what I’m doing yeah. And as I said the story will become clearer as I go through this process and I’m only really halfway through. So hopefully, you know, some of the listeners will give us some feedback, or if people want to shoot me a line or whatever. And I thought about this, then that’s kind of where I’m at. I’m very open to the direction this is going in.

Sounds fascinating and we will make sure that we put your contact details there in case people want to chase that up.

Rohan Hardy
Yeah, please do. Thank you

Rohan Hardy’s Nuggets of Fabulous

That would be great. So I do this with all of my guests and I do it partly for me, because I like their nuggets of fabulous, things that I can use. So it’s just, it can be absolutely anything. It could be, I put down three, but I don’t care if it’s one, I don’t care if it’s five. I always pick odd numbers. I don’t know why. But your all time favourite resources, activities,  songs, games, though, I know you’re secondary based.

So we’ll keep this in mind, however, as I’ve always said, the difference between Well, now it’s I have to say between grade six and seven, the difference between grade six kids and grade seven kids is six weeks. Yeah. So you’re really not teaching completely different species. So I think people need to keep that in mind and can I say I did two years in high school recently, or six years ago. And honestly, behaviour management and working with the kids, it’s not chalk and cheese. I know they’re not exactly the same. But you know, if you can manage a group of four year olds, you can probably manage a group of fifteen year olds. I’m not saying the same, but a lot similar.

Rohan Hardy
Oh, yeah, I have the utmost respect for primary school music teachers, my wife’s teaching in a primary sector, like she teaches across primary to high and you know, she’s at a, she’s a Steiner teacher. And it’s, I hear the stories, her brain moved from, you know, a class four group through to a class twelve group, it’s crazy. So and the different modes she’s got to move to all the time. Yeah, like, huge amount of respect.

I think you have to be quite a creative, flexible person to work very children generally. 

Rohan Hardy
Yes, very much. I’ve got three, and I’ve kind of summed them up in three, let’s say roles that I play in my job. So one is around, you know, what I do in the staff room, another nugget is around what I do in a classroom and another one is around what I might do in a practice room or a studio environment. So kind of more specifically with kids, you know, one to one or Yeah, so hopefully, that covers everything and listeners have a bit of Oh, that’s interesting. Oh, that’s cool. So it’s broad, and I tried to keep it in the spirit of play, right.

So my role as a head of department, I’m often looking for ways to connect personally and professionally with my staff. I have a team on the coast here of eight staff, I had a team of nearly twenty in Brisbane. So I’ve always been really focused on trying to make sure that I can catch up with people. And I also learned so much pedagogically through discussing and observing other teachers. That’s a major part of my job, which I’m so grateful for.

Nugget #1: Disconnect to Reconnect

So my first nugget is a weekly practice that I put in, and I’ve done for a couple of years now and it’s called disconnect to reconnect. So each week, our team, our staff team, and my team consists of drama, music, and art teachers, we spend one lunch break together without the devices and we chat, generally over either a game of cards or I bring some Bananagrams. We’ve done colouring in.

We even made Lego around the table, just to try and solve problems, be creative, relax, just one hour and it’s just one break and I deliberately make sure I get everybody off playground duty that particular day and then formalise it, where we will get a chance to bond together and we shift our focus to more lighthearted aspects of our profession, like the kid in period two that did something funny, or we find ourselves wandering back into conversation so often about teaching. And it’s generally inspired because we’re busy, like we’re, you know, challenging one another.

And we’re doing those kinds of things with, you know, activities or Yeah. So I’d love to try it across faculties and interact with teachers in english and history or science. It’s also a really great way to foster wellbeing and a sense of belonging as well. So that’s been a really cool little nugget that I’ve kind of, I’m exploring more and more of. So that’s one. 

Earlier on, we talked about, this is a classroom activity that I started exploring as well, I talked about how I’ve been writing curriculum for this national songwriting program called SongMakers, which I suggest you check out, it’s a secondary school program. But it’s funded by an industry body called APRA AMCOS who are the music industry body responsible for paying royalties and copyright.

Nugget #2: Object Writing/Sense Writing

The reason I say is that I’ve been kind of working around activities in the way I’ve been writing this curriculum to promote sort of group collaboration and creativity and embody that whole process of songwriting without this really heavy reliance on technology, because I love technology. But there are certainly lots of schools out there, where it’s at a minimum, and very difficult to manage. So my second nugget is kind of courtesy of a gentleman at the Berklee College of Music called Pat, Pat Pattison. And it’s called Object Writing. So it’s also kind of known in the industry as Sense Writing. So it’s a literacy skill. In a way it’s related to music, but I’ll get to that in a second. It’s a technique or skill that describes objects using the five physical senses.

So that’s sight, hearing, smell, touch and taste, and two additional senses called organic sense and the kinesthetic sense. So the idea is to spend 10 minutes on each object. And usually I’ll do it as a warm up for the class. So probably good for you like late primary school, year five and six students, even potentially great for you, right, you can write in full sentences, you can type or write in fragments of like, say, song lyrics or poetry, whatever, whatever suits, and it could be about, you know, a loaf of bread.

Or it could be there’s actually a cool website that just randomly generates words like knot or toaster, I don’t know we’ll go with the bread theme again. And it’s really about bringing in conceptual skills into the students brains so that before they can start making music and in the songwriting realm, use it in more ways than just writing lyrics. You could also use it to describe a narrative or a mood of some particular composition activity you were about to run.

Or you could use it to unpack some more details around texture, or tambour or some of the musical elements that you wanted to explore, particularly in relation to some of those senses, because that’s a really great way of bringing in that concept of tambor and texture into the idea of, you know, physical senses. There’s also apparently Instagram accounts that I haven’t seen that put up a new image every day.

So there’s a few different, it’s quite a well known technique, but it’s a great songwriting technique, but I can see it expanding further into like, even the ways you design a lesson. So that’s my second one. 

Nugget #3: Oblique Strategies

And my third is more to do with the practice room, and or the studio space. Or if you’re working with students, and you’re really hitting a bit of a roadblock with some things I discovered this years ago, I read a book by Tim Harford called Messy, which I recommend it’s really good. There’s a technique that Brian Eno and Peter Schmidt adapted back in the 70s, late 70s, early 80s. And it’s called the Oblique Strategies. And it was originally a deck of cards, I think it was 100 ish cards. There are like gnomic suggestions on them to inspire creativity, or move through blocks, creative blocks, so some of the quotes might be, so you randomise the card, there’s actually an iPhone app I have called Oblique Strategies.

So it just randomises and it gives you a quote, and the quote is like use an old idea. Or another one is what to increase and what to reduce. Or another one might be only one element of each kind. So they’re quite metaphoric and they’re designed to make you think a little bit about how you get out of a mess. And I mean, teachers can approach this however they want. I found it really useful for kids who are like, just I can’t write music, I just, I hate composition, or I hate writing songs. You know, it’s a great way to get started.

Particularly for those kids that are a little bit more like do things a little differently, don’t like the whole like, do start with this, then start with that and start with the linear approach, let’s say to teaching but Oblique Strategies is the last one I think, though, I love it’s a really great little activity. You can put it in and you can do anything with it. So it’s pretty cool. I think they’re my three Deb.

I love it Rohan. Love them. I wish we had a disconnect to connect, that’s magic. No, but honestly to have someone and you know, a line manager who cares enough about you to do that because just even to get everyone off playground duty at that time is no mean feat. Like you’ve got to get all that to happen. But I just love that idea. That’s so good. And the Object Writing I’ve never heard of and Messy,  I’m gonna have to get that book. I’m gonna have to put all these links in the show notes. 

Rohan Hardy
Please do. 

It makes me want to write, like I’ve written some music. I’ve written a couple of choral pieces that, you know, I love it. There’s no time for that in my life at the moment. But yeah, I understand. I love it. And I miss it. Now I want to do Object Writing. And I want to work on some new pieces.

Rohan Hardy
Yeah, yeah, it’s pretty inspiring and that’s what keeps me in the classroom too, right. As much as I’m attracted to research, or I’ve been in acting positions in an administrative level, I couldn’t last because I missed that opportunity to put this stuff into practice that, I really thrive off it. Oh, that’s great. I’m glad that were useful.

They were wonderful. Alright, that leads us really to our last couple of things. I always like finishing with a question around advocacy. So if you had any advice for teachers who are maybe fighting for their jobs, or just to reinforce how important our job, what we do is, and then, right at the end, you get to go on your soapbox and tell the world, I bet it’s probably something to do with play. But anyway, it might not be, it might be a surprise. So advocacy advice first.

Rohan Hardy
Okay. All right. So just before I preface this by saying for these extra questions, I’ve actually written a response. So and I wanted to do that, because I wanted to make sure I articulated this clearly. And I wasn’t just riffing, I really want to because this is important to me.

Thank you, it’s important to me, and as a jazz musician, which you are, I appreciate you have taken the time to write your responses rather than riffing.

Rohan Hardy’s Thoughts on Music Education Advocacy

Rohan Hardy
Yeah, like, I like a blend of the two. When you play jazz, you do a little bit of the formal stuff, you do a little bit of the improvised stuff. So it’s actually quite stylistic, right? Yeah, let’s call it. Let’s call this the head of a jazz child right. Okay, so I Yeah, so here’s my response to the question around advocacy.

So I said, be a musician in the classroom, in the rehearsal studio, and on the stage in the staff room or at a meeting. Connect with who you are as a musician, and come to see the gift of teaching, as part of your artistic practice. So policy will change and evolve and for some of us, old enough will come full circle. Adapting, deciphering and decoding policy is about finding your true north, our inbuilt instinct to be playful and curious. So we need to improvise a little and explore more around the border lines of our craft to really advance a richer diversity and equality in music education.

So that’s my answer to advocacy, which is quite broad. Like, it’s not just, you know, get out there and do X Y, Z. I actually think we need to be musicians. And not like, I’m just a teacher, that you’re not just a teacher, like teaching is a gift you have. You also have the gift of music. All of us have the gift of music. And we’ve been gifted that and we’ve worked hard on our practice. There’s got to be a way of bringing that spirit into the way we lead our profession and that can be interpreted in so many ways.

That is quite profound and quite beautiful.

Rohan Hardy
Yeah, yeah. So that’s my answer for that question. And the soapbox question. I always say it’s also quite brief, because the soapbox, we could do another podcast on my soapbox, if you wanted to.

Let’s have the brief version now.

Rohan Hardy’s Soapbox

Rohan Hardy
Yeah, of course. So this is again, just really brief and it sums up a little where I’m at.  Education is relational and as such educators must foster individual agency to deeply connect and communicate with students, parents and colleagues. So it’s therefore critical that we find within us the courage to take some risks, to show some vulnerability, and to give the gift of teaching with a spirit of play, that we so dearly wish for our music education moments to look sound and feel like. So that’s my soapbox.

That’s wonderful. That’s beautiful. 

Rohan Hardy
Hopefully I didn’t read through that too quickly.

It was lovely. Well, then if people didn’t get it, they need to rewind. They can change the speed, the playback speed, they can make it slower if they want.

Oh, I think that’s an absolutely perfect way to finish our podcast, and I’m so thrilled that we’ve hooked up again. 

Rohan Hardy
Oh me too Deb.  Thank you. This has been an absolute pleasure. I really appreciate it. I’m so grateful for the time that you’ve given. And yeah, for giving me the opportunity to talk about what I love, I’m really grateful.

And we will do it again, for sure. I want to be kept informed about what you’re doing. And in the show notes, we’ll put where people can connect with you. Is there a place that’s best to connect with you? 

Rohan Hardy
I’m not a big social media guy. I have an email address that I’m happy to share and people can reach out if they want.

We’ll put that in the show notes, we’ll pop your email address in the show notes. Yeah. Because there could be someone out there saying, Oh, I just really want to talk to him about this. 

Rohan Hardy  
Yeah or give me feedback too, like, please, like, I’m open to any ideas. 

I love it. And thank you again, for your fascinating insights. Now, I want to go and write music and read these books and oh you’re inspiring. Thank you, Rohan.

Rohan Hardy
Thanks Deb, I really appreciate it, it means a lot.

Thank you for joining me for this podcast.  Don’t forget you’ll find the show notes and transcripts and all sorts of information on  If you’ve enjoyed the podcast or found it valuable you might like to rate it on your podcast player and leave a review.  I’d really appreciate it if you did.  All I can be is the best version of me. All you can do is be the best you.  Until next time, 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.

So anyone out there need an ark?

Because I noah guy. I know a guy!

Links Mentioned in the Episode

Harford, T. (2016). Messy: How to Be Creative and Resilient in a Tidy-Minded World. Abacus.
Nachmanovitch, S. (1991). Free Play: Improvisation in Life and Art (First). G.P. Putnam’s Sons.
Sawyer, K., & Wagner, T. (2019). The Creative Classroom: Innovative Teaching for 21st-Century Learners. Teachers College Press.

Nuggets of Fabulous:
Object writing: Pattison, P. (2010). Writing Better Lyrics (Second). Writer’s Digest Books.
Oblique Strategies:

If any questions or remarks, email Rohan at

Where to find me:

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