Read the Episode #65 with Ryan Williams, Part 2


Here is the Crescendo Music Education Podcast – Episode 65. Hello I’m Debbie O’Shea back here for another episode of the Crescendo Music Education Podcast and you’re tuning in here to part two of my chat with Dr. Ryan Williams.

Wow. If you haven’t heard part one, go listen to that first. But this episode Oh, it’s just so motivational, listen to him sing his Aria, you know, not literally, talking about music being the leveler of class, creed, colour, language, religion, location, generation, age, stage, education, everything, music connects all of us. And at one stage, he puts on his serious pants. Oh, gosh. Oh, he just sounds so fun.

Anyway, he puts on his serious pants, and he talks about the great advantages of music on your mood. And like, did you know that in the past five years, the most common reason for people visiting their GP is for psychological medicine. It’s for stress, depression, anxiety, those sorts of conditions. Music is an antidote. So come on, write yourself a social prescription and listen to this second episode of my chat with Dr. Ryan Williams, a really amazing person.

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 065 of The Crescendo Music Education Podcast is below.

Now, let’s get on to the Queensland Medical Orchestra. So I had a look at them on YouTube. Sounds pretty amazing. Who are your members, although I will read this quote, too, that I found on ABC News, because you were on ABC News “We’re all musicians. There’s no sense of hierarchies here”. And I imagine all your members are in the medical profession. So I guess if you tell us a bit about the orchestra, and then how you work together.

All About the Queensland Medical Orchestra

Ryan Williams
Yeah, so I’ll give just a little bit of context. So it kind of makes more sense maybe. So the Queensland Medical Orchestra was started in 2004 by Dr. Nick Brown, who was then a medical student himself. And it basically came out of the UQ MS Orchestra, which is an orchestra of medical students at the University of Queensland medical school. It was basically just for some fun, it was to raise some funds for charity.

And it was great, had a couple of concerts with Jim Morrison. And so we had a couple of concerts every year and it was great. Then when, as tends to happen, it was sort of driven by the conductor. And he was kind of the creative driving force, which was great. And then when he went overseas to be a doctor, and do some further study, it kind of folded and it went into hibernation a little bit.

Then basically, after I became the musical director for the med review, in my second year of medical school, I was then approached and said, What do I think about resuscitating the medical orchestra, is how we kind of talked about over some drinks or tea or coffee. So I resuscitated it in my third year of medical school. I was actually studying in Rockhampton at the time, but I flew down to Brisbane every weekend to do that.

And we had one concert and it kind of went quite well. And so from 2011 onwards, I’ve conducted it for three concerts every year. So this is my 14th. No, sorry, my 14th year, 38th concert now, so it’s a little bit hectic. When I started the orchestra I had hair and I don’t have that anymore. So I don’t think I can probably blame it, but sort of feels like it’s a good excuse. Not really. So the QMO is, yes, it is an orchestra of healthcare professionals. It’s largely medical students and doctors, but it also has nurses and allied health professionals, like physios and speech therapists and people who work in hospitals, they might work in medical admin, there are also nurses, you know, all manner of things like that.

Also, people like spouses of people in the health area, we do also have some people who aren’t in the healthcare field. And sometimes we have that because we don’t actually have somebody who plays the Cor Anglais so there’s someone who comes along and they do that, or we don’t quite have any French horns or we, we actually have a whole a French horn section that is rivaled to any orchestra anywhere. And I love them, but none of them actually are in medicine, but we call them patients, because everybody’s been a patient somewhere. So we call them patients and we love them to bits.

So you know, we don’t want to be exclusive. That’s a pretty horrible way to go about things. So that’s who we are. Our orchestra is we have between 70 and 80 people by the time we get on stage for every concert, so we’re a proper symphony orchestra. And then we have a choir, we’ve had a choir since about 2012. So we usually have the choir for two concerts a year.

We have three concerts every year one sort of a concert for Easter, one at Christmas time, the Christmas kind is always lots of fun people sing along. It’s good fun. One of them is a raise funds for charity concert, the beginning of the year is also lots of fun and kind of usually a bit more lighthearted sort of, we might have some, whether it’s sort of Broadway show tunes or a bit more sort of light, popular classic type thing. And the mid-year concert that we have is kind of a bit more serious, artsy stuff.

So ever since we started in 2011, with our mid-year concert, we’ve called it virtuosos. We have some more virtuosic type things. And we try to showcase the amazing talent that’s in the medical community. And so we actually have different soloists within healthcare that we’ve managed to sort of find and recruit, to play different conserti, movements of conserti and so we’ve played an entire Piano Concerto every year since then. So we’ve played the Greek Piano Concerto.

We’ve played the Rachmaninoff second piano concerto, the Tchaikovsky piano concerto, we’ve played the Bruch violin concerto, Sibelius violin concerto. So we’ve played these amazing repertoire, which from an amateur orchestra is pretty incredible. Now, we’re probably not going to be playing at the Royal Albert Hall anytime soon. But we have a wonderful time in our own minds. And people still clap and ovate for us. So we don’t mind we love doing that. So very happy for us.

How often do you rehearse together? I mean, I’m imagining that some of your orchestra members are probably pretty busy.

Ryan Williams
Yeah. So we have an interesting rehearsal sort of model. Because exactly as your point, Debbie, we, in general, health professionals are very busy people. And there are plenty of amateur ensembles out there. There is the Brisbane Concert Orchestra, Brisbane Philharmonic, Brisbane Pops, there’s lots of different things. All of those orchestras involve getting together for one rehearsal a week for the entire year. And that’s great. But a lot of people can’t commit to that. I don’t think that I could commit to that. I’m just too busy.

So the way that we get around this is we actually have these three discrete concerts every year. Concert is on this date, a month before we start rehearsing on the weekend. We have six rehearsals, the four weeks before on a Sunday afternoon, the weekend before we have it the Saturday and Sunday, then day of concert, so six rehearsals total. That’s it. So we do the entire concert with six rehearsals. So there’s six 4 hour rehearsals, pretty intense, pretty long. But six rehearsals and that’s it, we get to the entire, you know, hour and a half rep, like two 45 minute halves of music to put together. So it’s pretty intense. Yeah, so that’s, that’s how we get around it.

I guess to come back to your initial question about everyone being together and inclusive, how does that work? Medicine is an interesting, interesting place. Certainly, I think one of the things that differentiates medicine, I think it’s probably a little bit there in education, but a lot more in medicine. Like from my time working in high school. I mean, in most of the staff rooms I think it’s fairly egalitarian.

Like, at least in my experience, if you’re a classroom teacher it wasn’t like there were the classrooms versed to the specialist music teachers, all kind of teachers, we all get lumped together. There was a little bit of well, you know, but there’s the HODs over there a little bit, but certainly the deputies and the principals down in the admin, they were different class. So it was different sort of hierarchy in that sense.

But all the teachers work together, whereas in medicine it’s very hierarchical, it’s not really changing. And I don’t think it will be for a long time. So you have the medical students who are the absolute bottom of the pecking order. And then the interns who are the very first year doctors that have only just graduated and still working out, you know, what’s Panadol, and what is, you know, Morphine and what’s in the middle, like, it’s that kind of, I’m exaggerating, and then through to the residents who have been there for a little bit.

So they kind of know what’s going on, but still working out how this kind of goes, registrars have been doctors for a while, and they’re on their training programs, and they’re becoming specialists and they’re quite good, but they occasionally need to run things past the boss, and you have your consultant specialists who they really know what’s going on and kind of run the show and then you get to the heads of department and then the heads of the hospitals and it is very kind of hierarchical thing.

And when you’re doing things like a ward round or if you’re in the surgery, you know who the most important person in the room is and who you must sort of defer to and if you are at the bottom of the chain, you need to know who the person is that you will not speak over or who do not contradict or you always need to know who the person is and you don’t it’s very important. In certain disciplines it’s even more pronounced like you go on a ward round and I mean without wanting to drop them in it, I mean surgery is often quite picked on as being the, one of the worst ones in this.

And that often can be because some older school, it’s getting a little bit better. But some particular I mean, it can be in any discipline, but often sometimes in surgery, you’d be on a ward round. And some types of surgeons will just start at that with the junior, like the medical student and just start grilling the person about you know, the patient in front of them until they don’t know any more answers. They just I don’t know anymore, and they sort of run out, right done with you. And they go to the next person that just keeps sort of grilling until they’re out. And it can’t keep up until their knowledge is down and out. They just sort of keep going until everybody is sort of worn away. Their knowledge is surpassed.

And it’s kind of almost like this intellectual, almost like an intellectual pissing contest, just to make sure that everyone runs out of information. It’s kind of like, See, I know more than all of you. So there we go. And the kind of bravado and it’s this kind of thing, which is, it sounds ridiculous, but it is actually pretty awful. It can be very, very demoralising. And it also can be like it’s psychologically torturous. And it is actually, it’s bullying. It’s awful, in its worst form, but it isn’t always, but in its worst form, it can be bullying, so it can be awful.

So I mention this, because one of the things that we think is an antidote to this is that our orchestra has absolutely none of that. And many orchestras and many ensembles, you will see, I guess many of your listeners and teachers will see this is that orchestras can have this sometimes too, they can have like, I’m in the front desk of the violins, I’m second but I’m gonna be the first next year. So that there can be that sense of, you know, I was second desk in the violas last year but I’m gonna be first desk this year because they’re moving on to the QO one, I mean, QO two, but there’s this sense of who’s gonna be where and we are very strong about from the very beginning.

You know, we sit wherever we rotate, and we don’t have a sense of who’s going to be where and there’s absolutely no sense of well, I’m, I’m a consultant radiologist. We have consultants sitting next to medical students, we have the very experienced professionals sitting next to like, they’re you, whatever your qualifications in life are, they count for nothing inside this sort of the bubble of the orchestra, which is great as a good leveler. But it also helps with things like networking.

And so people have, you know, they’re working through, they’re just sort of finished medical school or heading towards, you know, my first year at a hospital, but I don’t really know which hospital to work at and or I’m thinking about maybe going into dermatology, but I don’t know if it’s any good as any Oh, there’s someone over there who’s got some experience in that field, can I have to talk to them so that it allows for there to be some networking and it allows for some people to talk about, I’m trying to get into this field here.

I’d like to go into this but I don’t know anyone in there. So so there’s a lack of this sort of cross-pollination, it allows for there to be some, some community in a sense of getting to know people, which I think we would reasonably comfortably say that is not able to happen. If there is this kind of I mean, the violins I don’t talk to the seconds because I’m a first you know, that awful kind of we don’t talk to people who are beneath us that nastiness, that’s something we’re very strong about. I hope I’ve explained that well enough.

Music is for Everyone

Yes. I love it. I think it’s so important. And you know what that music can do that, music is for everyone.

Ryan Williams
Absolutely yes, I think we’re all passionate about that. But that’s music not just in theory but in practice because this is us getting on our soap boxes here and I’m sure you’ve sung this song many times before but this is me singing my ARIA about this. Which is that those of us who know what music is about and we all have our own experience of this but music is the great leveller of class and creed and colour and language and religion, and location and generation and age and stage and education and everything.

Because when you are playing Danny Boy or when you are playing Sousa and The Stars and Stripes Forever or when you are playing Schindler’s List or when you are playing, like it doesn’t matter whether it’s got words or whether it is just that the colours of the 18 quells like this touches us in a way that it doesn’t actually matter. Like who we are where it comes from. We all are moved by this. The way that sound is placed in time with timbre and tone that we just it connects all of us.

So at the other concert we just did recently, I’ve sometimes been called a bit of a hoe for emotion, I try to pull at the emotional heartstrings a little bit but we played an arrangement of Percy Grainger, who I’m sure many of you will know as a composer and arranger. He did an arrangement of the tune Danny Boy, which was the year he did this Irish tune from County Derry which is basically a brass band arrangement of this.

And it’s exquisite. Please go and listen to it. It’s fantastic. And we did that actually starting off when we performed at the St Peter’s Lutheran College Performing Arts complex, which is wonderful. We started this actually, with our choir, the audience was just sitting there. And we just, we didn’t actually introduce the song we just started. So the audience were there and they’d clapped the piece before and I said something about that was that piece and just out of nowhere, the choir just started singing the tune of Danny Boy, no words, but just singing the tune of that instead, descending down the aisles on the side, and just that tune of that in unison, and they came back down, and then onto the stage slowly.

And then and only after that, they sang the first verse with the words in four part harmony, and then transitioned straight into the brass band arrangement, which is exquisite of Oh Danny Boy. People had come in, I was crying, people have goosebumps. And I did that deliberately, because I know that that’s a song that people have a lot of different relationships with. It’s a song that I personally have played on my Viola at a number of people’s funerals, because that’s something that a lot of people associate with funerals.

But not everyone as a rule. That is, it was part of at a church service, or they’ve learned to play that on the piano when they like, it’s a song that people have a lot of different connections with. But you don’t need to have words with it, because the tune just does something and it connotes emotion. And it takes you to a place that you don’t need words to take you there. And you don’t need to be Oh I understand this more because I am this person or I am of this status, it doesn’t mean any of those things. You don’t need to have this much education, have this much money, have this much. You don’t need any of those things to have that make you start to feel something, none of that’s important. It will hit you where it hits you.

Absolutely, it was one of my Dad’s favorite songs. Yes, it means different things for different people. And I will break down if I hear it. It’s Yes. That’s, it’s music. It’s the power of music, isn’t it? So you obviously think music is really important. Obviously.

Ryan Williams
I imagine that some 1 or 2 or 300% of your listeners will do.

The Importance of Music

I think so, I think so, 1,000% of them. Let’s go with that. So from your experience, as not only with the orchestra, but as a GP and general life experience and even your European adventures. Why do you think from your perspective, why do you think music is important? Now, obviously, we’ve been talking about that, that fact that it’s the great leveller, that it means something to everybody. But what other sorts of things do you think make music unique in our human experience.

Ryan Williams
I’m going to try and put a little bit of my serious pants on and talk a little bit about some things that maybe I can bring to this discussion with my medical and music hats on at the same time. Obviously, we all think that, we all know that music has so much to offer. And there is a growing body of evidence about the value of music in terms of things like health benefits, and it’s in that regard the importance of music in our lives.

And I guess I’ll talk a little bit about that to try and encourage you, and also your listeners about why this is important. So not just about the things that you probably will all know already and things like the NPD about things like teaching kids about creativity and expression and emotional intelligence. But so we’ve known for quite a while that music itself is powerful, euphoric, it lifts our mood, it helps us to feel and things like that. And in a time when mental health is a very significant issue in the world and the burden of disease around the world.

Something that I think was perhaps one of the reasons you connected with me was the interview that I gave on the ABC. So I’m a GP with my serious hat on and the College of General Practitioners. So the college that I’m a part of, every year we collect data about why people are seeing their GP’s, they get about 1000 GPs every year, and they sample data from them and so what are the issues that you see patients coming in with? And they collect like today I saw a cough, today I saw a child with rash, today I saw someone with chest pain, I saw this, I did a vaccination. Alright so what are the things that you saw?

Tabulate all this, collected all, and we say what are the issues people are seeing in general practice? For the last five years in a row. The most common reason for presenting the general practice is not a cough. It is not you know, a medical certificate. It is psychological medicine. People coming in with issues about stress, depression, anxiety. That’s the most common reason people are coming to see their GP. So I think that’s really important.

The Importance of Funding Mental Health Assistance


Ryan Williams
Yes, I’m not kidding about this. Five years in a row, it’s not, it’s not just a fad. It’s not just a one off blip. It’s a consistent trend. We published this data to send to anyone who will listen trying to say, This is why we need to fund mental health in this country. So without me getting onto a rant about that separate issue, I raise that as being this is why, that’s what’s going on, and I say that in some way, like the people that are listening, going, Oh, well, that’s, you know, that touches me a bit. Well, you are not alone.

This is why Australians are having issues with their mental health. We know that, you know, obviously, evidence says things like talking therapy, talking to somebody is very important. Antidepressants, if necessary, absolutely, really helpful. There are lots of other things that can be helpful too diet, exercise, lifestyle changes, there are other things that are helpful, too. But we also know that music is very helpful and very powerful.

Music can be a very helpful and powerful antidepressant, when you know if we’re finding ourselves very blue, and for many of us it can be, if I need to get out of that funk in our heads, we might go and listen to one of those pieces that just helps us to stop thinking about that sadness, or tries to lift us up on that I’m just feeling so whatever the next word is so, so blue, so meh, so numb, music can be something that can lift us out of there, that other things will not.

So that’s something that’s really important to be aware of music has a very powerful effect on our brain, on our body, it can do those incredible things. So music is something that’s important for mental health. But it also has not just important things on the mental health of our brain, but other aspects of our brain function as well. We know that there’s evidence that music can have an important impact and also benefits on cognitive function of the brain in terms of working, improving outcomes in people who are from early to late stages of dementia, music can have benefits in that situation.

Music is Powerful for Neurodegenerative Disorders

Ryan Williams
Neurodegenerative disorders, music has been very powerful. And there’s some amazing videos you can see on YouTube, I’m still moved by there’s a couple of them you can see these kinds of things. There’s a beautiful video of the people in nursing homes, these patients who are people in nursing homes with this terrible debilitating illness, you’re going to sit there and they’re just sort of tremor and shaking, shaking.

And I remember seeing one of a lady who was actually like the prima ballerina, and she’s just reduced to sort of just shaking in a wheelchair. And they put some headphones on her and they started playing Swan Lake. She stood up out of her wheelchair and she started doing like a half pirouette and you just go, like just listening to the music kind of transformed her back to this world that she knew. And she had Parkinson’s disease, but this kind of transport, like in ways that you kind of go how is the brain doing this? How is it able to kind of do this to her and ways that all of the drugs that we have, we don’t know how to do this, but music is just that amazing.

So music can do these things, too, that we don’t know how to do music can do other things, too. And music is important. There’s a whole subspecialty in medicine called palliative care about helping people through the last days of their lives. And music is a very important part of that too, to try and maximise quality of life as people are, you know, on their last phases of their life. It can also be very important in the beginning phases of life.

Music is important as people are preparing to birth, you know, children or even for neonates who are in humicribs and who are not, you know, if they’re, you know, 32 weeks, and then not actually at 40 weeks of gestation yet. So music is important from the very first day of life until the very last day of life. And that’s there’s other things that I could be talking about then too. So musics important from day one until the end.

And without wanting to sound like I’m just listening to the sound of my own voice. Something that is also very interesting. I think it’s interesting to me, I hope it’s interesting to you, is that there’s a new sort of phenomenon starting within medicine that we call social prescribing. And you know, Doctors have been prescribing medications for years and we prescribe blood pressure tablets, we prescribe diabetes medicine, we prescribe this and that. So doctors, you know, we prescribe medication.

But there’s more and more things now in terms of we prescribe something like something like a social activity. And this sort of happened a bit through COVID people talking about this lack of interaction. And so, I mean, one of the sort of more accessible things that people have heard about this is, so everyone’s sort of heard of this thing called Park Run. People on Saturday morning, get together and they go running together. And if you ask me, I couldn’t think of anything worse, like who wants to get together and go running? What an awful idea, but it’s terribly good for your cardiovascular system.

I didn’t say that as a doctor, but it just sounds like an awful idea anyway, but the social prescribing is saying look, people who are feeling isolated and they’re feeling depressed and this, that and the other. Social prescribing is saying, Well, maybe not. Let’s not launch into saying let’s give you some Zoloft. Well maybe let’s say, why don’t we try and say, let’s connect you in with the local park run group. And let’s try and connect it to this pathway and not just say, Oh, look, go and do it actually connect you to a pathway that says go and do this. And this can have almost as good outcomes, sometimes just as good outcomes ad saying here’s a script, go get it, take it, see you in a month.

So trying to connect through these kind of pathways. And I guess, trying to get in that kind of vein is saying, Well, why don’t we connect people with saying, Well, if you’re not really keen on taking pills, and you say, that’s not what you really want, what you’re all about. And maybe you don’t even need them? Maybe it’s not the best thing for you? Why don’t we try to connect you in with some music therapy?

You know, students can actually go to university get a degree in music therapy, why don’t we try to connect you in with tapping? Particularly with people who are creative and who’ve kind of abandoned that part of their life, typically, because that might be their depression has sort of shut them off from that, why don’t we try to connect them with it?

Why don’t we try to help them to tap into that part that’s kind of been blunted off by that sort of mood disorder? Why don’t we link them in with that, for some people that, you know, it’s not for everyone, but for some people, reconnecting with that music, with that art, with that creative part of their body, their brain, for some people that might be just as effective, or it might be at least the part that starts the ball rolling and getting them towards that little bit of sunlight peering through the dark cloud.

And so I guess I know I’ve talked for a bit, but I hope that’s something about just helping people understand. Humans need music, it is not an optional extra. And I hope that many people sometimes feel that specialist teachers in primary schools, even in high schools, as music teachers, kind of like well look, reading, writing and arithmetic is the important stuff, and you guys are just an added on. I’ve always, I’ve always liked the line in Mr. Holland’s Opus. And when they eventually cut the music program, and he says, Well, you know, if there’s no music, pretty soon, they’ll have nothing to read and write about and that sort of thing. Well, that’s not a bad way of putting it.

That was amazing. That, well, I did refrain because it might have mucked the mics up a bit. But I did want to give you several amens during that, like, that was just amazing. And also what popped in my head was pub choir, which I think has been an amazing thing.

Ryan Williams
Fantasitc, great idea, that’s a brilliant social prescribing. That’s, that’s a great thing to do for people who feel isolated, or anxious.

I had a chat to Astrid on a previous podcast too, actually I’m booked in for the end of June Pub Choir. I don’t make it to too many. But they, boy talk about joy and social connection. And you know, the person next to you is suddenly your best friend and stuff like that. There’s just something that’s proof that the dopamine or whatever it is, is released, as soon as you start singing, and singing together.

I can have a little plug here for Together Sing, our little new annual event, the whole purpose of Together Sing was for music, group music making for wellbeing. You know, and I think we have the science now, we have it. I mean, I link to studies that I read summaries of and think I really haven’t read it in depth. And I’m sure it’s a bit beyond me.

But I know that the studies are there, like Anita Collins with her Bigger, Better Brains. And there’s a whole lot of fabulous stuff being done. That’s proven that music lights up your brain, like nothing else, every part of your brain, emotional, primitive, motor, every part of your brain, not just the mathematical center or the whatever. So I don’t understand people that are cutting music and the arts generally. But of course we’re talking music specifically. I don’t understand that when we know how good it is for us.

Ryan Williams
I’ll say amen to you. We can do amens in both directions, mutual appreciation society. It makes no sense.

Healing the World with Music

Can I just ask permission from a GP? Is it okay as a layperson to give some social prescriptions to other people?

Ryan Williams
Absolutely. I guess in all seriousness, I think it’s important. I mean, I may be on my soapbox still, I would encourage your listeners to really think about the importance of this, because this is something that’s important, I would say in twofold. One, it’s important for your listeners for them in their general life, it will be for colleagues if there are colleagues that you see in the staff room that you’re seeing over the course of the term they start to become more and more despondent because life’s just getting too much and the deadlines are coming in or whether it’s colleagues it can also be family members.

It’s you know, it’s life is getting tough for lots of people and it’s not for everyone but you see people switching off. And, you know, it can be something that you say, you might not, not everybody is psychologically literate. Not everyone can say, look, I, think you need to go and have some, you know, cognitive behavioural therapy, and let me talk you through some strategies for, you know, distress tolerance, and not everyone can do that. And that’s fine you’re not supposed to, but we can think about ways.

So how are they doing? Do they want to come to Pub Choir with me? Like what you just suggested, that’s a great idea, or, you know, there’s a band playing, or I’ve got tickets to go to this thing, or the Medical Orchestra, like, there are things that we can do in the in the idea that that will either foster connection, or it will foster creativity and music, or both together, which is kind of like the Venn diagram of just amazing. So that’s important. And that can be something that without being uber dramatic, it can actually save lives.

And with that bearing in mind, we can actually connect that into what you’re doing in the classroom, because that, sure, it might be difficult to kind of feel like you’re doing that when you’re doing that with grade twos. But if you’re doing that with grade sixes, grade sevens, and if you’re starting to make those connections, even when you’re going into early, early high school, you know, grade 9,10,11, these are times when students are starting to really move as a developmentally, this is when we’re trying to get through the phases of who am I? As opposed to I am just attached to everyone around me? I am a part of my family unit.

Actually, no, I’m differentiating, I am not my parents, I am my own person. I am attached to my social group and that, but I’m not quite the same as them. I am my own person, and I need to be around them. And they define me but just part of me, but now they’re rejecting me, and how do I fit in with the world? And am I fat? Am I thin? Do the boys like me? It just becomes the weight of the world.

And we know this because we see students create these giant headphones that they basically cement onto the ear lobes, and they turn their music up ridiculously loud. And if we don’t sort of in some way, recognise that they’re doing this already, how do we encourage them to use this in some way, shape or form not to listen to music that makes them want to cut themselves? Because that’s using? I guess, it could be 30 seconds of CBT.

But that’s we all experience distress in life, all of us do? Do we cope with this in some way by by processing it in a way that is destructive? Ie listening to music that’s going to make us want to cut ourselves? Or do we listen to music that will help us be constructive? So when I talk to my patients about this, we’re trying to say what’s going to be constructive, what will be destructive? Destructive is I’m now going to eat through a half kilogram block of chocolate, constructive might be to say, well, I’m going to sit with a cup of tea and you know finding ways that are going to be more constructive than destructive.

And how do we do that, and helping students to understand the idea that actually, I really do feel happy if I sit and listen to my music, putting together a playlist, this is the playlist of things that actually helps me to feel happy. And great, you can be a guide to a playlist, this is 2023, we can do that. We can do Spotify, we can do iTunes, like there are ways we can do that. And that’s giving students an emotional and a creative language to use expression. That’s not just, I’m going to sit there and I’m going to watch Tik Tok with random things that come in that might be Aha, they might be, oh, there’s more proof that my body doesn’t look the way it’s supposed to.

There’s more proof that everyone’s got a boyfriend and I don’t, there’s more proof that everyone’s got beautiful makeup, and I don’t, you know, that’s not controlled, that might become more and more distressing. And next thing you know, you’re getting more reinforcement of your body dysmorphia, and it just goes down the toilet.

So there are ways that we can use music and art and expression to help people to actually tolerate this distress in a way that is constructive and channel the benefits of music and the benefits of these kind of things we’ve been talking about. So never underestimate the ways that you can start to role model and set examples for you know, I guess even just talking about in the classroom. I made a great playlist on the weekend, boys and girls, I did this and now you can start to drop little things in there, there’s always ways you can be doing this. So never underestimate the potential for revolution.

I love it, heal the world with music.

Ryan Williams
At least make the possibility for it. And you know, one brain at a time, one brain at a time. Oh well I guess you have a class of 27, so I guess 27 at a time, even if you just get one out of 27. That’s, that’s huge.

Ripples, that’s the other thing I often, I mean I know it’s cliche, but that ripple effect. I just think we can’t underestimate that either. That little change that we’ve made with that one child in that one class that can spread. That’s amazing. You’ve said some fabulous things I really love. I quickly wrote it down so I didn’t forget “if you’ve got connection and creativity and both together, that would be the Venn diagram of amazing”. Look, Ryan, I haven’t met you until tonight. And I know it was very cheeky of me to contact you and say, look, let’s do a podcast. But I am just absolutely delighted to have been able to speak to you and hear all of the things you’re saying that just, everything resonates, supports all of the things I believe it’s, I just feel really uplifted and inspired.

Ryan Williams
Excellent. Glad I can be part of that. Because you’re obviously doing a great thing yourself. Because you’re not, I’m not trying to blow air up your skirt or anything. But it is people like you and your listeners who we are part of the like, I like to think I was part of that too when I was in teaching.

We are not the arrive at five to nine, leave at five past three, we teach for five hours a day, and that kind of, you know, you’re obviously getting there before then, you get home and it’s nighttime now it’s getting those who aren’t, you know, it’s now 8.19 in the evening, and you’re still going creating music and working on things. So this is part of who you are and what you’re doing.

So you know, you’re you’re clearly somebody who’s living and breathing your passion and, and putting it into practice. It’s nice to also be part of chatting to and working with a like minded person who’s putting so much into what you are doing, I guess putting your money where your mouth is, there’s probably a better way of saying it. But it’s getting late, my brains shutting down. But I would like to affirm what you are doing and giving into the world by being passionate about music. So I appreciate what you’re doing. So well done to you.

Thank you very much, Ryan. Look, I’m gonna finish on this high note because it’s wonderful. I don’t know if I’ll be able to sleep now. But I would really like to chat to you again one day.

Ryan Williams
Have a chamomile tea.

I just might.

Ryan Williams
You deserve it. You absolutely do.

Oh, thank you. And so do you because you look like you’re still in your office.

Ryan Williams
Something like that. Yes. I’ve finished work here so once I’m done here, I’ll pack up and go home.

Thank you so much for giving us your time. And we are all much richer for having met you.

Ryan Williams
My pleasure. It wouldn’t have been, it needed to be a two way street. It wasn’t just me giving a lecture it was us going backwards and forwards; it takes two to podcast.

I like that. Thank you so much for being my podcast pal. Bye Ryan, thank you.

Ryan Williams


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

I have this irrational fear of over designed buildings.

It’s a complex, complex, complex.

Links Mentioned in the Episode:

“We’re all musicians … there’s no sense of hierarchies here.” – Featured on ABC News

Queensland Medical Orchestra & Choir

Where to find me:

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