Read the Episode with Vaughan Fleischfresser, Part 1

Introduction

Here is the Crescendo Music Education Podcast – Episode 75. Hello, I’m Debbie O’Shea and welcome to this Crescendo Music Education Podcast. This is part one of my chat with Vaughan Fleischfresser, we talk about quite a few things.

We start off as usual with his biography and hear a little about what he’s done. And interestingly about his fame, through Twitter, and many of you would have seen his social media posts where he talks about the importance of music education. I loved having a chat to Vaughan. Sit back and enjoy part one.

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 075 of The Crescendo Music Education Podcast is below.


Introducing Vaughan Fleischfresser

Debbie
Hello, and welcome to Vaughan Fleischfresser from where are you now? Edinburgh?


Vaughan Fleischfresser
Yeah well just south of Edinburgh. Yeah, I say Edinburgh. Yes.


Debbie
Okay. Well welcome from the other side of the world to the Crescendo Music Education Podcast. It is a delight to be chatting to you.


Vaughan Fleischfresser
Well thanks very much for having me. It’s a real pleasure to be with you.


Debbie
Yay, like from your old stomping grounds here in Australia. I like to start by reading a biography. And then we can just launch from there. So here is a little bit of background on Vaughan for all of my lovely listeners. Originally from Australia, and now residing in Scotland. Vaughan has taught from primary through to university level instrumental through to community music, and everywhere in between. Makes me think of that song Vaughan like (sings) I’ve been everywhere man.


Vaughan Fleischfresser
Yes, that is quite accurate. Yes.


Debbie
It does read a bit like this. He currently teaches at the Edinburgh Academy and he conducts the Peebles. Is it pronounced Peebles?


Vaughan Fleischfresser
Yep. Peebles. Yes.


Debbie
It’s a very cute name. Peebles.


Vaughan Fleischfresser
It is, it’s a very lovely little town. Yes.


Debbie
The Peebles Concert Band and People’s Burgh Silver Band. In addition to this Vaughn is in great demand as a clinician, adjudicator, composer and educational speaker. Having spoken at conferences in Australia, Scotland, England, South Africa, and Canada. So back to you Vaughn, now listening to this, obviously your very brief bio, what would you like to add?


Vaughan Fleischfresser
Well, I think I’ve been very fortunate to travel the world and to live and work in different places. And with that, I’ve had to become quite versatile, I think, to be able to make it wherever I’ve been at the time that I’ve been there. So I think the thing I’ve really enjoyed the most about my career is just the versatility that I’ve seen in the breadth of experience that I’ve had.

I mean, I remember in one school, one minute, I was teaching kindergarten at nine o’clock, and then I was teaching year 12, at 10 o’clock. You know, a few years ago, I was teaching grade one on a Monday and then university students on a Tuesday. On a Wednesday I conduct a beginner band in the afternoon, and then come home and conduct a a community band. I think in terms of my career, the real highlight for me, and just something to add is I’ve really seen the whole student journey from 3 to 93, as I like to say, and it’s yeah, it’s been a real pleasure.


Debbie
Yes. And not many of us get to work with that huge age range. So that is something special to see the whole journey. It would be hard I imagine, a bit difficult. But would you have a sort of a favourite level to teach?


Vaughan Fleischfresser’s Favourite Level to Teach

Vaughan Fleischfresser
Well, yes and that’s changed throughout my career. You know, when I was in secondary teaching, I loved teaching. Well, at that stage, when I left Australia, grade eight was still the first high school year and I loved teaching those first years of high school because I am always of the opinion that that’s kind of one of the last points we’ve got to capture them before they can be lost to their adolescence and their interests.

So I always loved teaching that year level. And then when I moved into primary, I absolutely loved the youngest ones because I thought what a privilege this is for some of them you are their very first ever experience of not just formal education, but potentially music education. So yeah, I have to say whichever phase I’m teaching in the very start of that phase I think is my favourite because it’s a well you know, you don’t build a house from the roof down you build it from the foundations.


Debbie
I could not agree more and I agree it’s an absolute privilege to be part of laying those foundations. Because whatever is laid there, it’s there permanently. So if we can do a good job there that’s wonderful. And it also sounds like you’re never bored.


Vaughan Fleischfresser
No, no, I like to keep busy. Well as I I always say it’s better to be busy than bored. Except I’m coming to the end of a seven week holiday with two young children. So I wish I was bored rather than busy. But yes, I think that’s the beauty of music teaching is that it’s a lifelong endeavour, learning music.

And so there’s so many wonderful opportunities and wonderful experiences to have. I think whilst many of us specialise in different areas, I think to understand that people journey into, we call it pupil in Scotland rather than student, to experience that at every step along the way, it really helps you to, to inform what you’re doing.

And to you know, we’ll talk about the seven habits later on, you know, begin with the end in mind, you know, where do we want our young people to end up, what experiences do we want them to have with music when they get into adulthood and all of these things? So, yeah, I think it’s important to dip your toes in every aspect of music education, because it helps to inform the one that you’re doing at that point in time.


Debbie
That’s a great philosophy, I love it. And I have witnessed over my career some music educators who focus a little too much on the subject, rather than the child. I mean, we all need to, goodness, we need to be well trained in our subject and our pedagogy I know that. But we cannot lose sight of the child and the journey. Because the rest is irrelevant if the child and the journey is not taken care of first. So that’s a great reminder for us all, you know, keep your eye on that. I love it. Thank you Vaughan.


Vaughan Fleischfresser
My pleasure.


Vaughan Fleischfresser’s Highlights of His Journey

Debbie
What would you consider the highlight or highlights of your journey? Your very varied journey as a musician educator?


Vaughan Fleischfresser
Well, I’ve had many wonderful highlights. And it’s interesting you say as a composer, I’ve only become a composer of late. I mean, obviously teaching composing. I think it’s important to compose music, and I’m very big on improvisation in the classroom. You know, for me that’s obviously real time composing.

And so I think my highlight was having my first piece of beginner concert band music published by Brolga Publishing, I never thought that would happen. But as I conducted more and more beginner concert bands, you know, there’s only a certain amount of repertoire one can find that uses five notes. The more I conducted young bands, the more I’d be driving and then random little tunes would come into my head, and I started to put them down.

And yes, I’ve got a couple of pieces published for beginner concert band, which is a real highlight. In terms of a musician I’m a saxophonist by trade and so I’ve had some wonderful experiences playing the saxophone. And again, from a music teaching perspective, I think it’s really important that we as music teachers continue to make music ourselves to continue to be in groups, to continue to create our own music, because that keeps us connected with what we’re doing with our young people.

So when I was in Australia, I was lucky enough to get to perform with Pete Murray, the singer/songwriter and I got to record on some of his albums. Over here in the UK, I’ve been lucky to perform in some very, very big music festivals. But then for me, the biggest highlight has really been using my saxophone to connect with people all over the world.

You know, I tell the story when I first moved to Scotland I was here for two days, and I knew no one other than my girlfriend at the time who I moved here with, and I went to the Edinburgh Jazz Bar and went to a jam night, instantly made friends. The next night, I went to a community wind band rehearsal, instantly made friends. So having that ability to use music to connect with people all over the world, I think has been a real highlight for me, in addition to the others.


Debbie
Now that’s also pointing to the power of music, isn’t it? That’s amazing. I didn’t fully know about your compositions there. So I’ll get you to email me the link to those and we’ll pop them in the show notes. Because all of my instrumental music colleagues, I know they’re always looking for beginner band pieces, like you said. Really when they’ve got their first five notes, and you’ve got them together as a band going Oh, my goodness. And sometimes there’ll be a popular one, and you’ll hear every junior band playing it.


Vaughan Fleischfresser
Smiling through gritted teeth.


Debbie
So thank you, I know it’s a much needed area. So we’ll put the links in the show notes for that. That would be fabulous. We’ll look into that. And I do like to ask my guests about gratitude, because I think that’s an important part of staying connected to the human and educator journey. Is there anything you’d like to say about personal gratitude and professional?


What Vaughan Fleischfresser is Grateful For

Vaughan Fleischfresser
Well, I always think that whenever I’m adjudicating at a festival, or whether I’m comparing a concert or a festival, I cannot thank parents enough. When I think of gratitude, I instantly think of my parents and what they sacrificed to give me the music education that I had. I mean, as I keep saying to everyone around the world, in Queensland we are so lucky to have the music education system that we have.

I mean, the ease that a young person can learn an instrument in school is world class, but my parents went above and beyond that, they got me private lessons. They bought me every piece of music I needed, they bought me every instrument that I needed. And then to think I got to that stage in early high school where I didn’t want to practice and you know I was shouting at my parents for making me practice. I think I even told my Mum once that I hated her for making me practice.

And now, you know, I cannot thank her enough. I mean, I was just in Australia recently visiting them and the number of times I said thank you to them, you know, I lost count, because it’s one of those things where when you come out the other side, and you realise that it’s your thing, and the impact it can have on every aspect of your life. I mean, what parents go through and sacrifice to give their children a music education is immense.

And then just I think in terms of professional gratitude, I think the whole music education community around the world is just a wonderful community. You know, everyone looks out for each other. Everyone wants the best for the young people that we get to impart our passion on and so I think I’ve just been incredibly grateful to everyone I’ve met.

I mean, I’ve been very lucky to travel the world and everywhere I’ve gone, you know, that music, that love of music is a real wonderful connector and a real inspirer to make a difference. So yeah, I’d have to say parents and colleagues are my two gratitudes.


Vaughan Fleischfresser’s Connection to Queensland

Debbie
I love it. I love it. And yes, so understandable. And you mentioned about the Queensland program. Before we go on to the next thing that I would like to talk about. Can I just ask you about Queensland and your schooling here? And did you come up through the state school system? Can you give us a bit of a background on that one.


Vaughan Fleischfresser
Sure. I grew up on a farm just outside of Kingaroy. Three and a half hours inland from Brisbane, I was to be a fifth generation farmer. But my parents encouraged me to follow music. So I went to Kumbia State School and at that time there wasn’t an instrumental teacher there. I know now the instrumental teacher from Kingaroy goes out to Kumbia.

But we had a fife band, one of a few fife bands that were in the state of Queensland. So there was about 30 of us with our fifes marching around the parade ground with a couple of kids on drums. So that was my first experience of an instrument. And then my parents wanted us to learn an instrument. So we learnt the saxophone. And then I went on to Kingaroy High School for years eight, nine and ten.

So I learnt there in group lessons and played in all the bands. And then I wanted to become a music teacher, I decided that at the early age of grade seven, and unfortunately, in my year eleven year at Kingaroy High School not enough people had chosen music for it to be offered as a subject. So my parents, I come back to gratitude, they somehow managed to send me to St. Peter’s Lutheran College in Indooroopilly for year 11 and 12, I went to boarding school.


Debbie
They have a very big music program, don’t they?


Vaughan Fleischfresser
Yeah. So I went there. And then I was able to go to QIO on Friday nights, and, you know, tap into the young conservatorium program and all of that through those two years at St. Peter’s. Then I went on to QUT and did a music degree there, then an education degree. And I started at Coorparoo Secondary College. That’s where I started out for my first few years of teaching. And then I started on my travels.


Vaughan Fleischfresser’s Experience on Twitter/X

Debbie
Wow. Well, it’s so nice to be speaking to a fellow Queensland trained person that’s lovely. Now I would like to talk, Twitter.


Vaughan Fleischfresser
Or X as it’s now called.


Debbie
Sorry, yeah, I’d like to talk X.


Vaughan Fleischfresser
I’m happy for you to keep calling it Twitter. I think it’s, anyway, that’s another conversation.,


Debbie
Yeah a different conversation. But it was certainly Twitter when you became I’m going to use air quotes “known more widely” and most music educators have probably seen your thoughts, somewhere shared on the socials. Like, how did that all happen? You know, like, there’s a picture of your face. It’s a white background. And it’s text, you know as someone who loves playing with graphic design and social media posts, and anyone who’s seen the Crescendo stuff, I have my watercolours and all my pretty pretty things you know? And here’s Vaughan with his white background and his black text, saying what lots of us think. I mean, actually, I think that’s probably what it’s actually all about, is you’re just saying, what we think. I’m probably oversimplifying that.


Vaughan Fleischfresser
No.


Debbie
So tell us all about Twitter?


Vaughan Fleischfresser
Well it’s been a fascinating experience, and quite a bizarre one, to say the least. But to come back to what you said, I think the reason why it’s gone the way it has is because of that, that idea that I seem to just say what people think. And that’s been the most humbling thing, the number of people who have just said everything I write just seems to resonate with them. And if my English teacher knew now that I was being known for writing in English, if only my assignments were 240 word characters or less, I mean.

I started on Twitter in 2011 just for no other reason than it was something to check out and then it turned into just my newspaper, and I only followed news channels. I didn’t really tweet at all but then I’ve moved around a lot. I’ve moved from Australia to Scotland, Scotland to America, America to Scotland, Scotland back to Australia, Australia back to Scotland and with my name, and with my broad experiences to many people, I appear to be a made up person. And so the second time I moved to Scotland, I was finding it hard to get a job back in teaching, I’d moved back at a strange time, you know, I think I’d maybe moved one too many times.

And I did start to appear to be a made up person. So I just was in a period where I was missing teaching terribly. And I just wanted to express my love of teaching and to try and make people aware that I was in fact, a real person with real thoughts. Because in the UK and America, Twitter is very big for education. It’s a really, it’s probably the main way that educators connect and share their work and whatnot. So when I realised that I thought, Well, why not? I’m just gonna start putting my thoughts out into the universe and see what happens.

And, you know, not a lot happened. But then people started to meet me and started to read my thoughts and it started to build and then one night, a couple of years ago, I tweeted, one tweet I call my alternate universe tweet. It was ‘the music department is an alternate universe where pupils are often unrecognisable from who they are outside of it, the shy become confident, the agitated become calm, the lonely become included, the quiet become heard, and the lost become found. Music reveals the real child’.

And so I tweeted that one night, went to bed, and I woke up the next morning, and I had gone, I believe the word is viral. I had friends from all over the world contacting me saying, Vaughan, you need to check your Twitter, you need to check your Facebook, you’re everywhere. And that kind of set it off on the path that it is now where you know, I think I’m nearly coming up to 10,000 followers on Twitter, I’ve got two and a half I think on Facebook, it’s just really really bizarre but also humbling.

Classic FM now share my thoughts and lots of other big music education and music websites share my thoughts. People are sending me pictures of all of my quotes on their music department wall or their door or their staff room wall, it’s been pretty crazy. But it’s very humbling. It just goes to show how important music is to people, and how important music education is to people and how passionate music educators are about what we do, and the benefit of it and the importance of it.

I was doing a podcast for someone in America once and they asked me, you know, do you realise the responsibility that you have now and the kind of power that you have now and I went it’s not lost on me. You know, before I tweet anything, I sit there and I think about it for ages, you know, because it’s read by a lot of people and it means a lot to a lot of people. So yeah, it’s been a crazy journey, but a nice one to meet and connect with a lot of people get to speak to people like yourself, and yeah, it’s it’s been a wonderful journey.


Debbie
It’s a lovely story, thank you Vaughan.


Sign-Off

I appreciate you and all of my colleagues, and hope this episode has been enjoyable and useful. Don’t forget, you’ll find the show notes on crescendo.com.au. I’d love a share rate or review to help other music educators find this podcast. All I can be is the best version of me. All you can do is be the best you. Until next time, bye.


Just for Laughs

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

I once heard this really good joke about amnesia. But I forgot how it goes.


Links Mentioned in the Episode:

MusicPlay Online for Australians through Crescendo Music Education

Find the MusicPlay Online Website HERE.

Vaughan’s Works: https://www.brolgamusic.com/composer/vaughan-fleischfresser

How to follow Vaughan on Social Media:

Where to find me:

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