Read the Episode #76 with Vaughan Fleischfresser, Part 2


Here is the Crescendo Music Education Podcast – Episode 76. Hello, I’m Debbie O’Shea and welcome back to the Crescendo Music Education Podcast. I’m going to continue my chat with Vaughan Fleischfresser and we are going to get a bit into the Seven Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R. Covey.

Now I just have to say a slight apology I guess, when I read out the seven habits, before we spoke a little about them, I actually used not the titles of the chapters, I actually used the headings of the summaries that I found with Mr. Google of each of the habits. So the list that I read is not actually the titles of the chapter, but just a summary of what the chapter is about in different words.

So what I’d like to do now before we get into it, is read you the titles of each of the seven chapters.

  • Habit 1 Be Proactive – focus and act on what you can control and influence instead of what you can’t.
  • Habit 2 Begin With the End in Mind – define clear measures of success and plan to achieve them.
  • Habit 3 Put First Things First – prioritise and achieve your most important goals instead of constantly reacting to urgencies.
  • Habit 4 Think Win-Win – collaborate more effectively by building high trust relationships.
  • Habit 5 Seek First to Understand, Then to Be Understood – influence others by developing a deep understanding of their needs and perspectives.
  • Habit 6 Synergiz – develop innovative solutions that leverage differences and satisfy all key stakeholders.
  • Habit 7 Sharpen the Saw – increase motivation, energy and work life balance by making time for renewing activities.

These are the names of the habits as it appears in the book, along with some brief descriptions. So having corrected that, or added that I guess, please enjoy the second half of my chat with Vaughan.

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 076 of The Crescendo Music Education Podcast is below.

Vaughan Fleischfresser on ‘Seven Habits of Highly Effective People’

I knew of you and we’d communicated through social media a little and then I met you in real life a few months ago at the Maryborough music conference, and I thought, Oh, look, this is serendipity I’m gonna ask if you’d like to have a chat on my podcast. So that’s how this came about.

However, in that session that you did at the conference, you spoke of the Seven Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R. Covey. And just for those people who maybe have not read it, and I have only read about half, I would have read it completely if I’d bought the audio book instead of the hardcopy because it’s the sort of book I consume the audio version of. But I bought this one in hardcopy, because I thought I think it’s going to be important. I just have difficulty finding time to read it, but I am loving it. I’m about halfway through.

So anyway, this has inspired me to go back, so those of you who haven’t read it or have read it, half like me, Stephen Covey distills timeless wisdom into seven lifelong practices for building a successful fulfilling life. And this was just a summary of the habits that I found on the net which you may put in different ways.

So Habit 1 was to take initiative. Habit 2 envision the life you want. Habit 3 prioritise important, over urgent, goodness, that’s hard to do in our job. When you get 100 emails a day in your work email, you know, how do you prioritise? Anyway, so back to the point, prioritise important over urgent. Habit 4 seek mutual benefits. Habit 5 listen and understand the other first, Habit 6 collaborate to create possibilities, and Habit 7 is practice self renewal. So up many, many people I listen to, many authors, many podcasters refer to these seven habits. So I’m really interested in how you relate these teachings to music education.

Seven Habits of Highly Effective People – Relating to Music Education

Vaughan Fleischfresser
Well, I’d never heard of this book until I did a Master’s of Music Education at VanderCook College of Music in Chicago in the North American system. I majored in concert band and minored in choir and the president of the college at the time, Charlie Menghini, who co authored the Essential Elements Method book, took one subject and the whole subject was based purely on this book.

And at first I thought, I’m going to study a whole subject based on one book. At that time, I thought, it’s one of the self help books, you know, what am I getting into? But then it really blew my mind. Now, yes, if you read the book, it’s based from the business perspective and it’s his experiences in the business world and it’s very Americanised in many ways. But the core skeleton and structure of what the book imparts, I think, is really, really beneficial not just to music teaching, but to professional life and personal life in general.

So I hadn’t really thought about it a lot until I ended up being the Teaching Fellow for music education at Edinburgh University. For a couple of years, I was the entire music education department at Edinburgh University. So I was teaching the students who wanted to go on to be music teachers, both secondary and primary. And so I was thinking about departmental planning, semester planning, term planning, unit planning, rehearsal planning and concert planning, dealing with colleagues dealing with difficult situations.

And I thought, well, this book kind of ticks every single box. So I went back to the book, I read it again, I thought about it from the perspective of music teaching, and the students I taught at Edinburgh University really latched on to it and then after, I’d start the year with it, and then throughout the year, I would be doing workshops or lectures, and then someone would yell out one of the habits because it pertained to exactly what we were talking about, or when I’d go out and watch them in the school doing their placements they’d say oh yes, habit, whatever.

And so it just became a real focal point for them to latch on to, in that really challenging period of becoming a music teacher. And then having spoken to a lot of them now in their second, third, fourth, fifth year of teaching how they return to those seven habits just to provide structure to thought, and planning and whatnot. So for me, I think one of the challenges we face in music education is the second habit for me, when I read the book, it was called Begin With the End in Mind. Now, what is the end that we want for our young people? And there’s so many different endpoints for music. And I think that’s the problem.

You know, there’s the the endpoint of if they don’t go on to choose music as a subject or the endpoint if they go on to study it in the final couple of years of high school, or if they then go on to study it at university, there’s all these different endpoints. And I think, for me, we need to begin with many different ends in mind, because the majority of young people we teach are actually the ones that don’t go on to choose music as a subject.

And you know, so what is the end that we are giving them? What are we setting them off into the world with? What’s their love of music? What’s their understanding of music, like? And then what’s the end? What does the end look like for those studying music? Do we want them to go on to get into The Con? Do we want them to study? Or do we just want them to have a more deeper understanding of music? So I think it’s really important as music teachers, because we’re always questioned, Why music?

Music isn’t important choose something else? Well, it is important, but I think sometimes we’re our own worst enemies, where we don’t focus on these different endpoints, we just get caught up in the drudgery of day to day teaching. So I think that’s a really important one. And also, when I come to advocacy, I use this a lot, the whole fourth habit Seek Mutual Benefits, when I was reading the book, it was Think Win-Win, every interaction has an outcome, you know, it’s either win/ win, lose/lose, win/lose or lose/win. And often when we’re fighting for what we know is right, we can go in too hard and we don’t get that win. It’s tied in really nicely with the next habit that Listen and Understand the Other First, which I know as Seek First to Understand, Then to be Understood.

There’s always a reason why music education is questioned and challenged, and usually it’s time, money and a lack of understanding. But it’s important that we understand where those people are coming from so that we can think win-win. And that takes some humility, it takes some give and take. So I think it’s really important from that advocacy perspective. And then also just providing the best opportunities for the people we teach, Habit Six Collaborate to Create Possibilities. Again, I was taught it was Synergize.

I must say the ones I read out is just a summary that I found.

Vaughan Fleischfresser
Oh, I see. Okay, right I’m with you.

It’s not the titles. Sorry.

Vaughan Fleischfresser
I thought the book had been updated since I read it.

No, so I should have put in the actual titles but I found this little summary and I just popped that in, so it’s a summarisation I guess.

Vaughan Fleischfresser
Sure. I think that collaborate to create possibilities. That’s the one of the amazing things about music, music is in schools, musics in the community, musics everywhere. And that was what I remember growing up, a great thing about growing up in Queensland was the school band would go out and perform in the community, you’d perform at the local markets or you’d go and perform in a nursing home or whatnot, that real connection with community, but also you’ve got wonderful organisations like the orchestras and local composers and all these wonderful things that can help to expose young people to the breadth of music education and the possibilities within music education.

I mean, I have spoken a lot at conferences in England at the moment where they’re looking at true inclusivity, what does that look like? And acknowledging the fact that band, choir and orchestra is very important, but that doesn’t capture everyone.

And as I like to say, a lot of the people who make careers out of music, learn the guitar in their garage, and then go on to make their own bands and music and tour the world and possibly haven’t even come into one of our classrooms or those who go on to become record producers and teach themselves on a computer at home, all of these possibilities, it’s something I think that we need to think outside the square to really capture everyone and to make sure that wherever the endpoint is, for those that we teach, it’s meaningful, and it sets them off into the world in a way that allows them to continue to engage with music for the rest of their life.

Because I hate to think that someone leaves my classroom and then that’s it. You know, if they leave school, that’s it, they they listen to music, maybe in the car, and that’s it, they don’t consume it, they don’t make it, they don’t think about it. That’s not what I want. So, yeah, that’s how I think the seven habits can be used. But again, if you’re thinking about planning a unit, what do you want them to know, by the end? What do you need to do along the way, think win-win.

So you know, pupil voice talking to the kids, what do they want, adding in what they “need” to know, listening to them thinking of creative ways. It’s just a wonderful format. And then the last one Sharpen the Saw, which is basically have fun, make sure that you’re not taking life too seriously, things like that. I think what we do also needs to be fun, we need to make sure that we don’t get burnt out.

Because when we’re burnt out the quality of experience that our young people have is not good. So I just think they’re a wonderful framework for almost every aspect of teaching. I really do and it can be applied to any situation, I think.

The Importance of Music on Health and Health on Music

I think it’s a brilliant idea to use that as the framework. And it’s so important. Oh, that self renewal, the sharpen the sword. I think that every music teacher listening should take a bit of note of that, because we so burn ourselves out, don’t we? I was just gonna say we do a much better job when we’ve had a good night’s sleep and we’ve taken time to eat well, and we’ve taken time to exercise.

Vaughan Fleischfresser
Very true. But I was just thinking the other night, I started to get back into conducting one of my community groups, the brass band, which in Scotland, they’re called Silver bands, and I went along to the rehearsal and I was tired, I think I’d been swimming all afternoon with my kids. I hadn’t had much sleep the night before.

And then I came out of that rehearsal. And I was just bopping down the street. I was walking on cloud nine and I was just reminded of that. I walked home that night and I just tweeted “The medicinal power of making music with other people is simply magical”. Headache – gone, blocked nose – gone, sore muscles – gone, lack of energy – gone, random worries – gone, emotionally drained – gone.

Making music together is so beneficial to our minds, bodies and souls. And I really think that. I remember once I was doing a gig at the Brisbane Convention Center and I had a migraine. When I get migraines, like that’s me done for a day, but it was a massive gig, it was again performing with Pete Murray. So the Convention Center was full of people, my parents were there and I’m like, I’m not missing this. So I was backstage with a cold towel on my head in the corner in the fetal position shaking and then I went out on stage performed for 45 minutes, migraine, what migraine? I felt perfectly fine, went back off stage and then it came back again. So as I say, “Music is better than paracetamol.”

Wow. That’s, that’s pretty amazing.

Vaughan Fleischfresser
Yeah. So I think in terms of that sharpen the saw, that’s why I come back to making music. Sing in a choir, play in a band. Yes, it takes time and effort to get there and do it but it’s like going to the gym, getting there is half the problem. But once you’re done you feel fantastic again, and again you’re talking about the emails and the pressures of daily life. I think sometimes with teaching music there are times when we can almost fall out of love with music because it becomes so much of a job so it’s important to remember those moments and those environments that made us fall in love with it in the first place.

Vaughan Fleischfresser’s Nuggets of Fabulous

Yes, that’s wonderful advice. Nuggets of fabulous time. I love my nuggets of fabulous and you must have so much up your sleeve there. Working with so many people in so many situations. Although you’ve already given us a really, well you’ve given me a really big tip. Like, I’m going to get back into these seven habits. And I think that’s a fascinating way to look at things. So there you’ve already given us one, there’s one. But you’ve got to have other little ideas, little bits of repertoire, or teaching tricks or whatever you like, that might interest all of our listeners.

Vaughan Fleischfresser
Sure. Well, unfortunately, they both involve money. But during the pandemic, over here in Scotland, we weren’t allowed to sing for about 15 months in primary schools.

Oh it’s so sad.

Teaching Online with MusicPlayOnline

Vaughan Fleischfresser
No singing at all. And that’s actually when I came to know your wonderful community and started to engage with it because I had to start creating videos because we had to provide online video lessons. So we didn’t do live teaching, I had to put together a 45 minute video lesson on iMovie. So I started to create lots of videos, I started to search the internet for possibilities and I’m sure you’re probably aware of this but I came across a website called Musicplayonline, which is from Canada, and Denise Gagne.

And so that was a saviour, an absolute saviour for me. And there are so many of these online music curriculum and resources popping up all over the place, which I think many of them have their place because they’re designed to help primary schools that don’t have any type of music specialist in them to help teachers to get that chance to engage in making music, but they’re quite limited in that fact. Whereas for me Musicplay, I still haven’t discovered everything on that.

And it’s kind of like the seven habits. It’s renewed my focus, it’s given me refreshed ideas, it’s reminded me of things that I have maybe forgotten, but it’s also helped me to think of things in different ways. But the thing I love about it, and I’m really passionate about this, for me with the kids we teach music needs to be a habit, not a special event.

So I’m really big on trying to get our kids to make music at home, to take the classroom home. You know, it’s like that flipped classroom idea. And so the thing I love about Musicplay is that kids can access it at home on any device they want, they can play the games, they can sing along to the songs, and it just expands the classroom. So I love that. And for me again, I’m not sure in Queensland, are they starting to bring iPads into schools?

Generally it is, our school has a one to one iPad from grade four up, some schools have iPads all the way through, some are going more laptops, but I think iPads are more common. Yes.

Teaching with GarageBand, iPads and Technology

Vaughan Fleischfresser
Right? Well for me GarageBand has been a game changer for me in my current role of teaching in primary schools. And yes I understand that it’s the privilege of having the iPad and the resources. But I know a lot more schools are starting to do this, this one to one rollout. I mean, even in my local council here, my daughter when she gets to grade four she’ll get her own iPad. And I have found GarageBand to be astonishingly eye opening in terms of being able to engage those kids that don’t necessarily learn an instrument outside of school. And for me, I have found it amazing in the terms of it allows young people to show a level of music understanding that you wouldn’t have known otherwise.

So I constantly think of these two boys that I just taught last year in grade six, who we started to use the iPads to compose blues melodies and Scottish melodies and just looking at different structures. So using the Apple Loops to create binary ternary rondo form using their own loops. And these two boys, I wouldn’t have thought, well until that point I didn’t know their level of music understanding because they hadn’t had the opportunity through this wonderful tool of GarageBand to truly show it.

These two boys who don’t learn any instrument wrote the best melodies, they understood structure the best, they showed it wonderfully, the way they were able to use structure and tambor and balance and all of these things was just astonishing. And I wouldn’t have known these things if it weren’t for the freedom of GarageBand to allow them to express their understanding in different ways.

So a real big nugget for me is embrace music technology. I mean, again, it involves money, and it involves upskilling, because a lot of us grew up in a time when these things didn’t exist. But if we’re trying to make music truly inclusive and engage everyone I mean, the possibilities there are just astonishing.

It is an amazing little program.

Vaughan Fleischfresser
Especially if you’re teaching Peter and the Wolf, you can get each kid to compose their own wolf with the French horn sound, and then the oboe sound, and then the bassoon sound. And then you can get them to create their own story through using their own motives that they create. I mean, that’s just one example. I get them to put in videos and create their own soundscapes to go along with pictures of pyramids for their pyramid thing.

When they do World War Two, I give them a silent film, which they create the soundtrack along to and then you put it into iMovie and they have their own World War Two film night with the soundtracks they’ve created along with the film. I mean, when you have iMovie and GarageBand combined, it’s I mean, that’s a real nugget for me.

They’re good ideas, ooh I like those. I use GarageBand a little but the problem is when you have children a half an hour a week only, it’s very difficult if you wish to also, I wish to do singing games, I wish to use solfa and aural development and then there’s the rhythmic development.

And then there’s let’s learn to play some chords on ukes, and let’s use some tuned percussion and, and, and, in 30 minutes. However I make time to make sure I do a little bit of GarageBand but boy, I feel I’d love to get into it more. And as for Musicplay, you’re actually one of the first people in the world to know this but Denise and I have set up a little deal, I’m actually now selling Musicplay membership through Crescendo for Australians.

Vaughan Fleischfresser
How wonderful.

And they actually get it a little bit cheaper buying it from me if they’re in Australia. So that’s exciting. And I’m only just starting to explore it. But I could not agree more about getting it so that the kids can access it. However, nothing replaces of course, a qualified music educator, but it’s great to have these support materials. And one of the things I love about Denise, which is one of the reasons why I support her and why we are so aligned basically, is that there’s good pedagogy behind it. There’s good sequence, there’s a good understanding about children and what they should do developmentally and so that’s what’s really excellent about Musicplay, I think. I just thought I’d add that little bit, because it is pretty special.

Vaughan Fleischfresser
Absolutley, she’s a force of a woman. I luckily met her in Canada when I was doing a talk over there and what a wonderful advocate and influence on music education. I mean, she’s a powerhouse.

She sure is. All power to her. Let’s hope she keeps doing this for another 20 years.

Vaughan Fleischfresser
Indeed. Yeah

Vaughan Fleischfresser on Music Advocacy

So that actually leads us nicely to advocacy. So here in Queensland, we’ve had issues with the loss of some music programs. And we’re working very hard on that. Some places in Australia do not have music educators. And I really think it’s important to tell the world that music education is important for our kids, and for every child, even if they aren’t going to be a professional musician, every child. I like with all of my guests to say, can I just get your perspective on how we can improve our advocacy?

Advocate by ‘Beating Your Own Drum’

Vaughan Fleischfresser
Sure. Well, I always say that if you want to see young people at their best watch them making music together. And so I think that we need to beat our own drum. I don’t think a lot of us are, I mean, it doesn’t take arrogance, but you have to be confident enough to say, Hey, this is what I’m doing and it’s bloody awesome. Yeah. And you need to take note of it. So I think it’s important to beat your own drum.

Advocate by Being Proactive

And then to come back to the seven habits, you know, you have to be very proactive, I think we need to try and immerse ourselves in every possible aspect of the school, engage with every other subject, engage with other teachers, perform everywhere possible, put on concerts, put on lunchtime listening clubs, you know, just make yourself indispensable, not just to the school, but to the kids.

Advocate by Involving Parents

And then I think it’s really important to involve parents at every opportunity. I think deep down most parents want their kids to have music, I think a lot of parents understand the importance of it, but they don’t necessarily know how to go about it and how to be vocal about it. So I think, you know, really getting the parents on side is important also. But I think coming back to the seven habits, I think you’ve got to be proactive, beat your own drum, get into every aspect of the school so they can’t get rid of you. But also think win-win, there has to be give and take.

Invariably, it’s always comes down to money. But for me, it costs more not to teach music than to teach it because the other problems that come up because the kids aren’t learning music outweigh the cost of actually providing it. But that’s another whole conversation. So you know, you need to think win-win, but also understand why what we’re doing is being challenged? Is it a lack of understanding, is it a lack of awareness of how what we do actually work? People think music is expensive, well, the voice is free, body percussions free.

There’s lots of amazing things that can be done without needing money and also that idea of synergize, that creative collaboration, again embed yourself into the community around you, because schools want to be connected to the community around them. They want good news stories. Again music is one of the first things to be taken away but it’s usually the first thing on the front of the prospectus or the advert online for the school.

So it’s this weird mix of getting everyone to understand where we fit but yeah, just beat your own drum and make yourself indispensable and let people see the young people making music because whenever the powers that be come to a concert they always go oh wow, that was amazing. Well yes, that amazing happens every day. So the more people can see that amazing, the more people can see young people making music, the more they get it. But sadly, it’s never gonna end. It’s a battle we’re always going to have. So it’s about having that passion and sharpening the saw so that you can keep the fight going.

Love it, and you’ve even brought in another habit too, I love it. And the beating the drum, I’m assuming that’s an intentional pun. No?

Vaughan Fleischfresser
Well, it’s just these things just come.

It just works, beating a drum. Yeah, I think music educators should beat their drum.

Vaughan Fleischfresser
Or blow your trumpet, whichever one you want.

Blow your own trumpet. But it’s true, too many of us are too quiet about the amazings things we do.

Vaughan Fleischfresser

Because we don’t want to come across as arrogant. But you know, there’s a way to do it without being arrogant and it’s about celebrating the kids. If you come in there and go Do you know what they can do? So it’s not so much about you, positioning from the advantages and the wonderfulness of the students.

Vaughan Fleischfresser
Yep. Let the students do the talking for you, or the performing. As I say, the more people see kids perform, the more they just realise the wonder of it. So that’s my advice. There’s no one right answer, but I think it’s about that proactiveness and just showing the world what we do, because what we do is awesome.

Wonderful, and it is. Full stop. It is. Good heavens, we’re up to our soapbox bit.

Vaughan Fleischfresser’s Soapbox

Vaughan Fleischfresser
Nice, I like a good soapboax.

Well, I think that Twitter,sorry X. Are you still on it, even though it’s called X?

Vaughan Fleischfresser
Yeah, I’ll always refer to it as Twitter. I’m currently deciding if I should change the logo on my presentations. But I think people will think why has he got a weird X on his page. It’s um, yes. It’ll be Twitter for the foreseeable future?

I think so. I think so. And I think your presentations need to have the little bluebird because that’s where it all happened. You know?

Vaughan Fleischfresser
Well, exactly.

For you.

Vaughan Fleischfresser
It’s so much more friendly than an X. It’s more inviting than an X. Anyway I’m not a graphic designer.

Yeah, but what I mean, is your soapbox is sort of Twitter in a way. Because it’s almost like when you tweet out your thoughts, you are a bit on your soapbox, but I like to say at the end of my chats with amazing people like you, is to finish off this interview, you get to tell the world something that’s really important for you to say. So I’ll leave you on your soapbox.

Remembering the Importance of Living in the Moment & Living Life to the Fullest

Vaughan Fleischfresser
I think it’s quite simple. You know, we’re only here once and every moment is precious. And that’s really been brought home to me during the pandemic, sadly my only brother died at the age of 41 and I had to watch his funeral on zoom from Scotland. It just reminded me of the preciousness of life and the one moment you’re here the next moment you’re not.

And then if we think about that in a teaching perspective, I always say to the kids, Happy Wednesday, and they go Happy Wednesday, and I say, you know, how’s your Wednesday been? I say, Well, it’s been the best Wednesday this week, you know, it’s the only Wednesday we get. And I think when we talk about getting bogged down in work and the challenges we have, you only get today, once you only get that 30 minutes with your class on that one day once, and then it’s gone. You know, I think we need to grab every moment by the horns and just make the most of it.

And I think we need to remember that every moment we spend with our young people could be the moment that makes them fall in love with music for the rest of their life, or makes them fall out of love with music for the rest of their life. And so for me, we’re only here once, every moment is precious, and we need to make the most of it. Because as we know, it was just one moment for each of us possibly that set us on this wonderful path to being a music teacher, or whatever we did.

Again, as I say a lot of the people we teach don’t go on to be successful musicians, but they go on to be successful people. And it’s because of these moments that they have with us. And so, my soapbox is, just live life to the fullest. Make every lesson like it could be the lesson that changes a kid’s life. Just enjoy the ride.

That is a fabulous way to finish. Thank you so much for giving us your time Vaughan.

Vaughan Fleischfresser
My absolute pleasure. Thank you so much for the invitation.


Vaughan Fleischfresser
Bye bye.


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 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 just burned 2000 calories.

That’s the last time I’ll leave brownies in the oven while I have a nap.

Links Mentioned in the Episode:

MusicPlay Online for Australians through Crescendo Music Education

Find the MusicPlay Online Website HERE.

Vaughan’s Works:

How to follow Vaughan on Social Media:

Where to find me:

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