Intentional Collaboration with Deb Brydon

Introduction

In this episode of the Crescendo Music Education podcast, I’ll chat with Deb Brydon about intentional collaboration. She’s an amazing music educator, and I get to work with her all the time. In fact, I wonder if she doesn’t sometimes get a little bit sick of me, but she puts up with me, we get a lot of really amazing work done together.

I love bouncing ideas off her and you get to hear a little bit about her journey as a music educator. And we start to talk with each other about the way we work together, about intentional collaboration, and how one plus one equals a lot more than two.

About ‘Read the Episode’: Sometimes, we would rather skim visually instead of listening to a podcast! That’s a great way to learn too! The transcript to episode 021 of The Crescendo Music Education Podcast is below.

Debbie and Deb Brydon at Parliament House after the Kodály National Conference in Canberra, 2022.

Episode 21 “Read the Episode” Transcript

Debbie
Hello, Deb Brydon. Welcome to the Crescendo Music Education podcast.

Deb Brydon
Thanks for having me. I’m excited.

Debbie
It’s about time, isn’t it?

Deb Brydon
I reckon, I was feeling left out?

Debbie
No, no, it’s just circumstances because anybody who knows the work that Crescendo does, and that I do, it’s often attached to Deb Brydon, the way it works, one plus one equals more than two. Hey, Deb.

Deb Brydon
Correct.

Deb Brydon’s Biography

Debbie
All right. I’m going to start reading just the short version of your bio. Okay, so for those people who aren’t fortunate enough to know you, I’ll just give you a bit of a background. So Deb Brydon is a primary music specialist who has taught music for over 20 years, been an accredited do-rei-me early childhood teacher and worked as a Senior Project Writer with the Department of Education’s Curriculum into the Classroom project, C2C affectionately known as C2C.

Deb has been the Project Coordinator for Kodály Queensland’s DVD Projects, including Musical Beginnings, Middle Years Music Education and Step Up with Music. She holds an Australian Kodály Certificate (Early Childhood), is an Honorary Life Member of Kodály Australia, and is currently President of Kodály Queensland. In 2020 Deb was nationally accredited as a Highly Accomplished Teacher by AITSL.

She lives on Yagara Country with her husband and three children. So in a nutshell, that is Deb and before I even ask you what else to add, I think I’ll make sure I put in the show notes, a link to those great Kodály resources. Tell us a tiny bit about them.

Intentional Collaboration

Deb Brydon
I was going to talk about these later in my pre-prepared answers. However, of course, our fabulous look, this is something that I’m most proud of in my work and I guess my work with Kodaly Queensland, is the collaborations to make these three DVDs.

  • Musical Beginnings, which is for prep to grade oneish, it’s 50 songs and rhymes with videos snipped, showing actual children doing them along with some teacher resources as well.
  • Music in the Middle Years: Middle Years Music Education, MIMI affectionately known as, and that’s for grades five to nine, the sort of middle years of schooling, once again, I think there’s 35 videos, 35 songs and activities and things to do with them and, and lots and lots of teacher resources. It’s a CD ROM in effect, or a USB these days.
  • Step Up with Music, which is grades two to four, once again, video, snips of children doing the games and activities and lots and lots of teacher resources, more teacher resources as we went on. So that’s them in a nutshell, and you can get them on Kodály Queensland’s website.

Debbie
They’re so practical. They’re so real and so useful. Stuff you can just print off and individual beat cards and a lot of great stuff, but we can get back to them again. So is there anything else that you’d like to add to that brief bio?

Deb Brydon
No, that’s me.

Debbie
You in a nutshell, yeah. Okay. What would you consider the highlight or highlights of your journey as a music educator? Because like me, you actually didn’t start out as a music educator, we sort of found our way not directly out of college as it was then, not University.

Deb Brydon
It was University for me. It became University halfway through my degree.

Debbie
Okay. All right. You youngun. Okay. Yeah. So, tell us about your journey as a music educator and what was a highlight?

Deb Brydon’s Highlights & Journey as a Music Educator

Deb Brydon
Well, I think there are sort of two categories in here. That’s, I guess, the personal highlights, and I think they come every day. They’re little things that need to be highlighted, and you know, I think that we should highlight them ourselves to ourselves and to other people. But you know, that’s the things that keep us going. So there are little things that happen every day, little moments with each child, with different children, not each child every day of course, and then some are a bit bigger.

For me, one of them’s been a child who was a selective mute. Who I had, I’m sure I’ve told you this story before Debbie, who I had in prep. And every single time I saw this child, I sang hello to them, as I do to every child in prep, and they sing ‘Hello Mrs. Brydon’ back, and this child just smiled every time, never sang, never spoke, never whispered, anything.

The whole of prep, halfway through grade one, same thing, nothing, nothing, nothing. And then I said, who would like to go first? We were singing ‘Hey, Hey, Look at Me.’
I asked, “Who would like to go first to come out the front, sing the song with their action, and everyone copy them” and she put her hand up, and I nearly fell over! And I nearly didn’t ask her because I thought she was gonna get up and freak out. I thought no, I will. She has put her hand up, she wouldn’t normally.

She came out and sang perfectly beautifully, clearly. And it was just, I had tears in my eyes, that is a personal highlight that, you know, you don’t always know what’s going in, more is going in then is always obvious in their faces or in whatever is going on. And obviously, all of that in-tune singing was going in and was being internalised and then it came out finally, after a year and a half.

Debbie
That’s magic.

Deb Brydon
You know that’s a career highlight for me.

Debbie
Yeah, it so is, and you think that’s a highly visible one, isn’t it? And when you think that that represents many invisible ones, doesn’t it?

Deb Brydon
That’s right, it certainly does. You know, and those sort of things happen all the time that the child with ASD who joins in, you know, for the first time or not for the first time, but who joins in consistently, when that’s a struggle for them, or has been in the past and the relationships that are built, those things are the highlights for me.

But then I guess to go a bit bigger, the career highlights seriously, for me, it’s about working with other people. So the Kodály Queensland DVDs that I already talked about, it’s not just about the product for me, as having been part of the process. It’s about the teamwork, and the people that I collaborated with, on those projects, and the hours of grit and determination and, you know, and supporting each other through that, and having a product that we seriously are proud of and that I know is really useful and I personally use. You know, that’s a career highlight.

Two other little ones, not little ones, very big ones. My Honorary Life membership with Kodály Queensland was a career highlight for sure because I really believe in Kodály music education, I believe in the networks that we create together and the amazing things that we can do together, and of course, getting my HAT, my Highly Accomplished Teacher, because once again, that was a lot of hard work to submit that application and you know, it’s it’s nice to be recognised for that.

Debbie
Yes, they are definitely highlights worth celebrating because they are a lot, a lot, a lot, a lot of work all of those things totally. It does take grit, determination, tenacity.

Deb Brydon
Yeah. It needs other people. You can’t do these things alone.

Debbie
Like, well, you might be able to do one if you spent your entire life doing it. But you know, doing it by yourself, it probably wouldn’t be as great because all of those minds contributing, not that your mind is not good Deb. In fact, a theme through this whole podcast episode will be intentional collaboration, because you and I do so much together and I wanted to make that the theme of our first podcast together.

I’m sure there’s going to be many more. But before we get on to the intentional collaboration, can you tell us about a person or people that have been influential in your life professional or personal or both?

The Most Influential People in Your Life

Deb Brydon
Well, I’ll start with the personal and that’s my parents. You know, I’ve been blessed with fabulous parents who you know, were stable and had fabulous parents themselves,and were equipped to love us and to look after us in a great way. But not only that, to provide an example of living a life of service, they were both heavily involved in their church and other committees. They have always been on a variety of committees Blue Care, or whatever it was back then, blue, something else, I can’t think of the word. Lifeline, you know, my dad was involved from the, you know, early days of Lifeline and Drug Arm all these sorts of committees that they’re involved in.

And even now, my Mum’s the president of the historical society, that my Dad was the president of before her, it’s that life outside yourself that is very influential to me and, you know, I guess that’s why I’ve been on the Kodály committee for so long, because that’s what was modeled to me. It comes back to you know, that saying, to whom much is given, much will be required. And I really feel that that means that I’m responsible to do something with what I’ve been given, and the start that I’ve had in life, and so and not just for myself, but to benefit other people.

Intentional Collaboration

So moving into the professional sphere though, look, I have to say you Debbie, because you were my first pedagogy teacher, methodology teacher in my Australian Kodály certificate when I was a classroom teacher, and really had absolutely no idea what music teaching was about.

Debbie
What made you start your Kodály training? And then you can get back to telling me how great I was.

Deb Brydon
Okay. Well I was a classroom teacher in Charters Towers in North West Queensland, which is a relatively small place, and they were having trouble getting a music teacher, and they said, “Oh Deb, you play the piano, so you can be the music teacher, are you interested?”

And I said, ‘Well, look I am,’ because I actually had always wanted to be a music teacher and thought that would come later after some further study. So I said to them, “Look, I am interested and a good friend of mine was the music teacher, the other music teacher in town.” So I knew I had some support there. But I said, look, “I need to do something, some sort of training.” And a brochure came on my desk for Kodály, the Kodály certificate summer course, so I went and did it. So I did Kodály one before I started teaching that year.

So you know, look, at least the grade ones and twos had a good, a good start that year, the grade fives and sixes and sevens as it was back then look, I’ll be honest, what I was doing was probably pretty average. But, you know, they got by, and I got better as time went on I hope.

So back to you. I just wanted to do what you did. I just, I was inspired seeing you do those activities and games and songs and talk about the pedagogy. I was inspired. It made sense to me and I just wanted to do it. So yeah, and you know, of course, there have been other ways you’ve been influential along the way but that was the key moment for me.

And there have been so many other music educators who’ve influenced my life, and you almost don’t want to mention them because there really seriously are so many.

Debbie
Of course, you don’t want to miss any out.

Deb Brydon
Yes and so if I miss you out, like really I do appreciate all of the people that I come in contact with. But I do want to highlight a couple:

  • Marie Hennessy, I had the privilege of being on the Kodály committee with her but then also of working at C2C with her for six months sharing a desk, which was just fabulous. She inspired me and continues to inspire me to think bigger than music education, to think outside music education, and how that impacts on music. Things like other educational theorists and how their work and research can impact on music teaching. I think that’s really something I’ve really learnt from her is to look outside and widen, I guess my the influences on my pedagogy.
  • I can’t not mention Judy Johnson, who has been fabulous in so many ways along the years.
  • Celia Dodds and Debbie Wilson, who I worked very closely with on the first DVD project and who taught me about teaching the whole child and understanding what’s going on for little people in the classroom, especially early years kids and and not just the music side of things.
  • Wendy Rolls who I’ve worked on the other DVD projects with as well who, we both know is absolutely the epitome of fabulousness and organisation and stationery and fonts. She is is my font go to person.

Debbie
The font queen.

Deb Brydon
Yeah, absolutely. My style guide.

Debbie
She’s actually a bit scary, scary intelligent too.

Deb Brydon
She’s extremely intelligent.

Debbie
Yeah, as are these other people you mentioned.

Deb Brydon
All of them, oh my goodness. Cast of stars.

Debbie
Yeah, I just want to hang around them so some of their smarts will rub off on me.

Deb Brydon
Absolutely, and it does.

Debbie
Yeah, I agree. I want to get down to this intentional collaboration.

Deb Brydon
Oh hold on, I forgot one other thing.

Debbie
Okay, quick.

The Importance of Great Administrators

Deb Brydon
I had another dot point written down, administrators at my school. Now this seems like a strange thing but I have had, and still have, some fabulous line managers over the years, deputies and principals, whatever. One in particular, Jodie, when I was working on my HAT portfolio was really encouraging and helped me to see my own potential.

The influence that these people have positively or negatively is quite amazing. When they are encouraging and affirming and give you a little bit of space to try things, you know, fabulous things happen.

The Importance of Great Administrators
The Importance of Great Administrators

Debbie
Yeah. Do you know what, that’s a really important message if any school administrators are listening to this podcast! Hey, you’re gonna make sure Jodie does at least.

Deb Brydon
Yeah, I’ll let her know.

Debbie
But really, these people have the power to make or break our careers.

Deb Brydon
Totally.

Debbie
You know, they are leaders and should be good leaders, everything that a good leader is that is supporting and empowering others. And when you get a school leader that is not a leader in any way it is not only damaging for the children at the school, but for the whole staff. Their job is so important.

Deb Brydon
I think, you know, we can’t underestimate or overestimate, whichever one it is, I don’t know. I want to know which one it is now. We can’t overestimate the importance of just that little email saying thanks for doing that. That was fabulous. You know, that really is important. And administrators who do that or us who do that too, for children or for other staff members? It has a huge impact.

Debbie
It does. And you know it reminds me of that old saying, you know, you catch more flies with honey than, was it lemon?

Deb Brydon
Whatever else?

Debbie
Yeah, something yucky. So you just want to, you know I have the best administrators in the world at the moment. And I don’t think I could work any harder. But if I could, I would.

Deb Brydon
Yeah, totally, I’m in the same position. And I really, I know how amazing that is, and how unfortunately rare it can be, to be in that position and I’m really appreciating it. And you know, where I am now and where I was last year, and for the previous 20 years, was the same. And so, you know, I feel really blessed.

Debbie
You certainly have been a bit privileged to only have had that.

Deb Brydon
There have been some relieving ones in there that I have to tell you. I won’t talk about publicly but oh, gee, there have been tears.

Debbie
You and I personally, because we have large networks, and we do PD, etc. We have come across many people and I’m not, obviously we’re not going to name them, who have been literally forced out of their job because of the way they have been treated.

I think a certain amount comes from believing in yourself and the power of what you do. But that will only go so far. If you have got someone with the big stop hand up there, that is down on music or down on you personally, or wanting to get you out of the school. Like doesn’t matter how good you are? Or how how much you believe in what you do.

Deb Brydon
Tenacity you have.

Debbie
You know, it’s it’s not gonna work. You know, I’ve been basically forced out of a job, I sort of jumped before it got too bad. You know, it happens to everybody. But boy, administrators get your act together. You’re really powerful.

Deb Brydon
Thanks to those that have already got their act together.

Debbie
Yeah, we appreciate you very much but it also affirms, reaffirms what we should be doing for our colleagues.

Deb Brydon
It doesn’t have to come from the top, it can come from your colleagues as well and that’s just as important.

Debbie
Yes. So we can do that bit, you make sure that you do that smile or that email to the teacher.

Deb Brydon
Email. Yeah, fabulous.

Debbie
Just message the teacher who you saw doing something or other, and saying that was just wonderful. I love watching you work with children.

Deb Brydon
Yeah, absolutely. What a difference it makes to people.

Debbie
It does. So we could change the world Deb couldn’t we.

Deb Brydon
I know, I’m going to try and do one a week this term. That’s going to be my goal.

Debbie
That’s a good goal to someone on staff?

Deb Brydon
Yeah, yeah. Watch out staff here I come.

Debbie
No I like that. I might do that, too. We’ll tell each other what we’ve done.

Deb Brydon
Yeah, for sure.

Intentional Collaboration

Debbie
We’ll inspire each other. I love it. All right now I love the way that you and I have adopted the term intentional collaboration. It almost began a bit tongue in cheek because it was a priority of our current employer, Department Of Education Queensland, still is, intentional collaboration. And we thought, oh, yeah, heres one of these terms but it did exactly fit what we were doing. So we’ve sort of, we’ve adopted it. And in fact, it’s often I see as just as our abbreviation to each other.

Deb Brydon
We even have a shared folder called IC intentional collaboration.

Debbie
We do? Yes and it’s a fairly big folder, our IC folder. So it’s something we both do. We’ve been doing it for a long time. So what’s your definition of intentional collaboration? And you’ve been referring to it the whole podcast?

Intentional Collaboration is Very Important for Music Educators

Deb Brydon
Look, I can’t not. Look, I think it’s about working at working together. So we have to be intentional about it. Classroom teachers are forced to collaborate, or it happens naturally because they’re right there beside each other. But we are naturally in an isolating position being the, usually, the only music teacher at the school, but it doesn’t have to be isolated.

And that’s where the working at it comes in. And it really, it’s up to us, we have to, we have to be intentional about it. There’s no other way to say that we have to create our own opportunities or take up any opportunities that we see and make them bigger and harness them. So I think that’s what it’s about. It’s about making ways to work with other people. Yeah, making time.

Debbie
Yeah and like you said, the intentional part of intentional collaboration is more important for us.

Deb Brydon
I think so.

Debbie
Yeah. Like at our school, it’s you know, all right all you grade fours you’ve got half a day planning, you sit in that one room together and work together. Yeah. Whereas we don’t have that we’ve got to make that work. We’ve got to create a local network or join an association, like Kodály Queensland, or whatever your preference is for a professional association.

Deb Brydon
Crescendo.

Intentional Collaboration Helps Sustain Educators in Hard Times

Debbie
Oh, okay. Yes, there’s a plug for Crescendo, because I was actually just thinking of the Crescendo Facebook page before, the private one, because there’s a little discussion now around, it was on my Q&A Saturday, it was, ‘Describe your job as a music teacher in four words’ and somebody put something that was quite heartbreaking.

Deb Brydon
I don’t remember seeing that.

Debbie
Go in, it’s fairly recent, go in and have a look. And I’ve started a little chat, and they’ve had not a good experience. You know and building this intentional collaboration can support you through those hard times? Yes. So I just think it’s really important and if there’s nothing there, you’ve got to create it yourself.

Deb Brydon
You have to, yep. Yeah, and it’s the whole, you know, we said before one plus one equals more than two. Because when you join with someone, it’s, it’s better than when you do by yourself.

Debbie
Yes. So that motivation and support are two things that I gain. Well two of the very, of the many things that I gain from working with someone like you. And it’s good to find someone who is like minded to a certain extent, you know, it could be more than one person.

I think, like there might be someone that you work on, say, indigenous perspectives in your classroom, someone else has a real passion for that. And you’re just working on finding those materials and building, building those activities and then there might be someone else who’s really interested in the pedagogical side of things. Yeah, someone else who events might be great working out the choir repertoire, so it doesn’t have to be one person.

But I think it’s worth getting those people. So motivation support. What else do you think you gain from IC?

Intentional Collaboration Ensures Accountability

Deb Brydon
Yeah, look, the advantages are huge, different perspectives. So it’s not only about like-minded, you do need some commonality, of course, but some different perspectives and ideas and experiences, but also accountability.

If I’m working on something with someone else, I push myself to do better and they encourage me when I’m not quite ready to work, which, you know happens. That was so evident in our HAT application.

Debbie
Oh, was it ever.

Deb Brydon
It was on that, supporting each other and there were so many times when one or the other of us was just ready to pack it in, because it was a lot of work and it was confusing and frustrating and all of those things. But you know, when one falls down the other one’s there to pick them up.

Debbie
Well I definitely quit.

Deb Brydon
You did quit, but you came back.

Intentional Collaboration Ensures Accountability

Debbie
But you were still there and you were still encouraging. So I think it might have even been Christmas holidays. Because it took, you know a year and a half to two years to get this application together. Those of you who are not at all familiar with the HAT or lead teacher process, it’s just massive and that’s it, I just went, na.

Deb Brydon
It’s so good.

Debbie
Oh, it’s so good. Well, you grow a lot. You learn a lot.

Deb Brydon
A bit like childbirth, it’s good in the end.

Debbie
See, there’s a perfect example of how IC helps you, the intentional collobaration, like that was it I was done.

Deb Brydon
It’s not only on those big things, it’s also on the little things like writing a marking guide, you know, sometimes either of us will just go, no, I’m done. That, we’ll just write whatever we feel like. And then, you know, well, we don’t ever leave it there. But you’ve got that motivation because you’re working with someone else.

Debbie
Absolutely. And even now, because Deb and I, at the time of recording, we had a day together a couple of days ago, doing some planning for semester two and we’ve got little tasks to do. I know that my little tasks are going to be nicer, because I’m sharing them with Deb.

Deb Brydon
They are also going to be completed because you don’t want to let the other person down. Whereas if it was just yourself, you might just go oh, look, I won’t worry about that.

Debbie
Oh, I’ll do it. I’ll wing it on the day. I know, I know what I’m doing. I’ve got my dot points. I don’t have to make a nice little PowerPoint to go with that.

Deb Brydon
Yeah, that’s right.

Debbie
But I will because I’m sharing it with Deb.

Deb Brydon
Yes. And then future Debbie is very happy that you’ve done it.

Debbie
Yes, oh future Debbie, and future, Deb. And for those of you who are confused by the Deb and Debbie thing we’re quite used to it now. I am Debbie. I am speaking to Deb. And that’s, it’s just two completely different names Deb and Debbie.

Yeah. So don’t be confused. If I talk about future, Debbie. I’m talking about myself in the future. But future Deb and future Debbie will be happy with what we’re doing now.

Deb Brydon
Yes, definitely. And hopefully our children will too.

Debbie
I think so, I think our children benefit a great deal. And I tell you, do you know what, I think the biggest benefit for the children I teach, is that I am calmer and feel more in control and able to be nice. Yes. And I’m able to be in the moment.

Deb Brydon
Yeah, absolutely.

Debbie
Not going, oh How am I gonna do this? I haven’t done this. And what was I going to do for assessment for that? You know, this way it’s all done, and I’m just able to relax more and be a better teacher.

Deb Brydon
Be better yeah.

Debbie
I’m certain of that.

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. What is large and grey, and just doesn’t matter? An irrelephant.


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