PODCAST

A Chat with Rhonda Davidson-Irwin – Part 2 | 010

Episode 10

Podcast Highlights

Rhonda is an expert in the field of early childhood education, television and music. She is a virtuosic flautist, producer, conductor and advocate for Music Education in all its forms. Rhonda has a Masters of Music Education ( With Distinction ), a BA in Music Education, AMusA ( Flute / Piano ) and in 2008 she was Queensland University of Technology’s ‘Faculty of Education Outstanding Alumni’ award winner. 

In 2021 Rhonda was also nominated for a Telstra Business Award and has also won the “Born To Fly Award “. Spread over her lifetime and through music Rhonda has raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for a large number of worthy communities in need.

Rhonda is currently a music specialist education consultant specialising in early childhood to year 7 and Composer and Live pianist for Network Tens hit kids show ” Crocamole”. She has a pedigree of thousands of compositions for children which have been performed on television every day throughout Australia for 23 years. Her hands on approach combined with vivacious communication skills, linked with music excellence gives her the ability to get the best out of any Community she has the pleasure to direct.

  • Nuggets of Fabulous! What are 3 of your all-time favourite resources, activities, songs or games? (00:34)
  • Music Educators seem to have to fight even harder for the existence of their profession, what advice would you give us around advocacy? (8:08)
  • Get on your soap box! (15:42)

Where to find me:

Ep10: Chat with Rhonda Davidson-Irwin – Part 2: Audio automatically transcribed by Sonix

Ep10: Chat with Rhonda Davidson-Irwin – Part 2: this mp3 audio file was automatically transcribed by Sonix with the best speech-to-text algorithms. This transcript may contain errors.

Debbie:
Here is the Crescendo Music Education Podcast Episode Number 10. And now for the second part of my chat with Rhonda Davidson-Irwin. Just wait till you hear what she gets into for her nuggets of fabulous. Sit back and enjoy. Rhonda Davidson-Irwin. Now for the listeners, this is this is one of my favorite bits. Okay? Now, this is where you get to give us some little nuggets of fabulous. All right. So this is something that the music teacher, you know, who’s working by themselves, as you said, feeling isolated, they just love some little new idea or a revisit of an idea. You know, I find that’s quite useful sometimes. You go, yes, I used to do something like that. So it could be a resource, an activity, a song, a game advice, a tip, anything you like, but some nuggets of fabulous. I pick three, I say three, but I don’t mind if it’s less or more. But it’s Rhonda Davidson Irwin’s nuggets of fabulous that Oh.

Rhonda:
I need to have this thing there. Woo! You know, I think that and again, people who know me know I have a mantra and that is play with your children, play play and keep playing. And when I say play, I mean singing games. To me, that is the simplest answer to any good music program. And because we get so bound down with the bureaucracy and the admin and the tiredness and the covered and the no room and the lack of resources and shall I keep going? The one thing that we can do to avoid, our spirits and the children’s spirits is to play music games so that when the children arrive every week, they love you anyway. But they’re just going to go, Oh, can we play over the ocean? You know, can we play us all the way to see? Can we play? Cut the cake. Oh, my God. Yep. Well, let’s just get through our repertoire first and then yes, we can do that. And I think we get very bogged down and we forget that they are children that we’re working with. And I like to start every session and finish every session with some music games. Usually ,revision will actually always revision because my new content happens in the middle of the lesson and the music games are things that I am terrified that we’re going to lose. So the traditional games have been around for 1000 years. I’m absolutely terrified that in this century that we’re going to forget some of those. Also, the curriculum is so overcrowded that little kids are just not playing anymore. The classrooms are very didactic, very, completely different to what my mother worked very hard on, which was learning through discovery and play.

Debbie:
Yeah So can I.

Debbie:
Say.

Debbie:
Just the completely moving away from that, which is also moving away from what we know is the way that children learn best and is best for children. Why are we moving in early childhood away from what research tells us is best? I don’t understand. I don’t. Yep, I don’t get it. So yes, you are right. This I think I’m assuming it’s a bit of an international trend to move away from. It is a play based learning for, you know, call it whatever you wish. It’s time to do the sight words and the running records and whatever and sit at your desks more and it should be moving the other way. So that makes our job even more important, doesn’t it?

Rhonda:
It does. It does. And you know what? It’s also fabulous because you’re going to be the favorite teacher in the school because you’re the one that legitimately plays games, gets paid for it, and is actually sparking our children’s brains for learning. Yes. So to me, that is one of my mantras and I’m getting very concerned. That’s my first one. The second one that you also know is I love buoying the children up with fun and play and chasing and having a crazy time and then settling them down quickly. Learning to change the dynamic. I call it changing gear and I love to use picture song books for that where we are singing our favorite story and you’re just making it up like a libretto in an opera, or you’re singing like, I’ve just got one here and you can see it, but got all blowing in the wind.

Rhonda:
You know.

Rhonda:
Like those sorts of, you know, it could be any story whatsoever, but and it could be stories that the children books that they make themselves. Again, a wonderful way to calm the children down combines storytelling and music together, which is of course, opera or music theatre. So it’s fantastic and it also helps with their listening. So that’s a little nugget that I think that we can continue to do. Don’t forget to have our beautiful perspective songbooks. It could be ten in the bed. It could be, you know, the the ones the good old there was an old woman who swallowed a fly. There’s a hole in the bucket, all those cumulative songs. It’s really helpful to have the book there. If we forget a verse and I suppose I go for the third one is Please don’t forget that exceptional resource, tune in. If you’re not sure of repertoire that’s developmentally appropriate, you know, even it’s not meant to be picked and picked up. But at the end of the day, you can. Find 40 songs that are brilliant for grade three is brilliant for Grade Two’s. On top of all your curriculum documents that you’ve got to use and everything that’s out there, it’s a great thing just to to look through and find maybe some old favourites you’ve forgotten as well. Deb, you were talking about that as well because I think if a song’s been around for a couple of hundred years, it’s got something going for it.

Debbie:
Yeah, there’s something there.

Rhonda:
And I’d like to think that those songs are not being lost. And that’s of course, again, a big part of Delta and Cody’s philosophy of music, of our culture, folk music. And I get a bit concerned because we don’t do our traditional songs with our children. Unfortunately, the ones they’re going to know is what’s on the radio, which is b105. That’s what Mum and Dad listened to. That’s all they’re not going to know, you know. Heaven forbid. Would you believe, twinkle, twinkle, little star? I actually know groups of four and five year olds. You don’t know what we’re talking about, because my next thing is that children should be singing and parents should be singing to their kids. We’ve got the message about reading every day. Well, parents should be singing every day to their kids and not being frightened of doing that. And my other resource that I absolutely love is I don’t know whether you remember this one. I do.

Debbie:
Yes.

Rhonda:
So, yeah, it’s an oldie but an amazing one. And there’s no one resource that has all the answers. I think, Julian, if there is one, it’s tune in. But I think it’s important to go through books and make up your own resources of songs that you love as well as all your curriculum songs that are essential to do. Yeah. So I think that’s probably my nuggets in a few seconds. Yes, the big ones.

Debbie:
But yeah, the big ones and you know, they’re fabulous. They are fabulous. And as we’re nearing the end, I want to circle back and get back to. Yeah, let’s talk about advocacy and the fight for it because it is a fight. I’m trying to not see it aggressively, but I do feel like half the time I am fighting.

Rhonda:
Yes.

Debbie:
In my work I’m very lucky where I work I don’t have to fight too hard, but just the existence of our profession, the perception of what we do, the importance of getting parents on side to understand how important what we do is so that they put political pressure. Because a lot of it is a political decision, isn’t it? It’s it’s.

Debbie:
Not even.

Debbie:
Of educators. It’s decisions of the system, structure, politics. So basically at this time when we’re fighting for music education, some advice that you could give me and our listeners about how we can best advocate for our area.

Rhonda:
Okay. So I’m not sure whether I mentioned one of the reasons I took a position which was CEO of Music Australia, and I did that simply because of the advocacy role that did. And we had a program called Music Calendar saying, no, I felt very blessed that I got funding for the next year to be able to run that. So a few years ago now it now is no longer in existence, but or if it is, it’s in a smaller form. And even though it was a band aid sort of approach, it was still an approach. And I got the opportunity a number of times to go to Canberra and speak to many, many politicians about all the things we’re talking about today. That program wasn’t really about music, education and a program for kids out in Australia. This is music as in it was an advocacy program. That’s what it was. Right. And and it meant that we were able to get into politicians doors with that as an excuse. And that’s what you need as well to do that saying that politicians, I think I can say this now, really will say what you want. They want you to say, and that’s the nature of the beast that they driven. So you think you’ve had incredible headway. Please, I’m telling you this, after speaking to at least a couple of hundred politicians over the last few years, and you will swear, black, blue, that you you’ve made an in way and you haven’t at all, but it gets them at least thinking about it.

Rhonda:
So therefore, what makes politicians move? It is going to be the public, the vote. That’s what makes them move. So rather, it’s really got to come from the parent body and from the children and associations as well. And the way that operates is ultimately you have got the access in your schools to three or 400 children or more, some 1000, some 200, whatever you’ve got. And then on top of that, you’ve got the parent body, and then on top of that, you do concerts. That’s a huge way that you can influence and let people know. Now you’ll probably have to clear it. You can do it very subtly. I would always talk about the brain and how it develops neural pathways at my concerts. I’d also talk about how Queensland was one of the leaders in this area. It’s almost like you’re doing a little tiny mini podcast at every concert that you. And that you might feel uncomfortable, but I’m telling you, it’s the only way it’s going to work. You have newsletters every week or the newsletter comes out. Could you believe that such and such received an A for his grade for clarinet exam? Make sure that you are constantly within your school body where you’re respected, that you are getting information out because that will go into the parent’s head eventually so that when you do go to the politicians, it’s like a step formation going straight to the top. You get somebody, some like minded politician, there are a few out there, an amazing, fabulous.

Rhonda:
But we’ve got to win all the other ones that are not interested because they’re too busy getting some road fixed or whatever. So I think that’s important that we are advocacy. It starts in your classroom. I also tell the children and explain to them about what’s happening and it’s amazing how they go back to their parents and go, Did you know that singing combines the only thing that combines the left and the right hand side of the brain? Yes. And I got that from my music teacher. She said that. And you know that it’s going to really help me with my confidence and and creativity. And and then so it’s really a holistic approach that happens from the House to the parents to the concerts that you’re doing. Never have a concert without talking about how important music education is. Now, I am a producer every time I get up and see, which is regularly at my Lord Mayor City Hall concerts, I talk about music education. It’s remarkable. And I unabashedly, because I often have young people performing and I’ll say, Would you believe these children are this and that’s in Queens that we’re so fortunate. Make sure you if you have value, music, education, make sure you let your local member know and your federal member know because we want to keep this and we schools, don’t we. Yeah well people in guy now that you wouldn’t think that is a platform. I’m not being political. I’m just talking about the values of music education.

Debbie:
Yes. Yes.

Rhonda:
And and and I’m encompassing it in how proud we are of these young students and what what they’re doing. So you talk about it, that.

Debbie:
Wasn’t really in context, isn’t it? But you are.

Rhonda:
Correct.

Debbie:
You are drip dripping that information. And you’re quite right. I think sometimes we forget the children themselves.

Rhonda:
Correct! They are amazing advocates because they’re there. And then the other little thing that I love to do is when we are doing Facebook and social media campaigns, unfortunately, it’s so social media is such a huge area and it’s it’s great and we can achieve a lot. But I find a personal message from me with an article about play and that we’re losing this in our schools through messenger to an individual far more effective than just putting something up on my Facebook page. And I know in recent campaigns that that has been very effective and it takes time, but it’s usually I might be watching something on Netflix and I’ll just message somebody. And the other amazing thing is if you’ve got somebody that’s really influential is invite them to your concerts, write them a letter, give them a proper invite. I know it’s hard, but you can get a little committee at your school and music committee, which I’m sure they’re fantastic doing lots of stuff and get a mum who just does that. So those sorts of more personal invitations I think sometimes about advocacy are more important or actually not more important. It just adds to the whole effect that another step, another drip, as you refer to.

Debbie:
Oh, I love it. Fabulous advice from that. Fabulous advice. Yay! Oh, this has been such a good cat. I’m loving it. I’m loving it. But but we will have to draw it to a close. But we’ll have another one later. We’ll have another one.

Rhonda:
Yeah. I’ve got so much more to talk about.

Debbie:
Yeah, yeah. Well, neither, I must say, neither of us are ever short of things to actually say.

Rhonda:
Yes, that’s very true. Yeah, we’ve got like this. And, you know, it’s just a huge thank you again to you, Deb, and everything that you do. We all have different skills. We all have a different skill base. And your skill base is clear. You bring music teachers together, you give them resources, you collaborate, you’re refreshed, you inspire what’s true, and that’s what that’s your like. I’m flat out sending an email from I’m really good at putting on a damn good concert, right? And I’m really good at getting up and talking to a large group of people, you know, and inspiring them. And so what you have to do is find what you do best. And then we bring all those resources together and all those people together and make stuff happen. And I think that’s we’re so grateful to what you do. Oh, I don’t get that.

Debbie:
Thank you very much. I’ll save this little bit and just play it to me when I need them. It’ll be my morning mantra. Thank you. And I think to finish off, you get a chance to. Get on your soapbox now.

Rhonda:
I’ve done that already.

Debbie:
Yeah. Yeah. You’re only on the way up to the top of that soapbox. You’re still climbing up, so you get to tell the world anything. The most important thing that you want to tell them. You have already sort of given us so many really important things. So it’s almost like a summary. It could be completely different. What do you want to tell the world? And that will be how we will finish.

Rhonda:
Alrighty, well, there’s so many things I’d like to tell the world, so I’ve just got to narrow it down. I think the biggest one is that some of you might be listening to us and say, Well, it’s all right for you, Rhonda. You know, you’ve done this and you’ve got this and you’ve done that or whatever. And it’s all right for you, Deb, you’ve got this skill and you’ve got this and this. We all get discouraged. We all have rough patches. We all have. I mean, it’s the best and the heart, the hardest job at the same time, what we do, children, I always say take, take, take, take. Because they’re meant to they’re little tiny ones. They’re meant to take from you. So I think the most important message for us to keep moving forward in all that we’ve discussed today, from pedagogy to implementation to advocacy, is to keep yourself, well, wholesome and happy. So that means that you need to take care. And I think I don’t know about you, Deb, but I’ve certainly had a few little, little hiccups on the way. And I think that and I’ve had some hiccups when I was very young person as well. So I value so much my health. But because without that it sounds really boring. All these 22 year olds listening were going, Oh, what are you talking about? But at the end of the day, even at 22, we suffer from a lot of anxiety and stress, basic health issues that some of us may have. We need to be in this position. I don’t want you to get discouraged and leave this incredible work that we do. So look after yourself and make sure that there’s nuggets for your own joy that make you tick.

Rhonda:
Mine is definitely doing tapestries and painting. I love to paint and I find it people go, How do you have time to do a tapestry? Well, you have to make that little bit of time because I know it’s going to nurture my soul to give to others. And I suppose the other that that’s the big one. So that we can continue, you know, because music education is a giving, it’s total giving all the time. And we don’t get a lot back sometimes from other staff, from admin, we’re not recognised, we do it for the children and ourselves. So that’s why we need to nurture ourselves. And I suppose the final little thing is to keep singing, just keep singing, get out there and sing, sing for yourself, join. I’ve got haven’t even gone down that road of community music, but I’ve got a community adult choir that I’ve run for 15 years and I’ve just started a community children’s choir as well. And it just makes a difference with all the things we’re talking about. Anxiety filling your own heart. I thought I needed a community choir. Like a hole in the head. Well, I’ve got to tell you, they have become my family and they nurture me now. So it’s incredible how important, I think, sharing your love of music and making music for yourself, not just for kids, whether it’s in a community choir, a community orchestra, whether it’s getting over to your place and having a bottle of champagne and singing through all the Beatles songs at two in the morning. But actually engaging in music yourself is very, very important, and I think that’s probably the end of my nuggets for the moment.

Debbie:
Oh, that is wonderful. Rhonda Davidson-Irwin, Thank you so much for your time today. It’s been an absolute pleasure, Mwah.

Rhonda:
And to you Deb. Thank you for listening, everybody. And good luck with these amazing podcasts. Take care.

Debbie:
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 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, principals, 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.

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