Melbourne Inspiration: The Hackkets & Footscray Community Arts Center

TheHacketts30The Hackkets

It’s a little overwhelming to try to capture the wonder that is Footscray Community Arts Centre in a couple of links. The team at FCAC produces something like 1800 separate activities a year. I was there one afternoon and was able to participate in a ukulele jam, see two (one, two) moving gallery exhibitions in honor of NAIDOC week*, watch a film by one of Australia’s most famous photographers AND have a glass of wine.

I was a little overwhelmed and brain-dead from all my conference days while I was visiting FACAC, so I didn’t have the wherewithal to track down the Hackkets – who were rumored to be somewhere nearby. They were on break from rehearsing in the basement recording studio, and I stupidly said “Nah, it’s alright. I don’t need to meet them.”

Dumb, dumb, dumb.

I’ve since been to their Bandcamp page and downloaded their FREE debut single “Mexico / LA.” It’s a fun jam telling the story of one of the band members’ first trip in an airplane. Vocals are great, production is great, lyrics are great, melody won’t get out of my head. Obsessed. I understand there’s a 12 tune album on the way!


The Hackkets are an all-abilities* band who started playing together over ten years ago. A couple of years ago, Melbourne-based musician and producer Robin Waters joined the group. After learning the Hackkets had never released any recordings, he has been helping to rectify the situation and this first single is the most immediate result.


– Download the Hacketts single for FREE here
– See what else Robin Waters is up to
– Read more about Footscray Arts Center here
– Another (very different) US band made up of folks with diverse abilities who have published music: is The Enrichment Center Percussion Ensemble

*NAIDOC week… From the website:

NAIDOC stands for National Aborigines and Islanders Day Observance Committee. Its origins can be traced to the emergence of Aboriginal groups in the 1920′s which sought to increase awareness in the wider community of the status and treatment of Indigenous Australians.

NAIDOC Week is held in the first full week of July. It is a time to celebrate Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and an opportunity to recognise the contributions that Indigenous Australians make to our country and our society.

*”All-abilities” means some members have disabilities of one kind or another, some don’t.


Melbourne Inspiration (and app alert): Kid’s Own Publishing

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Kid’s Own Publishing was founded in 1997 as a vehicle through which children can write and publish their own stories. In the years hence, it has grown into…

…a pioneering not-for-profit arts organization that empowers children, families and communities from diverse cultural, social and linguistic backgrounds to share their stories through artist-led processes and community publishing. Children’s community publishing is widely endorsed by professionals in early learning centres, schools and libraries, as a highly effective way for children to engage with books. Kids’ Own Publishing was originally founded in Ireland in 1997 by Victoria Ryle and Simon Spain.  Kids’ Own Publishing Partnership continues in County Sligo with Orla Kenny at the helm.

On my (very) recent trip to Australia, I was lucky to be able to spend some time with the company’s founders, and have a nice read through many of their books. A favorite of mine is “A Twist on Motherhood” by the Amazing Young Mums Packenham – a group of young mothers who gather regularly in a suburb of Melbourne. I can’t help but think of what a nice companion a book like this would be to the lullabies we write with the amazing young moms, dads, caregivers and grandparents that I work with in Carnegie Halls’ the Lullaby Project here in NYC.

A Twist on Motherhood

You can read “A Twist on Motherhood” here at Kid’s Own Publishing’s website, as well as their many, many other creations.

It wasn’t all that long ago that Kid’s Own made it possible to publish your own book at home using their new iPad App, WePublish! I’ve spend hours now playing with it, and proudly release my own publication below. Print and fold according to instructions here or in the app itself!

Download the app
Visit Kid’s Own library
Kid’s Own on Facebook

My Trip To Australia

Melbourne Inspiration: Massive Hip Hop Choir

On the last night of the Engaging with Quality Learning Exchange at Artplay last weekend, we were treated to a performance by Melbourne’s own Massive Hip Hop Choir. Y’all oughtta know I love a dance party under almost any circumstances, but I instantly fell in love with this dynamic group of young performers as soon as they jumped on stage and started to make music.

In short, Massive Hip Hop Choir is a community group formed in Melbourne that blends the music of the many nationalities of its dozen or so members with hip hop. They are phenomenal performers, and such an inspiration.

Browse their site, watch their videos, buy their album on iTunes and keep spreading the word worldwide! What I would do to be able to bring them here to the USA.

Scroll down for more!

MASSIVE is a group of young urban artists aged 18– 25 yrs who identify as Tongan/Fijian, Cook Islander, Niuean, Samoan, Lebanese/Tongan Caribbean/North African, Filipino, Comoros islander, Tanzanian, English/Spanish, and Indonesian. MASSIVE has created a new genre of hip hop that combines original rap lyrics, fresh beats, lush three part harmonies, body percussion, traditional pacific island dance and street choreography. Drawing on the strength of their diversity, MASSIVE is well into its second year and has been performing and recording their unique repertoire that is flavored with old skool hip hop, gospel, traditional cultural tunes and protest music.


MASSIVE is produced by Barkly Arts Centre, a division of Western Region Health Centre in the heart of Melbourne’s west. Creatively produced by Liss Gabb and Mary Quinsacara; MASSIVE has collaborated with Deaf Arts Network, Anti Racism Action Band, Arts Centre Melbourne’s Dig Deep program, South Sudanese rap star Emmanuel Jal, Diafrix, Blue King Brown, hip hop artists Lotek and Lesson, Multicultural Arts Victoria, OZ Soul Collective and Big West festival. MASSIVE has run workshops with schools and community choirs across the west, in prisons, youth justice centres and regional Koori communities.

MASSIVE launched their debut album Neology – neo tunes for an old world on September the 21st 2012 at The Evelyn Hotel to a packed MASSIVE hungry crowd.

Musicians Of Queens: Lee Ann Westover

I LOVE Queens so much, and I would love to tell you each and every one of you out there why. I am very honored to have been profiled by my local paper – the Queens Tribune!!

Photo by Carey Bertolet

Photo by Carey Bertolet

Lee Ann Westover has described her first professional experience with music as a trial by fire, an environment that she not only survived, but thrived in.

“I started going out swing dancing and came in contact with a vibrant music scene. It was the late 90s, right before swing became very hot. On a whim, I decided to join a friend’s band as a backup singer. Swing’s popularity started to grow exponentially, so we were able to start touring nationally within the first year I was in New York,” she said. “I learned a lot and I learned it fast!”

Now, more than a decade later, Westover has entrenched herself in Queens’ music scene. Based in Long Island City, the singer-songwriter performs with three bands and has also released some solo music. Her main project is The Lascivious Biddies, a three-woman band that has been together for 13 years. The group, which includes Deidre Rodman Struck and Saskia Lane, blends together jazz, pop and cabaret.

“We are very close and have had the time to build a strong, close relationship that translates to a solid and electric creative relationship. It’s incredibly satisfying to sing harmony with the girls,” Westover said. “Over the last few years, the other two gals have had children, so it’s also been a natural transition from our original cabaret-pop vibe into family music with the Itty Biddes.”

Besides those two bands, Westover also plays early 20th century roots music with fellow ukulele player Emily Eagen, as Battle Annies. The two musicians have more in common than just their music project though. They both work in the Weill Music Institute program.

“Working with Musical Connections has been a life-changing experience for me. We travel around the City, writing music with people who really live on the fringes – in shelters and prisons, as well as in hospital settings,” Westover said. “I’ve felt so lucky to have been able to bring music into people’s lives when they really need it.”

Westover is not just a great collaborator though. She also records music on her own, having released a self-titled, five-song EP in 2009.

“I thought it would be fun to publish some of the recordings I had been putting together at home, just as a snapshot in time of what I was up to musically,” Westover said. “It was a fun project, but I am definitely overdue for another one!”

Westover can often be seen performing at LIC Bar, which is located just blocks from her home. She has been living in Long Island City for 17 years and said she enjoys everything the neighborhood, and Queens as a whole, has to offer.

“I am really very proud to live in one of the most diverse communities on Earth, and I never get tired of exploring its neighborhoods,” she said.

The Lascivious Biddies have a concert coming up on March 13 at the SoHo Grand Club Room and the Itty Biddies will play at South Bronx NeON on April 3.

– See more at:

Creative Aging: Learn an Instrument!

Aging Superhero Painting by Andreas Englund

Aging Superhero Painting by Andreas Englund

A lot of very smart people are convinced that our brains stop growing as we get older. New research is constantly being produced that contradicts this idea. Our brain’s plasticity doesn’t go away – but the nature of our modes of thinking do evolve into something different from what they were in our early years. I have now and then been frustrated in a psychology class as a professor insists that we wach have a fixed number of brain cells. Someone wrote it in a textbook, somewhere, but the theory is no longer the most accurate.

In a fascinating article on, Francine Toder, Ph.D.  speaks to just this point:

Neuroplasticity: This describes, and is responsible for, the formation of new neurons and their connectivity to one another. Contrary to what was believed until recently, the production of neurons doesn’t routinely stop occurring at any particular age. However, the older brain requires certain kinds of activities to stimulate it sufficiently. The brain is capable of positive change throughout life, but as we age, it depends to an even greater degree on being involved in activities that optimally stimulate the triad mentioned earlier: novelty, complexity and problem solving. [original article]

The entire article is worth a read, whether it is your own brain health you are thinking of, or someone else’s.

I love the Baby Boomers. I knew they would refuse to go gently into that good night…

Straight A Student So Far – How I Study

As an adult learner, I am a fantastic student. Recently, someone asked me to write out how I study to help other students understand what goes into getting those As.

I thought I would share it here, in case any of you find it helpful. After all, I did a fair amount of researching on ‘the Google’ to find out what works for me!


For regular exams:
I start about a week in advance, with most of my studying concentrated on the couple of days prior to the exam. I take walk around breaks frequently, and stop usually by 7:30 for dinner.
In class I try to take notes directly on the powerpoint slides.
Then I make a digest document from the powerpoint, set up like questions and answers (easier and faster than flashcards)
Digest Document
While I make the document, I note what slides I’ll need to diagram. I also note what I need to flesh out with reading and online videos.
Next I start the diagramming and deeper study.
Diagramming 2
Using block letters that I have to color in makes me spend more time staring at unfamiliar words. Also makes a mind map that I can recall a bit during the test.
Along the while, I will read through the digest document and cross off topics as I learn them, so I don’t waste too much time reading them over and over.
The morning before class, I skim over everything one more time.
For lab practicals I like to spend a lot of time in lab, but I haven’t been able to this semester. I use the lists you gave me, as well as the documents from the E-312 Study Lab website. I do a lot of drawing, and use an Anatomy and Physiology coloring book. Often I will copy pages so I can fill them in a couple of times.
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I also try to explain processes and concepts to my husband when I can, as it really helps cement knowledge, but he has limited interest…
It’s an awful lot of work, but it’s very satisfying, and gets results when I take the time.  I worked out the method over the last couple of years via trial and error, and tips from the internet, and  I guess it boils down to trying to process new knowledge in as many different modalities as possible.

Product Vs. Process: A Teddy Talk for Carnegie Hall

You all know that I have worked as a teaching artist with The Biddies for almost 5 years via the Weill Music Institute at Carnegie Hall’s Musical Connections Program. While writing songs with participants, we are constantly having to monitor the balance between process (a positive learning and creative experience for the participant) and product (a certain expectation of quality output for an institution such as Carnegie Hall.)

Product or Process becomes a question that can never really be answered, but one that we ask ourselves time and time again. Last year, the Biddies (my band) was asked to create a presentation on the subject for the other teaching artists in our program.

Here y’are!

Alternatives to being alone as I age

evan hallgorgeous watercolor by Evan Hall

“…the moral test of government is how that government treats those who are in the dawn of life, the children; those who are in the twilight of life, the elderly; those who are in the shadows of life; the sick, the needy and the handicapped. ”
~ Last Speech of Hubert H. Humphrey

I have been thinking a lot lately about what my husband and I will do with ourselves as we age. We are both a little punk in spirit, so a suburban retirement lifestyle may not be the best fit – shuffleboard around the pool and all that. I’ve also seen what happens to folks left on their own as they lose the ability to care for themselves – it’s not pretty.

I wish I had a spot in the Penn South NORC (Naturally Occurring Retirement Community) in Chelsea, NYC. The folks who live in Penn South, though, waited on a list for 15 years before being offered an apartment. Even so, the list isn’t even open all the time. You have to wait years just to sign up. Once you are in, though, the Penn South NORC is a fantastic support system. “The objective of the program is to assist seniors to remain in their own homes for as long as they wish, providing social services, health services, cultural, recreational and other services as the need arises” (from their website)

A friend (studying to be a nurse) and I (studying to be an OT) had the idea that a bunch of friends should just gather together and set up a living situation in a commune or bed-and-breakfast style. The more I think about it, the more doable it seems to me. I am so afraid of inaction and isolation. An intentional community could be what I am looking for…what I will be looking for. We friends would be able to share in the costs of living and in-home care as well as look after each other emotionally. Maybe NYC will be the place, maybe a plot somewhere more temperate. We’ll see what I can come up with…

If it’s a subject that interests you, here are a few other articles I have been looking over:

More about NORCS in NYC:

Retirement to a cruise ship:

Intentional communities:

Alternatives to the nursing home: