Piano Bar Harmonising Hope In The Face of COVID-19

Piano Bar Harmonising Hope In The Face of COVID-19

Founder and co-owner of Geelong’s Piano Bar Andy Pobjoy laughs as he explains how he creatively juggles playing the piano, singing, hosting their Facebook live streams, meanwhile changing the camera angles with his right foot.  

 

“It started off with just me, as at the start of lockdown you weren’t allowed to have other people in the venue, so I worked out a way of switching cameras with a foot trigger, but its necessity! We had to do it! What started as two Go Pros has now turned into an eight-camera shoot with full lighting production. It’s pretty cool.” 

 

The much loved Piano Bar on Malop street Geelong is a hot-spot for live entertainment, as founder Andy shares how performing on cruise ships inspired the unique idea. 

“I used to work on cruise ships, and I was doing the same sort of thing we do at Piano Bar, getting a whole bunch of people from different walks of life, and sitting around the piano asking for their favourite songs. It just brings people together; it all starts with the music; it all starts with a song.”

“But I was away from my family, and it was time to start thinking about doing something closer to home. So against everyone’s advice, saying this would never work in Geelong, we ended up with a little venue on little Malop Street about five years ago, and we have never looked back!” 

However, with COVID-19 restrictions forcing the Piano Bar to close, Andy is determined to support the venue’s performers, staff and community through the power of song and social media streaming. 

“We missed everybody. We had to come up with ideas of how to keep the business running and that’s why we started doing live streams. So it was about community, it was about connection, and certainly still feeling like we still had some sense of control when we really had very little.”

This innovative idea of doing free live performances with musicians, vocalists, special guests and taking song requests from viewers comments turned into an online hit, with thousands of views, media attention and over 100 live streams. 

“Our record was up to 110 thousands viewers on one particular Saturday night, that was the night we were on Channel Nine News,” Andy says.

Resonating with people during the COVID-19 crisis, the Piano Bar expanded its newfound digital fame globally.  

 

“We had people overseas and a lot of people suffering from chronic conditions who are immune-compromised. This was a lifeline for people that were on their own as well. And we had some people who were at every single live stream and shared that entire journey,” Andy says. 

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Co-owner and performer Joss Russell says not only did the live streams provide entertainment for viewers, but the online donations from audiences also offered support for their performers who have lost income. 

“People really get involved in the live stream, and on the other side of it as well, the donations have gone towards the performers who couldn’t get Job Keeper, so it’s gone a long way in supporting those of us who have had their gigs run completely dry throughout the COVID-19 crisis.” 

While virtual audiences have been a success, Joss says it will be great to have real crowds again. 

“We have had so much fun with the live streams, but I think nothing will truly replace the atmosphere of having a real crowd in front of you. When you look around the room, and you see smiles on everyone’s faces, and you see everyone up on the chairs dancing, smiling and cheering, it’s just a good feeling to know that people are as happy as you are.” 

As of September 16 under Step 3 of the COVID-19 Roadmap for regional Victoria, the Piano Bar is opening its doors in Geelong and their other regional Victoria venues. 

With limited space for 20 patrons in it’s Geelong venue, the team has evolved once more with creative and safe ways to entertain from the outdoors. 

Every weekend the Piano Bar will be at the Geelong Race Course, the West End/Little Malop Street precinct with laneway jazz sessions and also regular and special guest shows. 

“It’s going to be great, and it’s awesome that we have adapted to the restrictions so that we can still provide something good while keeping everyone safe at the same time,” says Joss.

Andy hopes the Piano Bar’s newly found online community will convert from screen to table in support of keeping the entertainment industry alive. 

“Rain hail or shine we are going to be outdoors! We hope people will jump on board with it and get excited like we get excited every time we get to do something new.” 

To support the Piano Bar and purchase tickets to upcoming events, go to www.pianobar.com.au

 

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How Books Save Us- A Pondering by Karen Brooks

How Books Save Us- A Pondering by Karen Brooks

Written by Karen Brooks

Here we are at the tail end of a year that, in its numerical configuration alone (2020) promised so much.

Instead of clarity, pragmatism and all the other positive meanings that arise when we used to think of 2020, many of us have encountered sickness, death, loss of income, stability, isolation, family crises, never mind sadness, fear, and familial, social and state divisions. 

Throughout these long months, the arts – music, dance, poetry, prose, films, TV, clips and events on social media etc – have played an enormous role in helping us cope with the harsh reality of Covid-19 and its fallout – including the endless dismal and doom-laden news-cycle. This has enabled us to appreciate, perhaps in ways we haven’t before, the integral role the arts play in helping us understand and define what it is to be human.  

Books and fiction especially provide a measure of unquantifiable comfort in harrowing times.

 

They allow readers to escape, even briefly, the cruel or mundane veracity of the everyday and walk vicariously in someone else’s shoes, to safely experience their emotions and undergo a journey that, more often than not, resolves in a satisfying way.

More than just bibliotherapy (which is how the psychological and emotional consolation books offer is sometimes described), books can be personally transformative and, most certainly, transportative as well.

After all, when the going seems tough, there’s always a story to fall into, a lexical journey to embark upon, and sometimes quite literally lose yourself in.

According to recent studies, reading has increased anywhere from 37% – 41% during  the pandemic.

While some folk sought eschatological narratives (end of the world scenarios) in order to perhaps channel their own fears, others turned to the classics, re-read old favourites, reached for their enormous TBR piles – some of which contained books they’d been promising themselves for decades (War and Peace anyone?), found the time to increase their knowledge around certain topics (racism, politics, history etc), or took the opportunity to read genres they’ve never tried before.  

One British study simplified people’s choices as those who “read for exploration and those who re-read for safety”.  

At home, curled up in a chair or in bed, reading of other people, periods and places, is a panacea that both soothes the soul and fires the imagination. It reminds us that while we might be doing it hard (whether that’s because of the pandemic, loss, grief, sad memories, poor health, relationship issues, anger, parenthood etc), struggling or triumphing, these are what humans have done since time immemorial. We’re remarkably resilient. Sometimes, the only way to recognise and appreciate that characteristic, to understand we too will get through this, is within fiction.  

What’s evident is that books offer something few other options can: they’re the word equivalent of comfort food and we’re hungry for it.

Gratitude for what creative artists have given us during lockdown – through their books, art, music, film, dance, TV, social media, cyber-performance etc – has been loud and clear right around the world. What a pity our government cannot acknowledge the importance of the arts and artistes; their intrinsic social, cultural and personal value, choosing instead to cut funding to important bodies and prizes, or offer meagre and competitive grants and loans – and at a time when both the creators and the grateful public need the arts most.

Creative artists are both inventors and curators of culture, of our collective imaginations and hearts. Their work worms its way into our souls and minds, becoming part of individual histories, our memories; they’re a short-cut to a moment in time, even to a version of ourselves we no longer recognise – for better and worse.

Books allow us to escape the nightmare of the present (or past) and dream of other spaces, possibilities; of different ways of being. They enable us to move beyond the present and imagine a different future and even, in our darkest moments, a better one.

About Karen: 

 Dr. Karen Brooks: is an Author,  columnist, social commentator and academic. Karen is also a part of a gorgeous brewery in Tasmania with her partner. The brewery and the authory keep her busy!

www.karenrbrooks.com

Twitter: KarenBrooksAU

Associate Professor and Honorary Senior Research Fellow IASH, Institute for Advanced Studies in the Humanities, University of Queensland.

Join Karen for great conversations and sharing on FaceBook: Karen Brooks Author – love to have you!

 

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How to Encourage a Love of Reading in Your Children

How to Encourage a Love of Reading in Your Children

Written by Katie Moore

The benefits of reading are hugely impactful in many different areas of your child’s life, and not just in the classroom.

Reading builds your child’s imagination, increases their vocabulary and helps them develop critical social and communication skills that will prepare them well for later in life.

Reading can also help kids become more emotionally literate with both ‘good’ and ‘bad’ emotions. This in turn helps them become more open when it comes to talking about how they’re feeling. 

It’s obvious that reading can help your children in school, but studies have shown that it goes beyond mere English lessons. A UK study by the Institute of Education showed that reading for pleasure can increase a child’s cognitive development across many areas, including a 9.9% advantage in mathematics. 

Reading helps your child build wider knowledge about the world around them, exposing them to different cultures, perspectives and ideas from the comfort of their own home.

Reading helps your child build wider knowledge about the world around them, exposing them to different cultures, perspectives and ideas from the comfort of their own home.

On top of all that, reading gives your children a fantastic alternative to screens. This year, and with the on-set of the pandemic ourchildren – and ourselves – are spending more time than ever in front of a screen. Living, learning and evolving online.

We’d all love ourchildren to spend a little less time glued to a device or TV series, but it couldn’t be more important today, to make time for a book.

So, the benefits of reading are clear. But how can parents encourage regular reading and eventually foster a lifelong love of books?

Use this Book Week to re-introduce the habit of reading, whether that time is every day, before bed or even a specific time slot set aside each weekend; here are some simple tips and tricks to help make the activity a regular, enjoyable experience for your child.

Make it a regular activity

Reading regularly with children is very important. The minimum recommendation is to read a book a week with your children, however I believe that once a day is a better baseline to aim for. Build reading into your child’s everyday bedtime routine, and soon it’ll become as regular as brushing their teeth. 

Select the right book

Having the ability to select the right book seems to be an important factor in children’s excitement around reading: nearly three-quarters of kids aged 6–17 (74%) responded to a Scholastic Kids study to say that they would read more if they could find more books that they like.

In my own home, I foster my children’s love of reading by building excitement throughout the day. Each afternoon we select our bedtime book – one book for each child – and pop it on their beds. My children get so excited to narrow down their book selection that it makes it easier to get them to bed, because they know they have that specially selected book waiting for them. 

 

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Give back control

While screen time requires at least some parental control, reading is a safe independent alternative – as long as you’ve checked the recommended reading age, of course!

A trip to the library or bookstore can also help build a sense of ownership around reading, especially if you let the kids have total control over what they select. 

Start a discussion

I try to build a discussion around the books we’re reading, instead of simply shutting the book and being done with it. Instead, we have a little chat about what’s happening as we go through, or talk about what we thought about the story when we’ve finished, including how the different characters must have felt. It’s a great way to help their comprehension of the story, and work on building their emotional vocabulary. 

Start young

While it’s never too late to introduce a child to books and reading, it’s ideal to nurture it in them from birth. It doesn’t always have to be a traditional written story per se: you can still find a lot to explore in a basic picture book, with many different things to point out and talk about through illustration alone. 

Credits

About Katie Moore, founder of Luxuread:

Katie Moore is the founder of Luxuread, a book subscription box that delivers a hand-picked book every single month alongside indulgent treats from Australian producers. Created in 2018, Luxuread is helping adults and kids alike take time out of their busy days to sit down, relax, and read. To date, Luxuread has sent out over 5,000 boxes filled with incredible reads and indulgent treats to customers around Australia and beyond. Katie has recently launched Luxuread Kids, sending children three surprise books tailored to their age every month. https://luxuread.com.au/

Photo credit Katie Moore

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Torrens University and Beyond Blue Launch Free Mental Health Course

Torrens University and Beyond Blue Launch Free Mental Health Course

Written by Renae Failla 

Warning: This article deals with the sensitive topic of suicide and mental health. If you (or someone you know) need support, call Lifeline on 13 11 14 available 24/7. You can also text 0477 13 11 14 from 12 pm to midnight for support.

It’s no surprise that during the first stage of the COVID-19 pandemic, 78% of Australians have claimed their mental health was impacted.

(PLoS ONE, Acute mental health responses during the COVID-19 pandemic in Australia.)

The very real fact is that people have taken their own lives as a result of the pandemic crisis for an abundance of reasons, be it the loss of jobs, the closing of small businesses, halts to education, life milestones and isolation.

To coincide with World Mental Health Day, Torrens University and Beyond Blue have joined forces to run a free online short course exploring experiences of people living with depression and their journeys.

The four-week course will begin on Monday 26th October 2020 and is titled Understanding Depression: Learning from Lived Experience. While the course is presented by Torrens University lecturers, those who partake will also get to hear directly from people who have lived with depression as well as Beyond Blue representatives.

Kath Curry, General Manager of Health and Education at Torrens University comments “We talk a lot about mental health, but sometimes it can be difficult to know how to support someone from the outside looking in.” The course will aim to help people take the first step in supporting someone with their recovery journey by ultimately stepping into the shoes of someone who has had a first-hand experience.

The inevitable COVID spike in people experiencing depression and related symptoms has made it more important than ever to address mental health and equipping people with the tools to identify what depression looks like.

Georgia Harman, CEO of Beyond Blue stresses the variability of depression in each person “Depression may not look the same for everybody – and that’s why it’s important to learn the signs. It’s also important to note that depression doesn’t only affect the individual experiencing it, it also affects those around them. This course – designed by lived experience experts – will help people ‘on the outside’ to better  understand, connect with and respond to those living with depression.”

Meet Paul Grainger – Torrens University Australia Success Coach

We had a chat with Paul Grainger, Torrens University Australia Success Coach, Blue Voices member and mental health guest speaker. Paul is 27 years old and has experienced both anxiety and depression as well as a family history of suicide. For Paul, his first experiences of depression and suicidal thoughts began when he was only 16 and peaked again at the age of 23 where a myriad of thoughts ran through his head and he thought he was at the end of the road. Paul unknowingly took the steps to help himself ending up at the local hospital and being discharged 4 days later.

Since then, Paul has changed his perception and approach to life with the assistance of friends and work managers. Friends and colleagues have been ears to listen without inferring judgement or solutions which he believes is important and was exactly what he needed.

Amidst COVID-19, one of the most difficult times for many, Paul not only graduated with Bachelor of Business from Torrens University but has begun his role as a Success Coach. Paul stresses at this time it is imperative to be “radically kind to ourselves” and reframe every experience to “give pain purpose”.

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In preparation for the course, what are some tips that you would give to young people living with depression based on your own personal experience?

Simply, remove the pressure, explore your curiosity, let go of the expectations created by society; ‘you do you’, as the expression goes. Throughout school I was a dreamer, an entrepreneur, an athlete, an academic; there were so many pathways that I could pursue. And yet, I was also unable to look at myself in the mirror and, sometimes for months, be unable to get out of bed. Why? I’d built an enormous expectation for what I thought I was meant to achieve, none of which seemed possible. And every time I would look into the mirror, I would reaffirm this impossibility.

So, my suggestion for young people is simply, as cliché as it might be, to let go and allow what’s meant to come, come. With this too, be patient. It’s taken me almost 10 years to fully embody this philosophy; I just wish I’d be kinder to myself in that time and to enjoy more of the moments between then and now.

And finally, if I can be so bold, delete social media (or at least turn off notifications). Spend more time connecting with your friends and family and having fun.

 

What can we expect from the 4-week course: Understanding Depression: Learning from Lived Experience?

Over the 4-week short course, participants will learn about depression directly from those with their own lived experiences. As they will see, depression looks different for everyone, and so they’ll hear from the stories of a range of men and women, young and older, to challenge stereotypes and spark conversations. What I love most about this course and why it’s going to be so impactful, is that it’s not presented from a ‘clinical’ point of view; it’s not esoteric and scientific; it’s real stories, real voices, and real insights into what it’s like and how we as family and friends can support one another better.

It will discuss what led up to the experience, the things that guide beliefs, values and expectations, the things that can help us during ‘low’ periods whilst also exploring the things we must do more of to help us stay well and prevent some of the early symptoms. In addition, some of the course content will be delivered by experienced Torrens University lecturers who have worked in the area of mental health for many years.

We know that warning signs of depression can be different from person to person but what are some key signs that individuals can look out for in their loved ones and friends?

If I am to look back on my own lived experience with depression as a school leaver and young adult, I’d see myself losing enthusiasm for the things I once loved to do; I’d see myself not going out for those bike rides any more, not wanting to go out to the go-kart track to race that weekend. I’d see myself cancelling plans with friends or, perhaps more often, I’d see myself not making any plans in the first place because I was terrified that when the day came, I wouldn’t be able to leave the house; I was terrified that people would notice or ask too many questions if I wasn’t as chatty as normal. 

I’d also see myself sleeping more – a lot more – and recognise the thought in my mind that my dreams created a better reality than reality itself; it was this destructive escape that I would be drawn to for months at a time. Of course, I would be so frustrated at my inability to ‘see the woods from the trees’ that I loathed my need to try and explain to people what was happening; relationships soured and my ability to deal with trivial challenges became harder and harder. It seemed so logical for me at the time to withdraw completely from society, self-sabotaging relationships and opportunities, not knowing of course that the one thing that was going to help me was the exact opposite.

Tell us more about how can we be a positive support to someone who is/has been suffering from depression?

It’s really important that friends don’t feel any pressure to be able to ‘solve’ anything. There’s a reason trained professionals like psychologists exist. To be a positive support to someone with depression can simply mean letting them know you’re there to listen, not to offer advice or prescribe any solutions, just to listen. By educating ourselves on what to look for, through resources like those available in the Understanding Depression MOOC, and by engaging with the Beyond Blue website, we can understand in greater depth what’s going on and perhaps fill our toolkit with tips and tools on the types of support that we can offer that won’t do more harm than good. In some of my darkest moments, I thought that I was ‘throwing everything away’ and had nothing to live for, and so to know that I had friends who were still there, and would still be there, for whenever I was ready, meant so much and gave me a reason to keep going.

Tell us one positive mantra that you love to live by?

Prayer, patience and perseverance.

Participants of the Understanding Depression: Learning from Lived Experience course will receive a certificate of completion at the end of the course and it will require a 2-hour commitment each week.

For more information, to meet the people who share their experiences with depression in the MOOC, or to register go to: https://www.torrens.edu.au/understanding-depression-learning-from-lived-experience.

 Resources: 

Black Dog Institute https://www.blackdoginstitute.org.au/resources-support/ 

World Mental Health Day https://www.who.int/campaigns/world-mental-health-day/world-mental-health-day-2020

Lifeline Australia 13 11 14

You can also text 0477 13 11 14 from 12 pm to midnight for support.

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Pina Di Donato's has emerged to the self-help arena with her newly released book Who Switched the Lights On? Self-described; it is a companion guide for the person ready to have an illuminated life. The 158-page paperback is easy to read, down to earth, humble and...

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Support our mission to write and produce Positive Stortelling, it takes a tribe to build one. We donate $2 from every subscription to Vision Australia

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