With another crisis bearing down on us in the shape of the coronavirus pandemic, it might seem an age ago when Australia was in the grip of the devastating bushfires that raged over so much of the country during summer. It might seem also with the passage of time that all is over, that the devastation has passed – except that the human consequences obviously continue, and this includes how the fires have directly affected the lives and livelihood of musicians.
This is where the Resound program has stepped in. Run entirely voluntarily, it works to place instruments back into the hands of professional and amateur musicians, music teachers and students who have lost their instruments in the fires. People are able to donate instruments or contribute cash to those in need via Resound’s website. It’s a simple process that asks respondents what kind of instrument they are able to pledge plus a little about its brand, condition and history. Good quality instruments in working order are greatly preferred, and just about any type of instrument will be considered except for pianos due to their lack of portability.
Rachel Hocking, Resound’s organiser and herself a pianist and music teacher (at the Queensland Conservatorium and Brisbane Boys’ College) as well as an examiner with the AMEB, says the program it has been really successful but that many more instruments are still needed.
“We have nearly 400 pledges so far, and have been able to fill over 100 instrument requests. We have another 50 on the way in the coming week but still have got to find over 200 instruments. So it’s an ongoing need for some time,” she says.
Most need has come from northern NSW, in the inland region from Grafton. “They are doing it really tough there,” Hocking says. “But we are also supplying instruments to people in the outskirts of Sydney all the way down to Mallacoota [Victoria] and across to Kangaroo Island and Cudlee Creek in SA. We’re getting requests from all those places.”
She says instrument pledges have come from as far apart as Darwin, Brisbane, Cairns, Canberra and Hobart, plus many regional cities. “Where they’ve looked to be pretty good instruments, we put them straight in a car and take them out for delivery.”
Journeys can take Resound’s small team of volunteers on very lengthy treks. “We recently covered 1,800 kilometres in three days from Brisbane, and it can involve going down bush tracks and narrow stony roads,” says Hocking.
Normally there are not enough resources to fix or repair instruments, but occasionally an exception is made.
“We were given an extremely fine Yamaha saxophone and are getting it looked at in Tamworth,” she says. “But in general we are trying to aim for really nice quality instruments to encourage people to get back into music-making. That doesn’t mean instruments have to be worth thousands, but we like them to be of good quality.”
Guitars, digital pianos and drumkits are urgently needed right now. She says 20 of the latter are needed but they are hard to come by and bulky to deliver. Cash donations also help a lot and these are tax deductible.
“I know we’re all being stretched at the moment in all sorts of ways, but some are in dire circumstances and are not getting the government help they need,” says Hocking. “They need to be kept in our minds. Government money may be getting out, but many buildings that housed instruments and were destroyed may not be covered by government assistance, and insurance may not be covering their losses.”
This is above all a community response to a community need, and Hocking says she is highly gratified to see how many individuals, schools, businesses and artists have pitched in.
“Resound has been helped by wonderful businesses and organisations such as Sydney String Centre, Animato Strings, AMEB, Touchstone Pianos, Beat Haven Woodwind Repair, and the Sydney Recorder Society. Donations have been made by schools such as The Kings School and Brisbane Boys College, whilst some concerts by artists such as Trio Anima Mundi, the Queensland Baroque Society, Spirit Allegro have raised funds for the cause.”
Dr Rachel Hocking was a previous employee of the Music Council of Australia, the predecessor organisation of Music Australia.