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Making music in times of trouble

Cormac Pearson, Anthony Piovesan and Donna Coutts, April 23, 2020 7:00PM Kids News

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Jamie Hanford, store manager at Manny’s music store in Brisbane, Qld, said the shop is busier than at Christmas during COVID-19-related restrictions. Picture: Adam Head media_cameraJamie Hanford, store manager at Manny’s music store in Brisbane, Qld, said the shop is busier than at Christmas during COVID-19-related restrictions. Picture: Adam Head


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A Queensland music shop is “busier than Christmas” during the COVID-19 disruption as people turn to musical instruments to keep them occupied.

The manager of Manny’s in Brisbane, Qld, expected tough times ahead for the business when the federal government brought in restrictions on going out and non-essential shopping to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

Manny’s manager Jamie Hanford said the tempo* for the business had only increased.

“On a normal day during the year we might have a couple of boxes of stock come in but now we have had about five to six pallets a day,” he said.

“We’ve been absolutely smashed, ukuleles, drums, guitars, pretty much right across the boards it’s been people wanting to get instruments.”

QLD_CM_NEWS_MUSICSHOPSELLOUT_21APR20 media_cameraJamie Hanford said it’s been so busy they’ve needed to restock with five to six pallets of instruments a day. Picture: Adam Head

The rewarding and therapeutic* nature of music is why people are turning to the arts to get through isolation.

“You feel amazing when you learn that new song or master that riff*, but it’s also something you can pick up or play at the end of the day and just let things go,” Mr Hanford said.

The store has a strict 25-person door policy, including staff, which has the music store looking more like a concert with lines out the door on busy days.

“We are super cautious at the moment we have a good amount of PPE*, we are washing hands, we’ve got sanitiser, all the usual sort of stuff,” he said

The store has markings on the ground and signs on the instruments to ensure social distancing and clean equipment.

VIDEO: Geelong Doctor Suzie Rayner uses music to send a message about COVID-19

Geelong doctor performs coronavirus song

Even before COVID-19 restrictions, Australians were going crazy for ukuleles.

In mid-March, the Australian Music Association estimated annual ukulele imports* to Australia had reached 200,000.

The figure is 50,000 units ahead of the next most imported instrument, the acoustic guitar.

The co-ordinator of two community ukulele clubs in Melbourne, Victoria — Whittle C Ukes and Bundy Ukes — Cathy Edwards said the surge* in popularity for “the happy instrument” came as no surprise.

“Ukuleles are affordable at mainly just $40, they’re very achievable and most importantly you can’t be sad playing the ukulele,” she said.

“It’s a very cheerful instrument.”

Whittlesea ukes media_cameraMembers of the Whittle C Ukes group on March 10, just days before they had to stop meeting in person. Picture: Hamish Blair

Since physical distancing restrictions began, Ms Edwards has been helping her ukulele players connect online with Zoom meetings.

“That’s been okay for some of my groups who are computer able, for others it’s more difficult,” she said.

One of the uke groups has 18 of the 21 members able to continue playing together online but another group, with an average member age of 82, have only two members able to join a Zoom meeting.

Ms Edwards said despite missing being together in the one room, the ability to play a musical instrument is some comfort.

“Many of them have said it has been a saving emotionally to be able to play their ukulele.”

While she’s waiting for face-to-face teaching to restart, Ms Edwards has an at-home project of her own.

“One of my ukulele players, she has emailed me some piano music — she’s 80-something — and we are each learning one part of a duet. When this is over we will play it together on a grand piano.”


  • tempo: the speed of the beat
  • therapeutic: makes you better or feel better
  • riff: short, repeated phrase in music
  • PPE: personal protective equipment
  • imports: goods brought in from overseas
  • surge: big increase in a short time


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  1. How many pallets of stock is the music shop going through a day? How does that compare to normal times?
  2. What are the two most imported instruments in Australia?
  3. What sort of emotion does Cathy Edwards use to describe a ukulele?
  4. How have some of the ukulele players been catching up?
  5. What is Cathy Edwards going to play on the grand piano and who with?


1. What could you do?
Why do you think that it is a good thing that people are learning new skills or taking up new hobbies right now? Write as many reasons that you can think of.

Time: allow 15 minutes to complete this activity
Curriculum Links: English, Personal and Social Capability

2. Extension
Can you design a new musical instrument? Maybe you could combine two instruments to make a new one, improve one that already exists or come up with something completely new! Draw the design of your instrument and write some instructions that will help someone play it.

Time: allow at least 30 minutes to complete this activity
Curriculum Links: English, Music, Design and Technologies

I want to learn…

If you could pick any musical instrument to learn, what would you pick and why?

Write a letter to your parents or carer to convince them to let you learn that instrument.

HAVE YOUR SAY: Do you play a musical instrument? Has it been a good thing to do while you’re at home? If not, would you like to?
No one-word answers. Use full sentences to explain your thinking. No comments will be published until approved by editors.

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