A chat over a coffee at a café in Queenscliff led to the establishment of an innovative community group aimed at connecting residents who had reached or were nearing retirement age and who share a love of music.
Research indicates that this demographic, now experiencing less structure in their lives and sometimes lacking that sense of being useful and purposeful beyond their immediate families, face the prospect of increasingly poor health outcomes and social isolation as they age.
Retired school principals, Des Gorman and Paul Jones met to discuss an idea based on the notion of a men’s shed, but using music as the connector rather than tools and machines. The word soon went out and a group of men across the whole of the Bellarine and East Geelong met at the Queenscliff Neighbourhood House to flesh out the concept.
A launch in early 2020 saw a packed hall at the Queenscliff RSL which has now become home to a solid group of men and women who meet regularly to play music together, teach each other musical skills and tricks, check on each other, share tips on maintaining mental and physical good health and prepare for public performances.
The name, Shedding the Blues, paints different images in describing the group’s aims and vision. The term “Shedding” has dual meanings in that one concept is that of a shed where people meet and share as well as the concept of removing, i.e. leaving negative thoughts behind. The notion of the “Blues” relates to how we are travelling in combination with the things we love about the healing force of music and the joy to be experienced when we share musical experiences.
Keeping an emerging musical-based group going throughout the COVID restrictions was both a challenge and achievement for Shedding the Blues. Gatherings on ZOOM, where sharing music was tricky and sometimes frustrating as well as face-to-face sessions when permissible at the outside rotunda in Queenscliff played their part in keeping the group together.
Regular numbers now meet every Tuesday morning where a selected musical theme or genre acts as the glue to the sharing of songs, the teaching of skills and the learning of new ways of looking at things.
Shedding the Blues has planned and conducted two highly successful music/health events called Tune Up in 2022, working in concert with other local community-based music groups and health-based organisations. Organisations across the Bellarine are now regularly asking one or more of the Shedding the Blues bands to entertain at functions and markets. Examples of these include the Borough of Queenscliff’s volunteer and business owners’ gatherings, the Wallington Strawberry Fair, the Point Lonsdale Lighting of the Christmas Tree, the local View Club’s Christmas breakup and the Blues Train to name a few.
Coordinator, Des Gorman credits the success of the initiative to the enthusiasm of the members, their willingness to pitch in and their keenness to bring joy into the lives of residents through music. “The growth in musical confidence and the friendships that have been created and cemented through regular catch-ups and our various projects make it all worthwhile”, noted Des.