Topology Top Up Online Teaches Music from Home
As leaders in musical creativity, composition and education, Topology have launched their Top Up Online program for schools and artists during COVID-19.
Topology is known for their original new works, collaboration and layered sound, and are bringing their musical expertise to students at home.
Topology’s Top Up program has been running for 22 years, taking much-needed musical support to regional communities throughout Australia.
Top Up Online is the same program, delivered virtually, to support students, teachers and communities during school closures and isolation.
The Creative Issue caught up with Topology’s creative director, educator and virtuoso musician, Christa Powell, on the program.
The Creative Issue: Was it challenging to transition the Top Up program from being presented on tour to online?
Christa Powell: It was something that was part of our four-year vision, to set up a big online community to support the travelling. Up until now, we’ve really just travelled. It’s a really big thing for me to be able to work with somebody in community in person. So transitioning to online was a big thing, being so used to working with people in person. But it’s actually been easier than we expected.
The challenges, really, have been the technology. So, making sure we have enough of the technology, and working out the sound. The main thing is the latency between video and audio. We’ve pretty much got all of that sorted.
We did a trial run over Easter of some programs. We had one group of sessions, which booked out, so we did another, which booked out too. They went really well. We had fifteen people in each session, and it was great, it was like having fifteen people in the room. Then we launched yesterday.
TCI: Can you tell us a little of how the online program will run?
CP: So, it’s really like any of our programs. It’s developed in consultation with our participants. So, basically, people are invited to contact us when they want to be involved. We ask what they would like to achieve and who they would like to work with, then we create a program. So for lessons, singer songwriters who want to write music, even people contact us to look for other musicians to work with. People can come to us and ask for a specific instrument, style, composer. It’s open-ended.
TCI: During school closures and online learning, how will your program support music education?
CP: Teachers have come to us and asked for programs to support their own teaching. It’s not to say we’ll take over. The teacher will say, I can do this, but I need some help to do this. We’ll come in and fill the gaps. At the moment, teachers are really stretched, trying to deal with a class that’s dispersed over some many houses. So we’re there to support them.
TCI: During isolation, how important is learning music for mental health?
CP: Absolutely. It’s very important. The creativity really helps. Not just to be able to play music better, but to be able to think differently. Especially if you are struggling with mental health, it’s really an opportunity to change tack for a while. The main thing is that it really exercises your creative brain, which is really important for every field in life.
TCI: How many schools, individuals or communities are you expecting to participate online?
CP: We’ve already since yesterday had quite a few people contact us with expressions of interest. So the process is, they send an expression of interest, then we contact them and create a program. We have a big capacity to be able to work with people. We have a big pool of composers and musicians who work with us.
TCI: What do you think of the role of artists and creativity during this crisis?
CP: I think it’s really important. Because, basically, what are most people doing when they’re isolated at home? They’re going to Netflix, they’re reading books, they’re doing craft and art. Everything really comes back to the arts to get people through crisis all the time throughout history. So, I think it’s immensely important. It’s also a shame that it’s not being supported financially by the government. It’s very difficult for a lot of independent artists at the moment.
TCI: What other impacts has COVID-19 had on Topology?
CP: The main thing for us is travel. One of our main goals in everything we do is connection and collaboration. Through the online program, we’re able to keep connecting and keep the collaborations going. We work with a lot of international artists, so, we’re going to bring them into the program as well. So, the main thing for us is not being able to go into the community.
We have our Music Viva tour, that we were going to be touring all over Australia starting in May. It’ll still happen, just in an online format, through Zoom. So, we’ll all be separated, but you’ll be able to see all the performers. Aurally, it’ll sound like it would if you were standing in front of them.
TCI: Any advice for creatives who are struggling during this time?
CP: Contact us! Contact us and we will help. Keep going, keep creating. And if you need help, contact someone. Most importantly, you need to work with other people. The problem with being in isolation is that it’s so isolating. That’s the main thing for us, just to keep connecting, keep collaborating, and keep communicating with other people. So, we’re really here just to facilitate that.
Top Up is for anyone! If you’ve never written any music, never played an instrument before, never sung, this is for you. If you are a young musician and are looking to launch your career, then, also this program is for you. Contact us, then we can create a program for you.
Interested in Top Up Online? Submit an Expression of Interest on the Topology website.
Read our interview with Topology’s John Babbage here.