On December 31, 2019, early childhood music educator Joanne Steel saw her daughter Bridget off on a flight to London Heathrow Airport.
Ms Steel and her family had been visiting her mother in Batemans Bay in the weeks prior, and said the fires were already having a "horrendous impact" on the coast.
Her daughter Bridget landed at Heathrow with no knowledge of whether her grandmother or her home had survived the New Year's Eve blaze.
Now, after two years and a move of her own to Batemans Bay, Ms Steel has released Watermelon Jazz, a jazz album that, while being designed for younger children, can be "enjoyed by anyone".
And while the music on Watermelon Jazz is top notch, the story behind the album, including some strong links to the other side of the world, is amazing.
"The fires had such an impact on our family, that Bridget thought about what she could do to help out in London," Ms Steel said.
"She got together with another expat Australian, and with the help of the Royal Academy of Music, she helped host a bushfire relief concert that raised a stack of money.
"We flew over there to surprise her, and during the show her partner Misha Mullov-Abbado was sitting next to me.
"I heard one of his arrangements for the orchestra and choir, and I thought it would be amazing to work with him one day.
"That concert took place in the last week of February, 2020, and we flew back in March straight into a lockdown."
Ms Steel runs Ukubebe, a Sydney-based provider of music programs for "children's learning and wellbeing", and now runs classes out of her new home in Batemans Bay.
"Living in Sydney at the time, my work was greatly impacted (by lockdowns) because we couldn't do face-to-face, and online classes aren't ideal for very young children," Ms Steel said.
"I ended up with a lot of downtime during lockdown, so I decided to make the most of it. I thought I could write an album that could be especially for families during that difficult period of time.
"I thought jazz was an interesting genre of music, so different from the structure of music typically associated with young children.
"I associated jazz with freedom and liberation, and it brings people so much joy with the improvisation, the syncopation, the solos, and the call and response.
"We have parents and grandparents who enjoy this style of music, and if we used it with children's songs, it could be for the kids as well.
"My motivation behind all of my work is the children, and the ideas for all of my songs come from the children in my classes - I always have loads of inspiration."
Ms Steel then contacted her daughter Bridget in London with details of her plans, and the ensuing album spent time on both sides of the world.
"I contacted Bridget and Misha in London to tell them I'd write the album, and I asked if they would like to be involved," she said
"Misha jumped right in and said yes, and I was delighted.
"During the school holiday period of July, 2020, I locked myself away in a room and wrote all the songs. I then prepared all the demos after learning how to record at home, and in the spring I sent them across to Misha.
"He was really gracious to take on board my knowledge of children's music, and he was able to use his remarkable experience and amazing musical ability to come up with some great arrangements.
"We decided it would be ideal for him to work closely with his own musicians, and my daughter Bridget plays the violin on the album.
"In February we went into a recording studio in Sydney and recorded all the vocals, then those tracks went back to the UK where Misha mixed and edited it all.
"It then went to Wales for final mastering, and we released the album on October 1."
Ms Steel said she hoped parents and grandparents would "have a mad dance around the house to their favourite song on the album".
"Music enriches our lives more than any of the other arts," she said.
"It's so enriching, rewarding, and benefiting for children - the impacts on their brains are so profound.
"Hopefully I can help provide a foundation that sets kids up for a life-long love of music, and provide music that is beneficial for their whole development."
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