I remember quite vividly the moment I wanted to become a singer.
I was about five, it was a Sunday afternoon and in front of me was a Live band for hire. I was just mesmerised by the performance. I loved it and there was a very clear thought that ran through me which was, “That’s what I want to do.”
I was absolutely captivated by these singers telling their stories in songs and that is what a singer is to me, someone who can tell a story in song and enrapture their audience.
From that point on, young though I was, my reality changed, and not always for the better.
Soon after this experience, my family and I were at a neighbour’s gathering and my Dad asked me, in front of some other adults, “What do you want to do when you grow up?” Straight away I said, “I want to be a Singer”, and the adults laughed.
I have to give my Dad credit though, because I also have this lovely memory of playing around his feet while he was hanging out the washing and he said to me, “OK, if you want to be a singer, I’m going to teach you your first song.”
As a Teacher and Mother now, I think these memories have informed me well when it comes to listening to my child and to students.
The first was Suzuki violin, which involved learning in a group (I still remember standing in a circle chanting “busy, busy, stop, stop”) with about fifteen other children. Parents also had to be involved in this and I would have to practice in front of my Mother while she did the ironing.
The next instrument was saxophone, then clarinet. I thought flute would be great but the school had run out of them, so I was never given the opportunity of learning it.
I still just wanted to sing but I had locked that desire away and became even less confident when I was one of the last people to be selected for the school choir. You see, I never had a naturally “beautiful” voice like some of my peers were considered to have and I remember feeling so upset that the kids that got given solos and praised weren’t even interested in becoming singers.
Eventually, when I was about ten, I told my Mother I wanted to learn to sing. She asked a chorister at the local Temple what she should do and was told that I was too young for singing lessons because my voice hadn’t matured and that I should learn piano until I was old enough (about sixteen!!!!) to have lessons.
I know my Mum was really trying to do her best but again, disappointment…
I was sent to the local piano teacher down the road who only taught the Australian Music Education Board (AMEB) curriculum. This involved classical music, theory and piano exams, which were certified.
I am very grateful this experience now because in my teaching I meet many people who have had their musical dreams dampened in the same way via the same system of teaching and learning, so I am able to relate to them and show them a different way of learning music which brings them results. Also, I did learn how to read music and, how not to teach music theory.
Those six years of practicing, but not knowing how, learning, but not understanding, and still passing exams (God knows how) has made me a better teacher. It has also brought me to this point in my life where I am writing a blog, which aims to give the exact opposite to my early music experience, and I truly hope it does that for you.
To be continued….