Part 1 of 4
I didn’t think I would end up being a singer, because to be quite honest I found some of my first singing lessons really, I mean really difficult. I am not talking about just singing along to someone playing the piano, I am talking about someone telling you that you have to open your ribcage, think about how you are breathing out, supporting your voice, singing on the ‘line’ making sure the consonants’ are clear, it goes on and on!
I remember some of my first real singing lessons where I was breathing in for a count of two for five times and then breathing out for 30 seconds, Wow! Now that was hard! Try it it’s not easy! Anyway, you get the idea! I realised quite quickly that to be able to sing classically I was in for a lot of hard work. Why start singing lessons I hear you ask? Well here’s the thing, I need to give you a little background to tell you the reason why.
You see my family moved home when I was younger, times were tight for my parents (I have 3 other siblings) and they had to down-size the house a couple of times which meant I went to three different secondary schools and that also meant I was the ‘new girl’ three times. Being the ‘new girl’ I was bullied a lot and to be honest I didn’t cope that well. I wanted to take music and art as my lesson choices but the girls that bullied me were also in those classes, so I decided to take Drama instead. As it turned out I was a pretty good budding actress; I used to get A grades in Drama and in English, so I thought my destiny was going to be in Acting.
Now back to the bullying part. The thing is with bullying is it can really take over your life and all you ever end up thinking about is how to avoid situations where you are going to be face to face with your bully. This is the reason I didn’t go to college straight after leaving school, because I knew they would be at the same college as me. Crazy I know and if I could do it all again believe me I would do it all differently!
So anyway a few years went by and I was working full-time, I was a dental nurse for a while and then I started doing admin in an office and it was then that I realised that now I had money of my own I could maybe pursue my career as an actress after all. I started taking acting lessons and masterclasses and started going to auditions – I was nervous but I really loved it. I used to look in a magazine called ‘The Stage’ and I used to see all of these auditions listed where it said things like ‘Wanted – actress who can sing’, ‘Wanted actress/singer’ and I just kept thinking oh I wish I could sing and then I could go for all these jobs! So that was the story of why I wanted to learn to sing. So what happened next? Find out in part 2!
PART 2 of 4
I started lessons with a private singing coach. Over the next few months I started to learn some very basic Italian songs and was even put in the Christmas show alongside the kids (actually I was the only adult student), but hey I didn’t mind, at least I was on stage!
The thing about being an adult student is for some reason it can sometimes be a bit harder and you have to swallow your pride a bit. This was especially so when I was in the waiting room with kids about 5 years old sitting with their parents and I was waiting to have the same lesson, but as they say, if you want something bad enough nothing is going to stop you and I wasn’t about to let a little bit of pride get in my way!
The months went by and I moved to London to keep following my acting dreams so I needed a new vocal coach. Fate had plans for me and I met the singing teacher that I still have to this day. You might wonder why a singing teacher and not a vocal coach I hear you say?
Well a vocal coach will help you study a song and help you get the ‘best’ out of it, they will help you with timing and expression and interpretation but a singing teacher is a different ball game, it’s all about technique. They help you understand what exactly you are doing with your body and mind and teach you how to combine the two (your body and mind) to make sure they work together to get the final result.
My new teacher was a trained opera singer and a specialist singing teacher – I was excited! In the first lesson with my new singing teacher she made me sing a scale. Now I knew how to sing a scale as I’d been having lessons previously in Hampshire, but this was different somehow I just knew it.
I kept singing the scale and my teacher was taking my voice higher and higher, telling me to change my posture or do something different with my mouth. That’s when I sang the highest note I had ever sang, (up to that point I didn’t even know I could sing very high at all) and my teacher turned around to me and said, ‘yes, you’re a soprano probably a lyric’.
Well I had absolutely had no idea of what any of that meant, and it triggered something in me that I had never felt before; I wanted to know how to keep singing with those high notes, not just make one high note, I wanted to know how to sing the way I had seen other opera singers sing, I wanted to know what Classical music was, I wanted more more more! I had found something that I was genuinely passionate about and I was so excited.
The months went by and as I was singing new songs not only could I get into character and think about the lyrics and timing, I was also thinking about my breathing, the notes, my tone, my posture, my facial expressions… the list seemed endless, the flurry of instructions were taking over my brain all at once, I was hooked!
It’s just amazing what a talented singing teacher can do for you! I knew this medium of art was the thing I had been unknowingly searching for as it felt so right. When I sang I couldn’t and didn’t have time to think about any of my worries or any of the other sad things that were happening in my life, it was all consuming; it was the exact medicine I needed!
The only trouble was it was very hard and it was very expensive… I knew I had to find a way to make it work, but how could I? Find out in part 3!
PART 3 of 4
The trouble is with both music conservatoires and acting schools is that they are pretty expensive and if you haven’t got a family to help you or can’t get a grant then its pretty much near impossible to go and live in London. So I had to make a decision. Do I carry on pursuing an acting career and give up singing lessons, because to do both was too expensive, or do I get a ‘proper job’ so I can afford to pay for singing lessons?
I had to really think about what I wanted, my acting career was starting to take off, I had been in a couple of short films and I had done a string of bit parts, I even had a role alongside Ray Winstone in a commercial for Hoslten Pils! But the money from that wasn’t enough to pay for London rent and living as well as singing lessons. I loved acting and I was really good at it, but in my heart of hearts I knew deep inside that this was my true calling.
So I got an office job in the city and although it wasn’t very exciting I was getting a regular wage and I could afford to have singing lessons regularly. Getting the tube (London Underground public transport) in rush hour was no fun, but I learned to make the most of my time between lessons, I would take my music folder on the hour and a half long journey to work, I would have my headphones in and listen to singers that my teacher recommended.
I started really learning about singing and music for the first time in my spare time and I loved it. My weekly lesson was the thing I looked forward to most each week! Like any good student I took every opportunity to practice. I was so determined to get as much practice in as possible that when I was working in the City for Barclays Bank I managed to sneak in at lunchtimes to practice in an old unused room in the basement of their building – I could hear the people on the floor above asking “where is that sound coming from?” But I didn’t let it put me off!
The years went by and my singing voice got better and better, I started writing music, and I took all of my singing and music theory exams – still alongside the kids, but I didn’t care anymore it was making me happy! I was even able to go on a part time music college course (the same one that that Ed Sheeran went to) and I immersed myself in contemporary singing and song writing practices all the while alongside my classical singing lessons with my beloved teacher.
Quite a few years went by and after a lot of hard work I started my own singing business, singing at weddings and birthdays and in care homes for the elderly. As time went on though it became clear; as I started going for auditions for opera companies they definitely wanted the ‘conservatoire’ taught singer! ‘All this work for nothing’ I would think whenever I left an audition, I could see the disappointment on the faces of the judging panel when I told them I hadn’t been through the traditional route of a classical music education.
I thought what I needed to do was to try and somehow please ‘them’, the ones that matter (or so I thought) and I enrolled onto a very expensive opera course. On the first day of my new course I had that feeling at the pit of my stomach, you know the one when you feel that something is really very wrong. Most of the students had come from a conservatoire or were about to go in one and although I loved the work I felt like I didn’t fit in all over again.
I found out some of the students in the classes were passing notes about me, I was the new girl at school all over again! I figured I’d be able to handle the petty school room antics as a lot of the students were quite a lot younger than me, and even though it hurt I held my head up high.
But that was just the beginning, when some of the teachers used bullying tactics during the lessons I really felt like history was repeating itself all over again! I was devastated! I left the course that I thought was going to help me feeling down, depressed and ready to give up my singing dream.
How could I have come this far only to feel like I wasn’t ever going to fit in this musical world I so wanted to be part of? What was I going to do? Find out in the 4th and final part tomorrow!
PART 4 of 4
In the summer of 2016 after leaving the opera school I decided that I needed to focus on something else other than my singing career. The thing that used to give me so much joy was turning into a nightmare and I felt frustrated and alone. I found solace artistically in song-writing and prayed to be led in the best direction.
In September 2016 I was offered the amazing chance to do something extraordinary – to climb the highest mountain in Africa. I pondered on the opportunity for a while. I had never done any type of walking or climbing before, I was an asthmatic and I had no idea if I would even be able to make it to the summit due to the altitude.
But never being one to say no to a personal challenge and with nothing to hold me back I decided I was going to climb Mount Kilimanjaro in Africa! That trip changed my life.
It demanded every ounce of me, physically, mentally and emotionally. As each day went by on the six-day climb, I kept visualising being at the summit wearing my orange t-shirt, the one that had been given to me by ‘The Brooke’ one of the charities I was climbing for. It helped to visualise the donkeys that I was raising money for climbing up steep hills with bricks on their back and I used to tell myself ‘If they can do it so can I’!
At first I thought a lot about everything else that was happening around me, the noises, the smells, other people, conversations, but as the days went on, because they were quite long days, I started to get into a rhythm and just enjoy every step rather than worrying if I was going to make it to the top or not; I just kept putting one foot forward and it was one of the best lessons I could have had.
One thing that amazed me about that climb was that I never once thought about quitting, I just knew I had to get to the summit even through the tiredness, pain and tears.
On September 18th 2016 at 5.27am I summited Mount Kilimanjaro! I was so proud of myself! The mountain gave me an immense feeling that is hard to describe. I could literally feel a charge of positive energy flowing through me; but I don’t think it was just reaching the summit that changed me, it was the whole experience.
I remember stopping for a drink of water and sitting under one particular tree on the long walk down back to sea level. I had a feeling of peace and calmness that I had never felt before and for the first time ever I could see my life so clearly and the path that was opening before me.
Everything that had happened to me in my life and career had bought me to this point and I realised that it really didn’t matter what anyone thought of me or thought of my voice, it was only what I thought about myself that mattered.
I had studied for a long time about self-love but it was climbing that mountain that made everything I had learnt really sink in to a level that changed my life. I knew whatever I did was from now on going to be enough, however I sang and whomever I sang to was going to be enough, it had been all along, I just didn’t realise!!
I knew after climbing to the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro I could accomplish anything! Anything that my heart desired! Because I had finally found self-belief!
From the moment I landed home everything made sense all of a sudden, I wanted to share my journey, my life and my passions.
I started ferociously working on my music!
These were my stories, and I would sing them however I wanted to sing, not how a teacher in a classroom or a person on a judging panel wanted me to sing! I would sing for me and I just knew that the people who it was meant for would find my music and love my songs!
Two years after that climb my debut album ‘Lost in Love’ was finished. I have spent every day since then working in some way or another on it. It is the culmination of so many journeys, my musical journey, my journey through love, my journey through life so far which I am sure you will relate to!
I can’t wait for you to hear my songs, I just know you are going to love them!
Thank you for letting me share this part of my life with you, the next part is just beginning and I am so glad you are with me!