Happy Saturday folks…
its a stormy windy day here in Cardiff, Wales. The winter has arrived and along with it new colds and snuffles and sore throats – the great thing about this season which I L-O-V-E is singing Christmas songs and carols – such a softy at heart. My favourite film of the season is always and undoubtedly “It’s a wonderful life” and days like these make me want to light the fire and cosy up with hot chocolate and watch this film. But……..its story time again so here I am at the kitchen table reminiscing over some of the fantastic people I’ve come across over the passed few decades.
Up until now the stories I’ve been posting have been concentrated around the singers we have with my fabulous company Sing & Inspire. We’ve heard a handful of incredibly meaningful and inspiring testimonials mainly from seldom or non singers and how engaging with their voices, singing together (and alone) and experiencing shared experience and success with their singing has helped them in their lives.
For nearly 20 years now part of my voice journey is that I’ve been teaching singing and coaching voice (two different things in my opinion) and for the past 13 years I’ve been a Music Industry Voice Coach. My method of coaching through the voice can be intrusive and certainly transformational for many of my clients. I think that a lot of the coaching initially was purely instinctive (and to some degree still very much is) and as my experience grew I simply picked up common themes of people and what their needs, core desires and fears often are. I was able to gently probe people to ask themselves questions and work through these core emotions that would then aid them to unlocking their voices and subsequent dreams. For the best part of a decade my clientele moved into one where I generally only taught singers or actors who were serious about their voices and wanted to ‘make money’ out of their talent. I spent years with countless rock, punk, folk, electronica, indie, jazz, musical theatre, circuit and every other type of singer, musical theatre performers, dancers, actors and singer songwriters all at different stages in their journeys. Some of which continued to be successful as singers and performers which passions burning brightly and clear pathways to their measures of success…..there were also some who could have pursued their voice careers but after their tuition found different paths. What strikes me about this weeks story is that I didn’t realise the extent that my coaching chapters had with some of these people.
The next bunch of stories that will be published on this blog are from people who I have taught and coached, Many of them from years ago. Because of this, there is specific reference (and praise and accolade) to me personally which I was uncomfortable about publishing but I just thought – hey, I’ve published the other stories raw, I need to afford the same authenticity to these too. So, there’s some humbling comments about me which I’m emotionally grateful for and I ask you as readers not to put too much store in. I’m working on my own journey of acceptance and understand this is time for me to shine also……so bear with me. I do want to stress however, that I’m not publishing these stories to be about me, they are about the writers and their perception and feelings surrounding how their voice journeys impacted their lives. Interestingly a lot of these people I met when they were very young. Some of them were children or teenagers and are now adults. Having a darling (!) teenage son myself 🙂 I know just how impressionable and important these years are so I shouldn’t really be amazed at the footprints that my lessons and I have had in these people’s lives……but nonetheless I am, hence the title of todays post. We leave footprints on peoples lives, energetically, emotionally and intellectually – especially as a teacher, coach, parent – you get the picture. So remember that my lovelies. You will likely have impact on someone you spend time with, it takes some consideration on your part to make sure that impact is a good and healthy one that leaves a legacy.
The story today comes from a lovely auburn haired Irish man called Andy, who I started teaching when he was around 19 years old. He was a student at Cardiff University and had a passion for the Goo Goo Dolls and girls. He’s a fantastic young man who now owns a really cool organisation called Challenge 12 which is a fundraising organisation for charities. Here are the links if you’d like to get involved and follow
When I approached him about possibly featuring his story on here his response blew me away – he said: “Of course I will, your singing lessons changed my life”. I didn’t realise the footprint I had left with Andy had impacted him so much until I read his story.
Here it is…..
I still remember sitting in Andrew Beardshaw’s (in the days before the roguish Matt Callanan swept her off her feet) living room for the first time absolutely petrified of the idea that I had to sing in front of another living human being. It was the summer just before I started my second year at Cardiff University. My first year had been a lovely experience but I was a quiet and pretty shy young man and never really had put myself into a situation where I left my comfort zone. I had been lucky enough to meet a group of great friends who all took the time to get past “shy Andy” (from hence forth known as ShAndy) and we started a band. It was loads of fun and we mainly played covers of Feeder and Goo Goo Dolls (which they hated but was like crack to me). So despite my ShAndy-ness I did have some delusions of rock stardom and would sit for hours boring my friend Paul about what it was going to be like being famous (bless him for putting up with that). Despite said delusions I was a mediocre guitar player at best and had never really sung in public so decided to try and get a few singing lessons. I do remember organising one teacher in first year but chickened out because I was worried what he would say.
So what changed between that chickening out and coming to sit in Andii’s living room? What ripped me from my comfort zone and pushed me in a situation where I could potential humiliate myself? Well what normally does to a young man? A girl.
Unfortunately this isn’t the tale of trying to impress a girl but the heartbreak of having been dumped by one. It made me branch out and try new things and met new people. And that’s how I ended up in Andii’s living room, with her young son Cole running around.
So the time came to sing and I still remember being terrified. Thankfully Andii let me sing with my guitar and so I attempted to belt out “Side” by Travis. So after a minute or two of caterwauling I opened my eyes, which of course had been closed so I could avoid any potential smirking, and Andii was smiling at me and started breaking down the pro’s and con’s. To this day I remember the elation I felt when she said she liked my voice. Now I don’t know whether this was true or not but for an awkward and shy 19 year old it was one of the most encouraging things that could have been said.
Over the next 4 or 5 years I continued on and off with singing lessons (normally based on whether I had time or money) and I can see now that it was more than just singing, it was a confidence builder and a way of working through emotional problems. I would go and just sing and I felt more in control of my life and problems. There were times that I would go even if I had a sore throat and just talk through emotional issues with Andii because it was all connected. Some songs I could sing because I could tap into the emotion connected but yet conversely I would struggle and back away from notes cause I didn’t believe in myself. Andii became much much more than a singing teacher but became a taller and much more attractive Yoda, helping me understand a lot of the feelings that overwhelmed me. Singing taught me a great deal about who I was as a person and built me into the man I am today.
Some people sing and have wonderful voices and a talent for showmanship; the Buble’s, the Sinatra’s, etc but singing doesn’t have to be about getting on a stage and selling tickets. As with any art form its about exploring and very nature of who you are and everything I learnt about who I was and am and continue to grow to become started in singing lessons. It was the lessons I had every Tuesday at 14.00 with Andii that taught me to be comfortable with who I was and the ridiculous nature of me. When I started off my own project, Challenge12, people told me the impossibilities of what I wanted to do but what I learnt singing taught me that often it isn’t about succeeding but about being true to yourself and trying to do things that are different. Confidence is a tricky thing: hard to build up and easily broken but the difference between 30 year old and 20 year old me is that I look inwards now for confidence rather than outwards at the people around me.
Interestingly enough, nowadays I don’t sing except while cooking in the kitchen (much to my flatmates chagrin) but I still can see the lessons I’ve learnt in my ever day life. In 2012, I started a charity project in which I take on a monthly challenge to raise money for charity. Some of the challenges over the last 20 months have pushed me physically and emotionally to the limit but the framework I learnt while singing still supports me.
I can never thank Andii enough for all that she has given me
In usual all about the voice blog fashion, here’s a picture of 30 year old Andy so you can relate to his story even more, and please do visit his website and Facebook and join in his mission to better peoples lives through his challenges.
I have a few #voicequotes which I think fit today’s story….I think the one I’ve used to open and end todays post are fitting .
If you want to see/experience/resonate with more of my #voicequotes and #voicetips you can visit my page on my pinterest here:
Look out for my voice manifesto coming soon 🙂
What did you experience when you were younger that changed your confidence?
Until next week folks – enjoy your bonfire night folks – and remember to wrap up warm 🙂