Thinking of a singing career?
I started off my singing career at 10 years old! My school, sadly no longer there – Croham Hurst School, decided to put on The Friendly Giant for our end of year show. Sadie Manton had a lovely voice and always seemed to get the solo roles. Pretentious Emma decided that she wanted to audition for the main part, was auditioned by a startled Miss Gilson and subsequently given the part of the Friendly Giant instead of Sadie Manton. She was a great person and I don’t remember her ever being upset by my sudden bullish determination to take the spotlight!
The show went well and the school advised that I should have singing lessons. My parents were rather shocked at this revelation, as I had never been a child to sing around the house. However, they were keen to support my new found passion and so I started singing lessons at the age of 11.
I don’t remember my first singing teacher’s name because she was very quickly replaced by the wonderful singing teacher Mrs Celia McNaughton. Her passion for music and singing in particular was contagious and I steadily went through my grades, taking my grade 8 at 15.
At 14 I joined the National Youth Choir of Great Britain; a wonderful choir, full of the most talented singers. Singing with them raised me up to a new level and the memories of our tours will stay with me as some of the most enjoyable times of my life.
At 15 I joined a Jazz group, sang the lead role in two Musicals and recorded songs for the wonderful composer and Whitgift School music teacher, Mr Richard Allain. At 16 I gave up the guitar and took up piano; reaching grade 6 in 18 months.
By 17 I was ready to apply for the Royal College of Music, but was told to ‘wait’ another year before going, as I was too young.
So many children would love a career in singing and many wonder, when their instrumentalist friends are taking grade 8 at the tender age of 10, why they aren’t doing the same in singing. The fact is that the human voice takes time to mature. The voice grows as the body grows.
Why is that?
Because a singer uses the body to produce the sound; enabling the breath to flow through the vocal chords. As the body grows, so does the ability of the singer to produce a stronger flow of air and to sustain and control their sound with their ever-maturing intercostal muscles and diaphragm.
Singing music that suits the current physical development of the child is so important and this completely depends on the physical and mental maturity of the child.
So what to do in the meantime?
A good teacher is paramount. They will make sure that your posture is correct, that your breathing technique is healthy and that your support system is working correctly. With this in place, learning repertoire from many different genres will help you to understand your voice and to accept your unique sound. Taking part in choirs, performances, workshops and singing courses, both inside and outside of school, is invaluable experience. All of these opportunities help you to explore your sound and performance ability: what comes naturally to you, what do you find a challenge and need to work on (we all have things to work on!). It is also important to learn to listen to other singers, both your contemporaries and singers who are already singing on the world’s stages.
It is not possible to actively practice for hours on end, every day, like our instrumental friends. Instead, we should sing ‘little and often’, whilst spending time discovering new repertoire; watching wonderful performances; reading as much as possible; memorising repertoire and dreaming about what we want to achieve and how we want to achieve it!
We begin to sing before we learn to talk. Singing can give ourselves and others so much joy and performing can help our development in so many ways. Whether we become professional singers or not, the action of singing and learning to sing well can help in other areas of our adult life: learning to control our nerves and our breathing when in stressful situations; listening to and accepting our unique tone qualities; learning how to work on our strengths and weaknesses constructively, not emotionally….
In short: if you love singing: then sing! With good guidance and opportunities, you will learn so much more about yourself, both physically and mentally, and who knows where it will lead? But one thing is for sure: it will be great fun!