When I hit 50 I asked myself three questions: What do I love? What am I good at? And what can I do with the skills I have?
I was a professional opera singer for twenty years, so, I had the idea of creating a weekend workshop which would be an uplifting and inspiring oasis of music, yoga, nature, good food and friendship. I wanted people to be able to take time out from their busy, stressful lives and spend a joyful weekend in the country being revived, while working on some fabulous music, both solo and as a group.
I have always taught alongside singing, and together with my lovely and talented co-conspirators, singer/writer Peter Osborn and conductor/pianist Jonathan Cohen, we have now clocked up 21 workshops plus concerts - with many people returning time and again, plus new participants each time. The singers vary in experience from beginners to intending professionals, and in age from 20 to over 70. Someone commented the other day that it has turned into this amazing family that keeps growing…
I think the key has been creating a non-judgemental climate of support and encouragement, which enables each person to develop in confidence as well as progressing vocally and musically. I love that everyone comes along for different reasons. We have one amazing lady who retired a while back from a long and successful career. She started singing lessons just 3 years ago and said recently, “I feel I have found my voice – at this time in my life!” She has a gorgeous voice and spirit which really moves people.
There’s a young Italian man with a beautiful voice and a demanding job in the City by day, whose Neapolitan songs are full of passion. Of course, not everyone is destined for a singing career – nor wants one! – it doesn’t matter. The important thing is to sing because you love it, challenge yourself to improve but also have fun.
Some of our younger students are now in opera programmes. Another lady, a freelance consultant by profession, has taken herself off to Nashville, following her dream of writing and recording an album of original songs!
One of the great rewards for me is seeing people light up when they do something they never thought they could do. My brilliant chiropractor came along one day declaring that he couldn’t sing. Some months later we were both thrilled when he sang a whole song for the first time ever – perfectly in tune and with a lovely tenor sound. I truly believe it is never too late to find your passion and pursue it. (To paraphrase Goethe – Whatever you can do or think you can do, begin it…boldness has magic in it!) And if it’s singing – take that leap and go for it. You may never look back!