I started focusing on working with children as a singing teacher. Over the last two decades, I’ve worked with thousands of students around the world and a number of schools and charities. As my singing classes continued over the years, I was finding new ways of developing their voices. It seemed logical to take the next step and coach them in songwriting. It is wonderful experience encouraging my singing students to keep songwriting journals of their childhood.
I structure my songwriting tuition for children around a different topic every term, and a different style of music each term. Children are invited to tune into write songs about what is meaningful currently in their life. A feeling that they were having, an aspiration. What was interesting about coaching songwriting was that a lot of what has resonance for children in their songwriting journals around the world is the same.
Wherever they are in the world, there are common areas of interest for all children that they explored in their songwriting journals. All children care about their future and their families and really care about their friendships. My students would also choose an area of passion to explore in their songwriting each term. They talked a lot about animals, the planet. So many kids are really concerned about the environment. Kids wrote great songs about what was really happening for them. They spoke about the world not being treated very well, humans wasting resources, starting wars. When I read an eight year old’s song about how if everyone was sharing their virtues the world would be a better place, I was really inspired.
A few of my most memorable moments working with children include the time I assembled my students to perform to an audience of 1,500 children from across South East Asia. These children had gathered to form a think tank to create innovative ways of dealing with waste, an initiative of the Hemisphere organisation. All the children I worked with sang an original song at the event that was written by an eight year old girl, (a mini Aretha Franklin in fact) and the emotional response in the room was overwhelming.
Another memorable concert was a duet performance with one of my young coaching students at a fundraiser for SG Creations at Chijmes cathedral in Singapore.
One of the performances I remember most fondly was a concert at my home studio where 100 people turned up to pay homage to all the young writers I’ve been working with. It was the final concert at my studio, and a celebration of all the young children I’ve been supporting. All of their beautiful songwriting and all of their stunning collaborations just broke open hearts.
When I commenced singing coaching, it began because someone asked me to teach their child to sing. One student led to ten students, led to fifteen students. People sought me out for private tuition. I’m also passionate about working with young women – I’ve been mentoring young singers and musicians for more than 10 years. From this I realised that were was a real possibility in the community to do workshops, which I have conducted around the world. Most recently I taught 300 children at a community school in India to sing a song called “Namaste” together. It was a profound experience to witness this impromptu choir join together in song.
My next project is “Search for the Sparkle,” which is a musical about cultivating mindfulness that I’m writing and developing at the moment with some amazing musicians and collaboraters. The goal is to have the songs and resources available to all schools around the world so they can put on a production themselves and in the process teach their students about mindfulness, mental health and being present. I’ll be sharing the story of the musical’s development here on The Singing Nomad over the next few months.