If At First

You Don’t Succeed…

 

I always loved to sing. My mum was (and still is) an avid member of the Church choir and an outstanding singer in her own right. From an early age I would sing solos at Christmas and try to be the loudest singer in the congregation! My first main role came at the end of Primary School where I was selected to be Joseph in ‘Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat’. I remember everything about that performance, from the costume to the stage directions, but my overwhelming memory is of feeling an amazing buzz from being in front of an audience. It was clear to me at 10 years old that my future lay in performance.

As I entered secondary school, I was already learning to play the cello and piano and continuing with singing wherever I could. I joined the choir and music was my absolute favourite lesson of the week. I was confident and loved singing with a passion.

Then disaster struck.

During Year 8, there was an opportunity to be in the choir for ‘Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat’ at the Winter Gardens in Blackpool, performing with Philip Schofield every night! This was obviously fate! I’d already performed the lead role at my primary school and I was confident that entry to the choir would be a breeze. I attended my audition and sang my heart out. The school selected the best 30 singers from Years 7-9 and I eagerly awaited their decision. When the list went up, my heart sank. My name was there, but on the reserve list! I hadn’t made it! How could this be?

After what seemed like an eternity of tears and tantrums, I picked myself back up again and decided that someone would drop out and I would be offered their place. It didn’t happen and so I watched my friends and peers go off to rehearsals and performances and listened to their amazing stories of the professional world I so desperately wanted to join.

Although this was absolutely my first experience of failure and disappointment, to this day I am so glad I experienced it. This business is fickle and hard hearted at times, and as a performer you have to develop a thick skin. This wasn’t the last time I would experience disappointment in this world, but in going through something like that at 12 years old, I know that firstly, you get over it and secondly it makes you more resilient and stronger than ever before. You have to learn to pick yourself up and throw yourself back out there. I continued to work towards my hopes and dreams and joined everything I could that was Performing Arts related. At that same school a few years later, I played the lead role in Guys and Dolls and received the ‘Senior singer of the Year’ award, so I definitely got back on my A game!

Confident children need to be nurtured and sometimes a negative result in something can actually help them grow. They need lots of love and encouragement and constant reminders that if at first you don’t succeed, try try again! If I had given up at that first hurdle, I’d never have got to where I am now.

Helen Ames BA(Hons) PGCE

Principal – Little Voices Hertfordshire West

How Drama and singing training helps your child at school with numeracy, literacy, reading, biology and physics!

JaneThere are so many benefits to drama and singing lessons that help your child with school.

Singing is all about music and music is a very mathematical subject. The timing, the note values, musical notation, the speed, the length of phrases are just some of the important components of teaching singing. This in turn aids maths, the two complement each other in a really disguised way.  In the context of your child’s lessons at Little Voices they are acquiring so much knowledge in a fun way that will inherently help their schooling.

The lyrics of songs aid your child’s literacy and reading. A child has to understand each word that they are singing so that they can emotional portray the meaning of the song in performance. The script reading and understanding in drama lessons is again so important to the overall educational development of a child in school.

The way that the voice works is very complex and from a very young age we are talking in your child’s lessons about the biology of the human voice and how our bodies support the voice. This is fantastic for children as they often get into Year 9 at school and all the ‘intercostal diaphragmatic breathing’ topic that is covered in biology they already know. In physics they already know how a sound is produced and how it travels!

So who would have thought it that drama and singing each week would help topics such as biology and physics!

The biggest challenges of running your own teaching business in drama and singing

Jane 1What are the biggest challenges about running your own business in Performing Arts?
The five things that spring to mind for me are:

  • Understanding how to market your business and not just rely on word of mouth
  • Operating safely
  • Recruiting and growing so that it doesn’t all rely on you
  • Getting through the month of August
  • Doing every aspect of the business alone

 

So taking each point step by step

  • What is your market? And to say “children’ really isn’t good enough. There are approximately 9.1 million children in the UK today however not all of those are going to be your target market. You really need to understand who your market is, where they are and what sort of messages through which sorts of media they will be most open to listening too. You cannot build a business on reputation and recommendation alone – certainly not a sustainable one that meets all of your goals. Once you have set this plan in place you then need to start crafting your marketing strategy and it really isn’t as scary as it sounds.
  • Operating safely is IMPERATIVE! There are so many teachers that set themselves up in their own homes, within schools or community buildings that really do not have all the relevant documentation in place. A bullet proof risk assessment is a must and insurance as a bare minimum. Anyone could fall on your front steps or going up to the toilet before a lesson. You have to protect yourself and those that you teach. Equally it is important to understand what your responsibility is after an accident happens. Policies and procedures are so often overlooked and ‘passing the blame’ or presuming that that element is not your responsibility is the irresponsible way of running your business.
  • What do you want to achieve? What is your ultimate goal? Living day to day and week to week, month to month and year to year is brilliant and serves a great purpose but ultimately knowing your end goal is absolutely eye opening and helps you to get really focussed. It also means that if the goals are sizeable then you can start to plan how the teaching will not all be conducted by you. As much as we love teaching you only have so many hours in the day and there is a limit to what you can charge so you will need to get a system in place. It is why joining a supportive, systemised network can help. I was watching the programme about “Dominoes” pizzas last night and it was fascinating to watch their most successful millionaire franchisee! Franchises make millionaires so if you have big goals perhaps looking at a franchise network is a good idea.
  • This comes down to having a system again because you need to make money all the way through the year and ensuring that you have courses on in the holidays will help to sustain the business and avoid seasonality. Brainstorming ideas of what you could deliver in a short course is a great place to start.
  • It is lonely being self employed and running your own business. If you feel this way you should look at the options available to you in terms of a franchise because as they say ‘birds of a feather flock together’ and a team of people working towards the same end goal provides priceless support for you. The theory is that you become the average of the 5 people that you hang about most with – so surrounding yourself with the right people is crucial and it would be my biggest piece of advice for anyone setting out to achieve their dreams!
    Feel free to contact me and discuss anything that is of interest in my blogs jane@littlevoices.org.uk 01254 207516 www.littlevoices.org.uk

When do you decide to stop chasing the career as a professional singer / actress and make some firm career decisions for the future?

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This is a very hard question and one that I imagine everyone that has studied at Drama School or Music Conservatoire has mulled over at some time in their lives.

If I am being completely honest with myself I knew whilst at college and very soon afterwards that the life of a fully fledged professional Mezzo Soprano was not for me. I think that I followed my dreams through university and beyond because:

  1. Music was what I loved most and people said I had a beautiful voice– I had to choose a university course so I chose Music
  2. I didn’t have any other idea about what it was that I wanted to do in life – I had a limited understanding of the different career paths that I could follow and a limited grasp on what opportunities were out there in the big wide world
  3. I loved the idea of being commercially well known like ‘Lesley Garrett’, Kiri Te Kanawa, Katherine Jenkins, Russell Watson, Alfie Boe
  4. My mum said ‘Jane do what you love doing.’

I read Music at Sheffield University and then took a year out. I worked for my father in the logistics business and really enjoyed the office/business environment when I think back BUT I was hell bent on being a singer. I was going to Music College when my voice was ‘mature enough’ and nothing was getting in my way.

All my family and friends knew I was going to be a singer. With hindsight now I had no idea what ‘being a singer’ really meant! In reality I had a pretty good voice and I love to sing and perform so hence I was heading to be a professional singer. How naïve!!

After running the London Marathon and raising thousands of pounds for charity as a result in my ear off surely I should have had an inkling that ‘organisation’, ‘leadership’ and ‘business’ was going to be my calling. No, no, no……. one of the charity events I was singing in (that I had organised) I was going to be a ‘singer’ it was a Last night of the Proms, big dress, brass band, huge auditorium –type event ! I was going to be a professional opera singer! Surely then did I not realise that it was not an ‘opera singer’ that I was going to be – I was liking the commercial element not the Covent Garden or Opera on a shoe string element to the career.

Sadly, Music Conservatoire had to wait another year as I had an incredibly life threatening recovery process to endure following straight forward surgery and was left on crutches for a further 12 months. But I was thrilled when in 2002 I finally reached the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama, now known as the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, and embarked upon my Masters training to become a professional Opera Singer!

I had a ball at college and trained with the best! But I think that I knew in my deepest heart of hearts then that I couldn’t be an ‘opera singer’. BUT I could not have admitted to ANYONE at college that it was the commercial singing that I loved and strived for. I didn’t even really know this was what it was then! And remember my family and friends all knew Jane was going to be an ‘opera singer’.  The pressure……that I had created………for myself……geez………

I graduated 2 years later, I was engaged to be married and I moved back to my home town, Blackburn. Dreams of becoming an opera singer still intact!

Then BUMP…..REALITY…….LIFE! I got a house, needed to pay for council tax and bills and a mortgage. Auditions? Opera Singer? Er……..I think not! What can I do …………………mmmmm TEACH! That dirty word from college that no one would ever admit that they would do full time: teach singing! SO I started teaching and I didn’t look back – with lots of singing at concerts, weddings and funerals in between (which I LOVED).

I saved for a wedding, I got married, I fell pregnant………………….. and then guess what…..I got a  big audition! I bottled it. I didn’t go. That was NOT what I wanted!! I didn’t want to go through that audition process, that going to London, the rejection or indeed the offer of a role and then the move away from home. I was pregnant, I was a home bird. This opera career thing was not for me. I knew it in my heart – but could I voice it to others or tell my family and friends that that was how I felt – NO ABSOLUTELY NOT! I couldn’t!!!!

My husband left me for someone else when 6 months pregnant and then life became all about my baby and teaching to keep a roof over our heads. No one asked me about my career as an ‘opera singer’ – it was insignificant to others in the grand scheme of things.

I had no maternity pay, no help from anyone else financially (but lots of help emotionally) and several days after my beautiful daughter was born I went back to teaching singing across the Lancashire county. I could only do this with the help of my amazing family though.

Teaching was how we survived, the odd wedding, concert and funeral performance here and there. But I was not fulfilled, there was something more inside me and in 2007 Little Voices was born.

 

I didn’t know how Little Voices was going to revolutionise my life. But it did. I am happy. I am in my right role and the future is bright. Better still after 4 years of learning every mistake in the book, streamlining how a successful singing/drama business should operate, continuously learning and self developing myself as a marketer and successful business owner of a National company I can know help others to find themselves, run their own successful business in the right way and change their future, whilst still staying true to themselves and their personal goals!

And do you know what in 2014 I made the transition and admitted to myself and feel comfortable having an open conversation with anybody about singer verses teacher verses what career path to explore and follow. And what is even better I can have both. A successful business and a commercial career, singing! It is all about having your vision, your targets, your goals and being true to yourself and your beliefs.

The ethos of Little Voices mirrored exactly the principles behind my 1:1 teaching – OUTSTANDING, HIGH QUALITY, THE VERY BEST TUITION IN SINGING AND DRAMA, CONFIDENCE FOR ALL DELIVERED THROUGH LESSONS, CARE AND ATTENTION TO DETAIL AND EACH INDIVIDUAL. This ethos comes from the top and emulates through every pore of Little Voices, nationally.

I would love to hear your comments and journey so far……..

Email me if you would like to receive our FREE 10 Step guide to running a successful teaching practice

jane@littlevoices.org.uk