Saturday, 19 May 2012

Young and Naive? Hell Yes.

Hi there. It's been a while.

I like to ask awkward , on-the-spot questions to people I've only just met .
I think I got this from my dad .

When I was younger , he would take me out to dinner , and would look at me with this intense look , and ask; 

"So Anna, if there was one thing you could do to change the world , what would it be?" 
And I would pause , and then reply;

"How would I know , I'm only six?"

So as you can see , from a young age , I've been taught to think big , optimistically and passionately . And though it was initially slightly uncomfortable , I am so glad that I've become someone who feels uninhibited to dream and plan elaborate world-changing projects , that will probably (and maybe for the best ) never materialise .

But I have found this is actually not the norm in my generation . So many young people have incredible ideas , and dreams of what they want to achieve in their life time , but too often are stamped down by people saying;

"How DARE you be Young and Inexperienced!"

I am lucky enough to have attended the TED conference , and one year while I was there , a woman came up to me and asked "What are you doing here? You're like TWELVE!"... ( I was 18 at the time , and just becoming youthfully idealistic ) . I was slightly shocked at being so rudely spoken to , and so instead of thinking of a sassy retort ( that we always think of afterwards! ) I muttered something apologetically , and shuffled off .

But this has stuck with me . It's this attitude that society has; that teenagers and young adults are a loud , drunk , obnoxious nuisance , ( some are, don't get me wrong) that have nothing interesting to say because their brains are only unformed mush , and really... how much life experience could they have? So when a young person does pipe up with a new idea , they survey the view of doubting , and slightly amused faces , then excuse themselves , brush off their idea and apologise for disturbing the peace .

Due to this mis-trust , this brushing off , we have seen a rise of cynicism from our generation;

"what's the point of even trying?" 

And who could blame us with all the problems we face? Unemployment is intimidating for new graduates , student debt is crushing , and we see our contemporaries rioting in London . We apply for a job , but they all seem to require 2 years previous experience . There's immense frustration at the government , and at the same time an overwhelming sense of hopelessness and apathy .

I'm guessing that this whole mis-trust of the young and inexperienced isn't going to end any time soon . No doubt , we will be the same when we're older and more cynical . But that doesn't mean we have to endure it now.

We , the young adults of the world , are a huge and mainly untapped source of productivity , optimism , passion , and new ideas .

The young adult is blessed with energy and idealism . She has enough experience of life to find passion in something , but not enough to feel her spirit crushed by failure. So now is the time to try out our big ideas . Who cares if we're young and inexperienced? The way we gain experience is to go out and try . 

One of my favorite TED talks is by Brene Brown on the topic of Shame . She says that shame is 'an epidemic in our culture'. My favorite part is where she says this: 

'I know it's seductive to stand outside the arena… and think to myself, "I'm gonna go in there and kick some ass - when I'm bullet proof, and when I'm perfect", but the truth is, that never happens.'

So true .

So I don't know about you guys , but I'm not gonna wait until I'm bullet proof , or old , or perfect . I'm gonna try and do something cool now . So what if I fail? I learn , get stronger , and know to do better next time . If we all wait until we're old and 'qualified' to do something , well... we're not gonna get very far . 

So please don't listen to the apathetic , or the cynical , or the pessimistic , or the patronising , or the people who blame you for being 'twelve'... Now is the time to become who you want to be , and to start achieving what you want to achieve .

Don't wait ok?

Saturday, 9 April 2011

Recording Day

Let me tell you about my day...

So I wake up at 8am after having had an incredibly bad night with pretty scary dreams, and I'm pretty de-hydrated. My throat is all tight, and my vocal range is similar to a teenage boy's; low and gravelly with the occasional excited squeak popping out from time to time.

Big Uh-Oh.

Today is Recording Day, and I have one shot at recording my song 'For Zoe'.

So I get singing. Operatic exercises warm up my voice pretty quickly, so I launch into that while i'm putting on my eyeliner, (this is at about 9am now)... and I gargle. And I do siren exercises. And then... and then... and then... literally ANYTHING to get my voice back. Thank God it did.

So at about 10am, I grab my giant hoop earrings and a even more giant bottle of water and head to the subway.

At 10:30 I arrive in Williamsburg in Brooklyn. I find the street where the recording studio is supposed to be... but errr.... where the *** is it?!?! It was a pretty grungy street, and I was looking like a right pansy looking back and forth. Eventually I found it.

You know those metal doors in the pavement, that you usually walk over and hope you don't fall through them? Well it was inside one of those. So I went down "into the dungeon" down some very steep steps, and nervously knocked on the door.

I was welcomed in by the very kind man Ken who runs 'Grand Street Recording Studio', and we got to work straight away.

I was put in this little room with lots of microphones, and padding on the walls. I had to put headphones on to hear what they were chatting about behind the glass. And I did a take. And I did another take. Overall I did about 6 of them from start to finish.

There was a shed load of editing next; taking the best phrases, making me cringe while we listened to the worst! And finally we had a pretty decent final version. (I always feel like I'm cheating kinda, but oh well...!)

I think my favorite part of the day was doubling up the vocals and adding harmonies. So much fun, and much easier for me than to sing the melody...!

And then BOOM they played me what we had achieved. It was a pretty special moment. Though the song is all about Zoe, I hadn't really allowed myself to think too much about her all day, because I knew it wouldn't be too productive to get emotional when I was trying to record. But at 5:30pm after a long hard day, when we listened to what was (nearly) the final product, I'm not gonna lie... a few tears appeared.

My producer Michael wants to have some time with the track, so he said he will send it to me when it's all done! I honestly can't wait, but I'm so lucky I have people working on it who are willing to take the time to make it perfect.

It's such an important song to me, and I know a few of you have connected with it too. I can't wait for you all to hear it when it comes out. Check back in a few weeks ok?

Much love x

Thursday, 10 March 2011

The Artist Inside

So I'm having an INCREDIBLE time out in the states.

I've had some amazing vocal coaching from a guy called Phil Hall, who has helped me access different parts of my voice. So much fun.
I'm working with the incredible Michael Montes on producing my song 'For Zoe'. Very excited about that.
And I'm currently trying to compose and write about 10hours of ambient music for The Zoe Project. Heavy. But quite fun!
Yesterday I went to use the lovely Sunny Bates' piano, and wrote a s**t load of songs so I'm pretty happy. hah.

But now I'm thinking forward to May, when I'm back in the UK and settling into London for a few months. I've enrolled myself on this music therapy introduction course which should be really interesting.
So to fill my time out there productively, I've decided to run a small and very experimental music course.

I've named it TAI - The Artist Inside. (Tell me if this is too cringe!)

Some of my beautiful and amazing friends have volunteered to help me out which is so awesome. I love you guys.

I'm currently contacting schools and youth clubs to see if there is any interest. I'm also contacting community halls and church halls to see if I can rent out their space a couple of times a week.

I have hardly any experience, so err... this is how I'm gonna get it! I'm totally aware that I'm gonna fail.. a lot. And most of it will have to be improvised on the spot, but I'm quite excited about it. We have to start somewhere I guess!

So basically, I'm hoping (!) that TAI will be an integration of singing coaching, song-writing, A cappella/ensemble singing and performance. I want to mix group sessions (though I'm not expecting a lot of participants) with 'solo sessions'- a one-on-one session where we can work with the individual on their own goals etc.

So there you go! That's what I'm up to next. I'm hoping TAI will be the start of my journey towards my main goal, (which I talk about in my blog; 'my dream')

Please PLEASE give me tips and any advice/criticism you have. So sweet of you to have read this far.

So much love my darlings.


Saturday, 26 February 2011

While at TED...

It's hard to not be inspired when you're at TED. (if you don't know what I'm on about, look it up
It hasn't even started yet (first day monday) and already I am having to hold myself back from my plans... hold on Anna, just 3 more years, get your degree, then start.

I'm raring to go.

But WHERE do I start?

Ok, fast forward with me, three years from now. I will have almost finished my social work degree and qualification. I will have had 3 more years of experience, 3 more years worth of knowledge, and 3 years of pent up passion for music and musical healing.

What then?

I need to figure out the basics. What is the basic foundation of my plan, and how am I going to grow this thing?

So let's get things clear. This is what I want.

I want to combine the practical aid of a rehabilitation and mentor program with music training adopting a therapeutic approach. When I use the term 'music therapy', please be flexible with it. I'm not talking about giving a trauma victim a tambourine, tell them to tap out the rhythm and expect them to be all better. Come on. I'm not saying that music therapy is that at all. Music therapy is incredible, and there are so many people who have already found the healing benefits of it first hand. I am so excited to take part on this music therapy training course in the summer to learn more.

But no, what I'm merely saying is that MY approach to music therapy is going to be different. I want to put my clients under a fairly up tempo ('rigorous' is the wrong word but you get my drift) and exciting music training program, that shows purpose and drives the clients to reach to their full potential.

It is in doing well, succeeding and in reaching our potential that our confidence grows.
In an increase of confidence, we find an increase of self-belief, and hence drive to do well in other things... like life.

Music has this power, people don't give it enough credit. It can totally change a life. But I've got to put the work in. Watch this space 3 years from now. It'll be mental.

This is Emmanuel Jal. He was a boy soldier, a war child, and experienced pain like no one could belief. His TEDtalk is amazing. When he raps and dances later, it just backs up everything I am talking about. It'll shake you.

Emmanuel Jal: The music of a war child

Wednesday, 23 February 2011

My People...

Introducing, the people I love the most.

Elizabeth, my amazing sister who knows what I'm thinking before I do. She's going to save the world.

Next up is my Mama and her husband Tim. Mum has always let me do whatever it is I feel I need to do. Whether I'm right or wrong, she'll let me learn my own lessons. She's an incredible painter too. Tim is a rock to us all.

My Dad, who helps me to dream big. And his wife Jacqueline, who has excellent taste in jewelry and furniture, and is currently solving the problem of poverty.

My boyfriend Harveer, who puts up with my freak outs and stresses as well as making me feel like the prettiest girl at the party.

And my incredible friends, who have taught me so much. You guys make me laugh and make me feel better. Love.

Much love to you all, and thank you for making me the person I am today.


Tuesday, 8 February 2011

Create yeh?

So I got thinking about creativity, and what it means to be creative.

In a message I received recently, the writer was explaining how a burst of creativity had forced its way out of them in the middle of the night for just 5 minutes. They describe themselves as 'uncreative' generally but the product of their sudden inspiration was an incredibly poignant and beautiful poem that really struck a chord with me. The writer was a close friend of my recently passed sister, and was experiencing intense pain at the time.

This is what I'm talking about people.

Creativity is found in pain, sorrow and darkness. Yes, we can frolic around the meadows and sing about flowers if we like. A lot of what we hear on the radio is just that. It is happy and comfortable; feel-good. And that's ok. We need this kind of music too. And I expect if we ask some of those artists on the radio, they would say that singing makes them happy. And that can only be a good thing.

However, for the creator, their creation is their outlet. It is not only an imprint of themselves, but also of their experiences. And these can be painful experiences, horrific even. When we release that kind of pain for other people to witness and take part in, it makes us incredibly vulnerable and at further risk to hurt. But at the same time, it can be something beautiful. When I write, I want to put the experience into the song, fill it with my emotion, and then send it out.

This opens the box.

Yes I am now vulnerable to criticism and abuse, but I have also opened myself up to encouragement, support, love and appreciation. These are the things that heal. We can put our pain into a song, or a poem, or a piece of art, or anything! And we can say, yes I was in pain, I was vulnerable, and you can see it there in my creation, and you can judge and ridicule it as much as you like, but I have mastered it.

So people, whether you are creative or not, whether you have experienced heartbreak or grief or sorrow or anger or pain, don't be scared of the paper. Write, compose, draw, find a song or a poem or piece of art that really speaks to you and take time to feel what you're feeling. I cannot master my pain if I hide it from myself and pretend it's ok, because it's not ok. I have discovered that pain is not something we can just 'get over'. We have to master it. I find creation, in any form, an excellent way to do this.

Plus, that thing that you create; it will be awesome.

Much love x

Sunday, 6 February 2011

My Dream...

So here's the thing...

Music heals. There is no doubt.

I was a pretty awkward kid, and a very angry teen. I didn't have much self confidence, and I was slightly overshadowed by my two beautiful and incredible sisters, who I love dearly.

I started singing at the age of 7, and started performing soon after. My confidence grew. People told me they liked my voice, they said I was talented, and I believed them. Naturally. Now I am a confident, bold young woman, with lots of excitement for the future. And I have to put that down to Music. So, thank you Music. You're awesome.

This realization got me thinking. There I was, a pretty average kid, growing up in a privileged society, with very few domestic and personal issues. I was very lucky. There are so many people, old and young alike who are not as lucky. They have experienced loss and hardship like I wouldn't believe. If music is healing for me, surely it could be healing for them too?

A few weeks ago, my world was thoroughly shaken. I found myself writing a song on the night that I found out that my beloved, beautiful and inspirational sister Zoe had tragically passed away. I was in agonizing pain and grief, and in that raw emotion, I was able to write one of the best songs I've ever written. I sang 'Let it Be' by the Beatles at the funeral, and the only reason I was able to is because the music was healing me. It is spiritual and emotional medicine, and it helped me through the worst time of my life like nothing else could.

Everyone loves music. Some love to play and sing, to perform, to compose, to listen, to dance... everyone loves music. There's no doubt. My dream is to start an organization that combines the healing power of music (in whatever form that is) with practical help for people who have suffered trauma; so that includes drug abuse, sex abuse, homelessness, physical abuse, emotional abuse, and all other things beside.

Music is so powerful. It can reduce us to tears, make us dance like there's no tomorrow, shake us to our core. And it heals. This is my dream. To harness that power, and bring it to those who need it.

This coming September, I will be starting a Social Work and Social Policy Degree at the University of Nottingham. Very exciting. The cool thing is, is that in 3 years I'll be a qualified social worker, able to work in any field in the social sector; able to make a difference.
I am also going to be taking part in a music therapy training course at the Nordoff Robbins centre in London this summer to try and pursue this further.
If you have any tips or knowledge in how I can equip myself for my challenge, please don't hesitate to get in contact.

Cheers x