My Musical Background: in search of connection and my own voice

At the age of three I sat in the back of the car with my sister on holiday making up songs and having fun improvising text and melody completely freely. During the course of fifteen years of classical violin and piano lessons I totally lost this ability. Age eleven I also decided to stop singing because of a torturous choir audition at school.

I enjoyed playing classical music a lot, especially chamber music and being part of a large orchestra but there was also often a feeling that something was missing. What I lost through the classical training was a direct sense of connection between the music I was playing and myself. It sometimes seemed as if the music came in from the page via my fingers and then reached me. I wanted to turn it around - to start with what was inside of me and express that with my instrument. I desperately wanted to learn to improvise but didn't know how.

Age 21 I decided I was going to learn how to be a 'real' musician! I started to play in a band where I could improvise and spent a year improvising with the same group every week and rediscovering my instrument (the violin) and its expressive possibilities. At around the same time I went to a pub to listen to Irish music. I fell in love with the joy and vitality of the music and the sense of connection that arose through everyone playing the same tune. I went on a long journey to learn how to play this amazing music, involving many trips to Ireland and workshops with well-known fiddlers.

I spent nine years gigging as a folk fiddler and writing and playing my own tunes. I was asked to do some teaching by fellow violinists, which I enjoyed so much that I am still teaching children the violin now. I studied and taught at 'DaCapo', a music school in London that has a special method for teaching children, based on the assumption that every child can enjoy playing music. The emphasis is on pleasure rather than achievement. The focus is on developing the child's general musicianship (not just his instrumental abilities) so we did a lot of singing, and working with rhythm, creativity and improvisation. I noticed how singing repertoire before playing it made me feel much more connected to what I was playing and to my instrument. So my desire to sing for my own pleasure started to grow as well.

As I began to master the Irish music I also started to feel frustrated again because I couldn't play like the fiddlers who inspired me. When I did a workshop with Martin Hayes, my favourite fiddle player he said 'don't wait until you can play like me to listen to what's inside of you, always start with what's inside of you'. Still I thought 'yes but I want to be able to play like you'. It was only through my psychosynthesis training and my contact with natural voice work that I really began to understand what he meant and to be able to apply it in my music making.

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