I Was A Closet Guitarist

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6 weeks ago I was a closet guitarist.

I grew up loving music, but was not what I would describe as musical, so rather than being a player I was a listener with 100’s of CD’s, music magazines and attendances at gigs seeing as many bands as I could muster.

I admit I was quite in love with the rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle and in my 20’s played guitar on and off, never progressing very far as I gave up in frustration at trying to teach myself from books and audio CD’s. With guitar lessons a few years later I had gotten the basics down and even passed a couple of music exams but would still have classed myself as a beginner.

Moving to Australia 16 years ago bringing my guitars with me, I never felt compelled to play them and rather than have them languishing in the corner collecting dust I sold them online. And that I believed was that; the end of my rock star aspirations . . . until recently that is.

My son is very musical and by age 6 was having piano and guitar lessons – and well that was it, seeing his enjoyment made me want to play again, so I started having guitar lessons two years ago.

After a 15-year break it was like being a beginner again, yes I remembered some chords and techniques but putting them together required patience and practice and being able to really tune in to my body.

What struck me was I could play the pieces quite well at home yet when it came time to play in my lesson I would be struck with anxiety and would mess it up playing below par, as I was painfully aware if feeling judged by my teacher. I swapped teachers soon after that and now have one who is very supportive and encouraging which has helped me let go of the need to be perfect and hence the anxiety.

Watching Michael Benhayon of Glorious music play has also inspired me. Michael is self-taught, playing in a way that is not about him being the star or wallowing in emotional angst, his music carries depth and meaning and the quality that comes with it that allows you to simply be who you are.

Anyway back to the start of this story . . . 6 weeks ago I was a closet guitarist. I had never played in front of anyone but my family and my teacher and the thought of playing for anyone else brought me out in a heart racing cold sweat. It was time to come out so I attended a local jam session held with a view to form bands that would put on a gig at the end of November.

Now bear in mind this was a huge leap of faith, as I have never played in a band, with other musicians or even standing up!

So I found myself in a bar with a music stage with over 25 complete strangers, who all looked as nervous as I was feeling. When I got chatting to them it was obvious they had way more experience than me and I must admit I was more than a little tense by this point and wondering what I’d let myself in for.

Randomly people formed ‘bands’ on stage, picking from the songbook to play a couple of numbers. The first band played really well and I was heading for the door, when I thought why not give it a go you’re here now. So when the time came around I took my turn and you know what the moment I stood on stage my nerves left and I felt very at ease. Although I didn’t know the songs and was making up some of the chords it sounded pretty good. As the evening panned out I ended up playing 3 sets and had an absolute hoot getting to know people and jamming together.

What followed was 4 intense weeks getting to know and play with my new band mates, learning 12 songs, which I taught myself with the help of YouTube and my music teacher, 4 weekly rehearsals of 2 hours in proper recording studios with a music coach and great support from the rest of my band and my family.

As the night of the big gig approached I would wake up in the middle of the night feeling sick and anxious, guitar chords running through my head and all the songs muddled up. Terrified I would mess up, freeze or let the band down, I simply reminded myself this was about getting out of my comfort zone and having some fun on the way.

The day of the gig arrives and I am like a cat on a hot tin roof, last minute practice, checking my strings, packing and repacking my kit several times. I could hardly eat and felt dreadful – what was I thinking? Too late to back out now!

When the time came to leave for the gig and I felt myself drop into my body as my nerves and anxiousness melted away, my whole being became calm and I felt totally at ease knowing this was exactly what I needed to be doing and that everything would be just perfect.

It’s our turn to play, I remember standing on stage, guitar on shoulder, bright lights shining in my eyes and a microphone in my face. Knowing I had the support of friends and family in the crowd I struck the first chord of the opening number, my guitar rang loud and clear through the amps and we rocked out our 45 minute set, hardly missing a beat and enjoying every moment of it.

In what seemed like a matter of minutes the crowd where cheering and asking for more and I couldn’t wait to do it all over again . . . No more closet guitarist for me . . .

As a teenager I would dream of playing guitar with my favourite bands and last night my dream came true when I was asked to come up on stage and jam along with Michael Benhayon and Road Gloria at the Universal Medicine end of year celebration in front of 100’s of my friends both in the building and on broadcast live via webcast all over the world. Rock ‘n’ Roll!

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Hiding My Natural Voice

 

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I remember as I child I used to sing all the time, making up little tunes and adding words to go with them. I remember adults commenting to my mother about what a happy child she had. I also look back at how that love of natural expression became crushed when trying out for the school choir around the age of 8, when I was told my voice was too deep to sing with the other girls and I would have to stand at the back and sing the second part with the boys. Whilst this may not sound bad the way it was delivered was so harsh and judgemental that it made me feel crushed and my natural exuberance for singing became something that I started to withhold and keep in check.

About age 11 I auditioned for the school musical at high school and didn’t even get called back to be a part of the chorus and that for me was the end of any attempts to be part of a group singing activity, to the point where even during school assembly I would mouth the words to the hymns but never actually sing them as I didn’t want to be singled out for being off key or out of tune.

I still loved to sing . . . As I a teenager I would have my music blasting and sing along in the privacy and safety of my own room knowing that the music was so loud no one would ever hear my dulcet tones. Or as I got older I would do this in the car or at home when I was in the house alone.

I started playing guitar in my 20’s and even started taking music grades, this way I could indulge my love of music without having to sing. But imagine my horror when during my first music grade the examiner asked me to listen to a note and sing it back to her. Well I plain and simply refused point blank to do it and even got aggressive over it. It cost me 20 marks but there was no way I was going to ‘sing’ especially not in front of a complete stranger!

More recently because I have attended events run by Universal Medicine I have been learning about and exploring expression through voice and music and have watched Chris James sing and work with an audience to encourage them to let go of what stands in the way of them exploring their natural voice. A voice that comes from connecting to yourself and feeling the sound develop and express from your body rather than attaching to how it sounds.

Tentatively and very quietly at first I found myself joining in with a simple ooh and ah, without pushing or trying I found my voice was deep and resonate with a richness that had never come through when singing along to music in my room or my car. It had a delicate quality combined with a power and strength that was so exquisite it moved me to tears, tears of joy and relief for all that I had held back being allowed to express again as it did so naturally when I was a little girl.

And now I love to sing I join in group sings and don’t hold back when Chris James invites us to sing along or when Michael and Miranda Benhayon of Glorious Music perform. I even joined a women’s singing group for a few months where we would sing acapella (without music) and we even gave a performance to around 100 people at a local event. Something I would never have imagined or even been capable of a few years ago.

Now I find myself singing when I walk the dog, on my way to work and even around the office and the supermarket no different to when I was that young girl all full of joy and expression that simply had to get out.

I have been inspired to sing again through the work of Chris James and Glorious Music and now see my deep rich voice as something to celebrate and not to hide. And whilst I may not have perfect pitch I do have a quality when I sing that brings a joy to my heart and puts a smile on my face.