Ever since I can remember, I have been singing. My mum used to shout at me for not asking a question but singing a question, if you catch my drift. Everything I said seemed to come out in a melodic manner. It's just me, although in truth, it did become somewhat irritating to my family in early years, I suppose -- it seems I knew only how to sing "and not converse properly"! But jump forward a few years, and my life has changed forever in ways that I could never have dreamed off. What is most interesting is the social reaction.
You would honestly think I am partaking in a hobby that only aliens do, given the questions I have received from school friends. This led me to ask a fundamental question about culture vs. sports. Is singing a form of culture? I believe so. An appreciation of the alphabet of music -- musical notes -- is surely a skill that can allow you to appreciate some of the world's greatest composers. In my world, they are jazz composers. My dad plays jazz piano and I have grown up singing around the piano and jamming with him to John Coltrane, Miles Davis, Duke Ellington and Bill Evans. I wasn't allowed to pick up an instrument (which was flute) until I could read notes, my dad told me. I hated the mere thought of such a task at the time, but I thank him now.
However, when I discuss this with my friends and I talk about my dedication to music -- learning, rehearsing and practicing my scales -- they look at me in sheer bewilderment. "Why are you doing that? Why do you spend such a long time, why don't you come out to the park and have fun? Look what you're missing!" they proclaim. But here's the point. The very same people are competitive swimmers and hockey players -- athletes who dedicate their time to practice before school and after school, weekend trials, and training and healthy diets. But if you tell them that one day you hope to succeed in the entertainment business, you're mocked -- laughed right out of the playground! Huh, I think. Is it any more ridiculous for me to imagine myself as a successful singer than it is for my friends to imagine themselves as Olympic athletes? I think not.
Right now in Britain, there is Olympic fever. Everywhere you look, there is the message: "You too can be an Olympic athlete one day!" Sure! There's my point. In the UK, school sports are everything. The message that sports are the key to life is everywhere -- if that's what you're into. But if not -- if you come clean and tell everyone that in fact you can't imagine yourself as a professional hockey player at 21 years old, but can actually imagine yourself on a big stage singing in front of thousands of people -- you are simply ridiculed. It's wrong and highly annoying! I'm not saying that theatrical and drama schools should pop up everywhere, but simply that we need acceptance and a support structure for those of us who are more artistic in nature. Why can't we opt out of sports and concentrate more on arts, singing, painting and literature? Surely in 10 year's time, when I'm 23 years old, there's more chance that I might discuss Picasso or Shakespeare around a dinner table than I will hockey or swimming. Look, I'm not decrying those that pursue sports competitively -- that's great for them, it's just not for everyone. I just want an even playing field for dreams, whether they are artistic or athletic!
We're saturated by reality TV singing shows. Websites and magazines are filled with entertainment stars. For reality show contestants and true thespians alike, if you raise your hand as a potential future singing star, you're often dubbed "precocious, egotistical, fantastical." But I bet if someone's dad walked into the pub and said, "My son plays off four on the golf course and he's just 13 years old," his son would be applauded and encouraged to pursue his dream. And don't get me started on the wannabe David Beckhams... seriously? Do you really think you have that skill? (But if that's what you want, don't let anyone take away the dream.)
So my message is this: The next time someone lays claim to being the next Stevie Wonder, Bill Evans, Dizzy Gillespie, Alicia Keys or even Sir Elton John, you should congratulate them, motivate them, stimulate their hobby and help them make it happen, for belief and hope is what truly makes us tick. Now don't get me started on what music really does for my soul -- that's a whole other blog.
As Shakespeare said: "The man that hath no music in himself, Nor is not moved with concord of sweet sounds, Is fit for treasons, stratagems and spoils; The motions of his spirit are dull as night, And his affections dark as Erebus: Let no such man be trusted. Mark the music." (The Merchant of Venice, 5.1.91-7) Are you getting my point?