My relationship with music: it’s about connection not perfection

My relationship with music: it’s about connection not perfection

My relationship with music: it’s about connection not perfection

Recently I’ve been reflecting on my relationship with music and singing throughout my life. There are clear changes in how I’ve related to music, starting in early childhood with a sense of music being about having fun and connecting with others.

As I got a little older, there was a period where I held music as something to be studied, practised and perfected – which led me to abandon any form of musical expression for many years.

More recently, I am again feeling the connection that music and singing brings.

I have realised that it is a natural expression of my connection within and from here the music naturally connects with others.

I recall that when I was a child we would have family sing-a-longs – Dad playing the guitar, Mum on the piano and my brother and I joining in and having fun singing popular folk songs or Beatles classics, Christmas Carols and the like. This connection through music went beyond our lounge room to the neighbourhood, as regular barbeques with friends always ended with the guitars and banjos coming out ... and lots of singing.

I realise that at that stage I associated music with fun, connection, and joy. I loved being able to sing along and also to see and feel everyone having a great time.

When I was about seven I began receiving piano lessons, which I continued for about 7 years. It was here that my relationship with music started to change. I had to learn the ‘right’ way to play the piano, I had to get the timing and feel of a piece ‘right’ and it all seemed very structured and rigid.

Then there were the twice yearly student concerts that terrified me – having to play a piece in front of other (in my mind far more accomplished) students, and parents.

My take home message from these events was that I wasn’t very good at the piano, and by extension, music. For me at this stage, music had become just one more thing, like my schoolwork, that had to be right or perfect – there was no joy or fun in it.

Once I gave up piano in my early teens I didn’t touch another instrument for 10 years

At high school I recall wanting to sing, to be part of the school choir, but I didn’t make it through the auditions. I did get to be part of the supporting chorus in a couple of school musicals (and that was fun), but it always felt like we were considered second best, and that the quality of the singing was not as important as in the school choir.

Certainly I had very little confidence in my voice and this only intensified as time passed. I didn’t even like my speaking voice much, and in fact I can see how I largely chose to be silent in many areas of my life.

Throughout this time I came to believe many things about my voice and expression such as:

  • I can’t sing
  • My voice isn’t good enough
  • My voice does not sound nice. In fact I thought I sounded like a man, with a deep, loud and strong voice rather than a soft, quiet and higher pitched woman’s voice. I could never reach high notes in songs
  • What I have to say is not good enough

In my late-20’s I again ventured into music, inspired by performers at music festivals, including Chris James. I found myself playing drums and singing with a group of women. For me, music again had a sense of fun and connecting with others.

Over the last 5 years I have been focussing on my voice, singing and expression

This has included attending workshops and private sessions with Chris James and Victoria Carter as well as studying The Way of the Livingness with Universal Medicine. Through these I have been able to truly feel the effect of the ideas that I held about my voice and expression.

This reflected in my body when I tried to sing – the tight shoulders, sore throat, tense neck, the tight forehead, headaches and more. With much support I have been able to return to a natural gentleness that allows my voice to express the joy that I naturally am.

What I now feel when I sing from the connection with myself, is that my whole body sings – I can feel my voice resonating throughout every cell, and singing is effortless.

Musical expression again has a playful quality to it, it is light, fun and joyful. I can even sit at the piano again and play around on it with no self-judgement.

But what I find so powerful is the connection that happens when a group of people come together and sing from their hearts: it’s even more joyful and magical than those sing-a-longs I recall as a child.

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  • By Michelle Sheldrake

  • Photography: Alan Johnston, Photographer

    I have studied Social Documentary Photography. Lots of life experience throughout which I have kept a keen sense of humour.