There are always so many hats to juggle in life, musical and otherwise!….
Throughout most of my life, I’ve taught music privately, at music and arts institutions and at schools: instrumental at all levels and covering many styles, improvisation, theory of music, musicianship, composition, songwriting and arrangement. I’ve directed many choirs and ensembles, I play several instruments, I’ve studied with some of the best and brightest, I’m an award-winning composer, I’ve worked as an entertainer or ensemble member across many musical genres, I’ve co-written a tertiary music curriculum, and I’ve headed a music department.
And yet, by way of introducing myself as President and Musical Director of a Parkinson’s choir, these bare facts seem mostly remote and trite, undeserving of further detail.
My stake in the New Voice Choir isn’t a mere casual job or interest or even something I do from the goodness of my heart (although admittedly, it did begin that way). On the contrary, it is personal and, thus, I feel it warrants a more personal account.
I live, breathe, eat and sleep/dream music. It’s not something I consciously choose to do and I think I’ve probably always done it; apparently my father nearly keeled over from shock upon discovering me at 9 months of age humming the entire melody of a hit song I’d heard on the radio. My head is forever filled with 3-dimensional sound, often with complex musical scores, textures and colours appearing spontaneously alongside, all seemingly oblivious as to whether I’m simultaneously awake, asleep, at work or at leisure. As a child, I was well-taught to keep this to myself, therefore hardly shared it with a soul for the vast majority of my life, but I’m old enough and wise enough now to call it what it is: part of a rare and precious gift. Many years ago, I divulged just the tiniest portion of what can go on in my head to one of Australia’s leading composers who promptly branded it as “an affliction”. I recall being deeply offended by his cattiness at the time but now I find his description quite hilarious! ‘Tis an affliction I’m more than happy to own!
These days, since my Parkinson’s diagnosis, I also (almost) live, breathe, eat and dream my illness. I don’t mean that I’ve ‘become’ my illness! I have nothing but respect for the various coping methods of others with Parkinson’s; however, for me, the mere thought of waging constant war against this chronic, degenerative disease makes me want to run away and hide. Instead, my way of coping has been to turn my Parkies into a friend, although I do admit that we have the occasional spat and I’ve even been known to shout a few choice words in its direction! Spats and swearing aside, just like a good friend, my Parkies has not only encouraged me to re-assess my life, but ultimately has become a powerful and often exciting catalyst for positive thinking, acting and living!
In company with Elaine West, I founded the New Voice Choir as my personal way of giving back to a wonderful Parkinson’s community that had embraced me so warmly after my diagnosis. I’m the choir’s Musical Director because I have the qualifications and experience for the job. Additionally, I can don my composer’s and arranger’s hats and create original score that targets many specific symptoms of Parkinson’s. And, having Parkinson’s Disease myself, I feel that not only do I have extra insight into recognising and nurturing the (often hidden) abilities of the choir members, I also have a special understanding of, and empathy for, the way the individual members may themselves be feeling or coping at any given time.
People sometimes say that I inspire them through my work with the New Voice Choir and this is always a very special compliment to receive, being both humbling and gratifying. Yet from where I stand, the truth is that I feel utterly blessed to direct this most unique choir whose members have such power to energise, inspire and motivate me within my own Parkinson’s journey!
The New Voice Choir crept into my life, at first quite gently and – if I’m completely honest – a tad tiresomely, then followed up with increasing fervour, finally launching itself at me with such enthusiasm that it became yet another important part of my life, another of those hats that now spends a fair bit of time glued firmly down upon my head.
I am passionate about the principles of this exceptional choir and the positive messages it delivers to members and public alike, and I’m enormously proud of the results that we are achieving!
Regarding an aspect of the role of Musical Director (and one now has one’s Positive Parkinson’s hat rammed firmly down over one’s eyebrows):
Should you – the reader – be interested in the marvels of neuroplasticity, you may also be interested to know that standing and waving one’s arms around in front of one’s choir can deliver truly extraordinary benefits to one’s Parkinson’s symptoms!!
Or, more simply put: Where Parkies symptoms are concerned, conducting kicks butt!
I was born with music in my bones. After many years of private tutoring, I took Music as one of my subjects when I graduated from secondary school.
“Some to the church to do repairs, and others for the music there.” This was my valedictory when I left secondary school. And clearly, I was one of the ‘others’.
Even though I was not a Catholic, I never missed a mass at boarding school. The thought of not being part of that joyous experience of collaborative music making was just unfathomable. However, my early adult life was swamped with tertiary studies, married life, working and raising a family. The music in me was shelved and forgotten for over forty years.
Singing with a choir makes exercising the vocal cords fun, inclusive, and gives one confidence, a sense of self worth and the satisfaction of being a team player. With any form of exercise, doing it within a group makes it less likely for an individual to pull out. Who would want to let the team down? Learning the lyrics and the parts is great for keeping the grey matter active. Thanks to the wonderful direction of our talented Musical Director, Linda, our singing is just an amazing experience for both the choir and the audience.
Having had over 25 years of working in the Library and Information industry, I felt confident that I could take on the task of Secretary and assist Linda in the formation of our very special and unique choir.
I am a retired public service administrator and was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease several years ago. I joined the choir in 2016 after attending a concert that the choir was performing in. I had never sung in a choir before but they sounded so wonderful, I just had to join! Singing and being part of the New Voice Choir family has become a happy highlight of my week.
Earlier this year I offered to help out if the Management Committee needed assistance and was elected Treasurer at the last AGM following the retirement of the former Treasurer.
I’ve always been a team person and I believe in contributing. Elaine (Secretary) is amazing but she does so much that I thought I’d like to help her.
The New Voice Choir has been so good for me and I want to help it to continue and to grow!
I wouldn’t miss a rehearsal of this choir – the New Voice Choir is the best thing that’s ever happened to me. Linda does so much for everyone, and being part of the Management Committee is my way of giving back to her and to the choir.
As a physiotherapist and one-time musician, I know that mind/body connections stimulated by music promote healthy well-being.
As a supporter of New Voice Choir (NVC), I have seen improvements in voice production, along with animated faces and ‘joi de vie’ amongst members.
As a member, I experience first-hand the fun of making music with very special people and sharing that with the wider community.
And as a member of the Media and Marketing Team, I want to do all I can to promote NVC to people living with Parkinson’s, their families and supporters and to share the enthusiasm with participants and the general public.
As part of the Media & Marketing Team, I offer my enthusiastic support for the continuing success of New Voice Choir.
I joined the Media and Marketing Team to help further the choir’s success and have New Voice Choir recognised in both the Parkinson’s and general communities.
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