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 have always loved singing and music and played piano in my earlier years. I was diagnosed with Parkinson’s in 2018 and joined the New Voice Choir at the end of 2019.
It is always a joy to sing with the choir especially to Linda’s masterful musical arrangements and the members are always very supportive of each other.
I joined the Management Committee 2020 and subsequently became the Assistant Treasurer. I was elected Acting Treasurer at the last AGM October 2021 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 joined the New Voice Choir at the end of 2019 as a Support Person for my wife Anna Morrison. I never really thought that I could sing but Linda, our Musical Director, assured me that everyone can sing. I was surprised at how good it felt to be part of a choir singing her amazing arrangements.
I was appointed to the committee as Covid Compliance Officer in early 2020 when the Management Committee saw the need for someone to be a main point of contact with regard to Covid and the Government Guidelines and protocols.
My diagnosis of Parkinson’s at the age of 56 was a shock and took some time to accept and while it has doubtless changed my life it has not always been in negative ways.
I’d always loved music and having two children who became accomplished musicians (despite neither parent demonstrating the capability of playing instruments) inspired me to investigate any untapped ability I might possess. My speech therapist also emphasized how singing helps to exercise the voice and maintain the swallowing muscles so with encouragement from my family I took the leap of faith to using the most portable instrument at my disposal – my voice.
I fronted up to New Voice Choir at Moorooka and, despite my lack of experience was warmly welcomed. The continued support I have received there has boosted my confidence and motivated me to get more involved in music such that I’ve now also joined a ukelele group. Making and listening to music fills much of my time and has become a truly healthy obsession which may not have developed without my diagnosis.
I’ve joined the committee to try to give back to a group which has given me so much support and inspiration.
As part of the Media & Marketing Team, I offer my enthusiastic support for the continuing success of New Voice Choir.
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