There was a time when I had never sang at the bedside of someone who was close to dying.
Prior to me doing this, singing and making music was about:
• Trying to sound cool.
• Trying to make my voice sound cute rather than finding my authentic singing voice.
• Trying to look good whilst singing.
• Focusing on how slim I could be to make sure I looked better whist singing.
• Enjoying music but above all having one primary goal. To have fame through my music.
One day, something changed everything I knew about writing music.
I entered a big televised national competition, judged by Dizzy Rascal, Sharleen Spiteri and Jamie Cullum. I delighted in telling my friends I was in this competition particularly because of these great musicians involved.
I got through the first hurdle and then a second, with a rather unusual performance of me singing an Ellie Goulding song whilst also doing body percussion. Children I worked with thought this was great and friends supported and encouraged me. I loved it too because it was fun!
It got to the moment when I was to share this performance in London in front of the three judges plus a live audience and lots of cameras. Lovely Fearne Cotton prepped me before-hand to say I should try and get Dizzy to come and perform with me on stage and that he'd probably love it. The production team of 'Must be the Music' were fabulous and were really genuinely supportive and encouraging.
Then it was time.
The lights were on me and I performed.
Not so much.!
I wanted to offer to sing another song (minus the body percussion) but by that time, I had no saliva in my mouth and people were laughing in the audience. I kind of wanted to sink into the stage. But I walked off with the hot lights shining upon me and a massively bruised ego, the feeling of frustration, knowing that I could sing beautifully and I had been judged in a short space of time based on something they thought was... unusual!
I spent time chatting to the aforementioned production team, went home, felt so embarrassed and cried for an hour and prayed for my audition not to be televised.
Not long after, I got an invitation, seemingly randomly from a friend. Cynthia Spencer Hospice in Northampton needed someone to come and sing.
I was there.
I went initially with the intention to sing the once and ended up singing twice a month for two years in the Chapel and in the rooms of the guests who went to rest, heal and to pass on.
It changed everything for me and took the ego out and put the soul in. It didn't matter to me what anyone else thought now. Being of service stripped away those feelings of needing to be noticed and of needing to look a certain way. And of singing in a voice that perhaps was not ever my true voice (as my mother once pointed out to me: I will always be grateful of that!)
I had to train myself to sing purely for someone else, who was there to rest and spend what could be their last days or hours. I had to make sure that when I sang a song, that my voice was as beautiful as possible not so I could be all cool and awesome but so they could feel the beauty and would feel relaxed and calm before they died.
I had to train myself to make sure I did not burst into tears as I sang by the bedside of a young woman who had all her family gathered round her. I had to reassess my priorities and turn up and show up and be a friend and sing, sing sing!
I want to let you know, all you struggling musicians out there who are trying to make it, who are working hard and often feel like you are getting nowhere fast and constantly treading water, waiting for your next big break... That competition does not define you. The opinions of judges do not have to craft the rest of your musical life. There is more than one road for the musician and these days, artists such as Imogen Heap, Merz and The Green Children are showing that there are other ways to shine and to inspire.
Music does not have to be about competitions, fame and feeling superior to others. It can be a ladder for the soul, a balm to people's suffering, peace to a heart and a loving companion to someone sorely in need. (It can also be a great tune to dance to! I do know that! And I love a good dance!)
This article was originally featured on Victoria's Blog.
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