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Extra extra! How I got into music and why I do what I do

Updated: Apr 23, 2022

There are so many brilliant people who help me to develop my business, so I can share more music and help more people.

One of them is PR coach Amy Merrywest I did a 3 day challenge with her and as a result got the below article published in my local paper The Teesdale Mercury. The journalist was Stuart Laundy who sent me some brilliant questions to answer, and the photo in the article is by my friend David at Calico Images.

My friends in Amy’s Facebook group The PR Powerhouse wanted to read it, so here it is with some bonus links and images- mostly taken by another brilliant photographer- my Mum!

I hope you enjoy it- please let me know what you think in the comments, and come and join me on social media @happyinharmony1

How did you become interested in music?

There's a baby video of me with a selection of toys- I go straight to the toy drum and ignore everything else! That's why it's so good to have instruments in the house, kids are naturally curious. Me and my family and friends would always sing together, around the house and in the car. Silly, fun songs were our favourites, and they still are.

My whole family are music lovers. My great uncle led a decent dance band during the war and I learned recently that my great grandad was a good singer who performed at the Albert Hall, he looked like the Go Compare man!

When we were given my great grandad's piano I became completely fascinated with it. I would eat my dinner off it so I didn't need to move (this still happens fairly often!)

This is me with my Grandad (on my right) and his brother Uncle George (on my left), who gave me the piano that they sang around as kids. Though Uncle George is no longer with us, he's in my heart and I love to coach his great-grandsons James and Thomas.

What was the first instrument you learned to play - and did you find it easy to pick up?

As people from brass band families will understand, it's not a question of if you want to learn a brass instrument, just which one! Brass bands remain one of the best places to learn about music, they’re full of generous people who help you learn. The one I enjoyed the most was Poulton-le-Fylde Band- what a lovely bunch of humans!

I tried the trombone, but my little lips didn't fill the mouthpiece! So I started on the trumpet and moved into the horn, which has a beautiful tone very like the human voice. I picked up the music up easily, as a lot of kids do - because it's really just like a fun puzzle!

7- year old me practicing in our kitchen circa 1991- a very good year for fridge magnets!

When did you realise that music was something you wished to become more than a pastime or hobby?

It's always been a big part of my life. I knew I wanted to do more when I started coaching a youth band at our local youth centre a few years ago. When you can say something in a new way, and it has an immediate positive effect on people, not only on how they play, their mood and their confidence, it's a brilliant feeling.

Then, a couple of years ago, I found myself spinning across the A1 in my car, not sure what was going to happen when I stopped. A voice in my head said to me- if you are lucky enough to get some more time on this planet, you need to use it well. Music is what I'm here for, and I take every opportunity to honour this gift I've been given.

Are you a singer or a player first?

I'm a singer. It's my most natural way to make music and I find voices so interesting. My instruments are my tools for writing - I love to play them when I don't feel like using any words!

I have the musical community of Barnard Castle (yes, that one!) to thank for reconnecting me with singing. Music is a great way to meet people anywhere in the world, and when I moved back to the North East 9 years ago, I was given a warm welcome by the choral society at Barnard Castle School and the gang at The Old Well Inn open mic night, where the image for this article was taken.

I have learned so much from the fantastic musicians here, especially from my singing teacher Dr. Robin Harrison (yes, I still have a singing coach, and always will – my voice is always developing and the doc keeps me on track!)

Singing along with my good friend and ace guitarist Dr Jose Garcia-Miralles

What sort of music do you play?

I love singing classical music, I just find it so beautiful. I get a real buzz singing soul music, songs from musicals & the great American songbook and classic pop songs. I love learning new songs, and when I'm performing for events I get to know my clients and we make a set list with all their favourites. I love performing with musical friends or singing along to my professional backing tracks, made by brilliant people like The Accompanist.

What type of music do you listen to - who are your favourites?

I love choral music, especially early music performed by groups like

The Sixteen. I'm also a big musicals fan, I grew up near Blackpool, and spent a lot of my time singing and dancing on the stage at the Opera House and the Tower Ballroom

I really admire vintage singers like Johnny Cash, Peggy Lee and the old musical stars like Fred Astaire- my favourite film of all time is Easter Parade where he stars with Judy Garland and Anne Miller, what a treat! There are some brilliant young singers too, like First Aid Kit- their harmonies give me goosebumps!

My Grandpa used to dance at the Tower Ballroom too, he was really good!

Do you find writing/composing comes naturally – or is it something you have to work at?

Songs and melodies come to me very naturally, whilst I'm out walking or just before I go to sleep. The 'work' part is the game of putting the right words with the right notes, in the right order. This is especially true for commissions, because they have to really reflect the person that I'm writing for or about.

To learn more about commissioning a bespoke song for your event or special occasion, please click here.

Would you describe yourself as a prolific songwriter/composer?

Yes. I'm very lucky. I always have a stack of ideas ready to be finished, and I love to spend time at my writing desk developing them.

You can learn more about how I write in my Songwriting Diaries blog series on this page. There's lots of simple ideas to help you get started and develop your work.

Writing songs is fun! Here's one inspired by the wedding of my good friends Leo and Alice.

What’s the difference between a music teacher and a musical coach?

To me coaching is less formal, and led by the person I'm coaching and what they want to achieve, and a teacher teaches you what they think you need to know. I do a bit of both, and the balance depends on the student and where they are on their musical journey.

I coach in an interactive and fun way, where we celebrate effort and try new things, because you learn more when you laugh!

I generally coach people in their homes or online, which is handy for families and makes people feel comfortable. I visit students across North Yorkshire, Teesdale, Darlington and Bishop Auckland for piano lessons, singing lessons and music theory lessons.

Please contact me if you’d like to know more about music lessons for you or your family, or visit the coaching page of my website here.

(Since this blog was published, I now mainly coach people at TCR Hub in Barnard Castle, and I also coach in some local schools)

Tell us a little bit about Happy in Harmony Music

I help people enjoy making music, and to learn new skills so they can enjoy it even more!

Whether that's some singing technique to help you at choir, or building up your confidence to sing or play in public for the first time (or for the first time in a long time!)

I love teaching people how to read music too, it's like a magical new language that opens up so many exciting new things!

Follow me on Facebook and Instagram for fun teaching videos and tips.

How important has music been to you during the past four months of lockdown - how has it helped?

Music just makes life better, because it makes us smile. It's been particularly important to me during this time. I've enjoyed rehearsing online for an opera, and taking part in online choirs- I really look forward to those times in the week when everything stops for a garden singalong with my friends!

Coaching my students on Zoom has been really helpful too- it's very difficult to brood on anything when you're belting out Disney songs and pretending to be a mermaid!

For more information about singing with me please click here (mermaids are optional!)

Me coaching singing from home in North Yorkshire, near Darlington

What’s next on the agenda for you?

I'm in a film! We were due to perform our community opera 'Song of our Heartland', at the National Railway Museum Locomotion in May, so we're really excited to be filming it this month. My Grandad worked on the railways so it's very special to me to sing there.

With music by the brilliant Will Todd, it's a partnership with the community organisation Northern Heartlands and Opera North. I get to be a 'baddie' - a councillor who opposes a community arts centre, which is great fun as she's the total opposite of me!

(Update- this film is now made! You can find out more and watch it here.)

I am an optimist, so I'm working on music ready for weddings and parties next year.

I also have some choir workshops ready to go now classroom singing is possible again. For more information about singing at events and coaching for choirs please visit click here.

Me 'Zooming' with Will Todd in rehearsals. He has a grand piano in his shed! #lifegoals !

Where can people discover more of your music?

You can learn more about me and what do on my website and follow me on social media for my latest videos and adventures, I’m @happyinharmony1 on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter and the links are in the footer of my website too.

I’ll be starting a YouTube channel very soon so keep your eyes peeled for that, and if you have any favourite songs to request please let me know!

(Update- the YouTube channel is now up and running, please see the footer of this website for the link)

I hope you enjoyed this blog- please let me know what you think in the comments and join me on social media @happyinharmony1

Thanks! Rosie x

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