“If you are free, you need to free somebody else. If you have some power, then your job is to empower somebody else.” – Toni Morrison (American author and teacher. Died 5th August 2019).
Singing, throughout my life, has freed me and empowered me. It’s brought me friends and opportunities, and has given me a way to identify, control and communicate my emotions. It’s shaped the way I think and the way I interact with other people and it’s given me great joy. My job is to bring this freedom and power to as many people as I can.
One of my earliest strong recollections of singing was auditioning for the church choir at St. Margaret’s, Olton (following my two older brothers) at the age of 6 or 7. I stood next to the organ stool and sang the first two verses of Immortal, Invisible because it was a hymn that we’d just done in the morning service and I knew how it went! I passed the audition, and have kept singing ever since; through my school life in choirs and productions, and at Sheffield University with the SU Singers’ Society (which I’m now the Artistic Director), and at St. John’s Church, Ranmoor. Towards the end of a Geography and Geology degree I realised that singing could be a bigger part of my life than merely a hobby, and I went to Birmingham Conservatoire to study for a PGDip in Vocal and Operatic Studies. Since then I’ve been enormously lucky to have a varied career as a freelance baritone soloist, choral singer, choral director, singing teacher, music educator, and now find myself as Education Development Editor for Out of the Ark Music.
It would be easy to think that the audition after the morning service at St. Maggie’s was a defining moment for me, but I don’t think it was. I was a singer before that day, and have been ever since. Singing has simply been an integral part of my life for as long as I can remember: singing at home, at school, at church, in the car, at the playground, and anywhere else you can think of. This normalisation of singing as an everyday part of life has shaped my entire life, and is what drives me to do what I do.
Singing is completely universal. It crosses all boundaries: Age, gender, faith, nationality, race, and any more you can think of. It’s available to EVERYONE.
We all have the sounds of singing within us: Singing is what happens when we mix together our whoops of joy and our cries of despair, and share it with others. Singing in public on your own can be enormously terrifying for some, as it feels like laying your whole self out for everyone to see (which is also why we all love to hear a solo singer doing their stuff!), but singing in a group is an opportunity to be supported by those around us – all of whom have their own personal insecurities, and all of whom will feel supported by your singing with them.
The world is full of evidence for the health and social benefits of singing:
Choir singing improves health, happiness and is the perfect icebreaker – Oxford University
Community singing ‘improves mental health and helps recovery’ - BBC
How singing your heart out could make you happier – University of East Anglia
Our sister company Out of the Ark Music, have even done their own research, The Singing Schools Project, to add to that body of evidence. I believe really strongly that we must do all we can to keep people singing together as often as we can: to build communities, strengthen bonds between us all, and generally to make everyone’s lives better!
Our singing voices are all individual: Some people train their voice and share it with millions of people, and some keep it very private and personal. But whoever you are, and whatever your experience, you have the power to join your voice with others, to build your community and make the world a better place. Just do it!
About Pete Taylor
As Singing Project Coordinator and Vocal Music Leader for Sheffield Music Hub, Pete is responsible for helping over 180 schools develop their singing strategy. He delivers classroom based singing projects, as well as massed choir performances and specialist singing lessons for children aged 5 – 18. He has a particular interest in CPD for non-music specialist classroom teachers and believes that with the right resources and training any good teacher can be a good classroom singing teacher and can deliver quality musical outcomes for their students. Pete is an experienced choral director who has worked with adult and children’s choirs in South Yorkshire. He also regularly performs as a Baritone soloist in concert and oratorio. In all areas of his professional life Pete is committed to promoting safe singing technique, and believes a sound understanding of the physiology of the voice is key to this.