Music, how did it all start?
It all started when I grabbed those wooden spoons and searched high and low for that perfect kitchen pot. I strike one hit and boom. Talent. Everywhere. My musicality bloomed as my family covered their ears and yelled at me to stop making loud noises.
I grew up with a hearing family that used music as regular entertainment. At the time my sister was a teenager and was in her room all day blasting NSYNC and other popular 2000’s music, which she would occasionally sing along to. My parents listen to the radio often, during work and in the afternoons. My mother liked to wake up everyone on the weekend playing the music from her youth days. Saturday mornings we would all watch Video Hits and Rage, and they would have footage shots of musicians in their happy place playing their instrument. Both of my siblings at one point learnt an instrument (My sister did clarinet, and my brother did bass), but never really kept going.
Before I learnt how to talk, I sang. I loved making music, nearly every day when I could, I would sneak out of the house, climb over the fence, find the trailer (which was used to transport cows) then pick up the connector plug and pretend that it was a microphone and sing my little heart out. I wasn’t singing words or very good melodies, but I was envisioning that I was performing at a concert while I sang. Then, when I started to learn how to talk, I would sing the ABC song over and over again for hours at a time, and my sister hated it! she was “so over that song!”
“A, B, C, D, E, F, G, *sings a dodgy melody of the next bit, making up words* ” – Carmen Robertson
In school, I would occasionally go to music class which contained marimbas. I adored it! I was gutted when I wasn’t chosen to be part of the marimba ensemble. Part of the reason I wasn’t involved was that I was rarely in music class. Most of the time my deaf peers and I were taken out of that class to complete ‘Deaf studies’. Deaf studies was a chance for us deafies to catch up or get help on our English, study Auslan, learn about the history of deaf culture, and a whole bunch of stuff. It was helpful, but looking back on it, it doesn’t look good that deaf kids are taken out of music because music isn’t for them. The only reason I did go to some of the music classes was that I asked/the deaf staff knew they had a musical one on their hand.
Because I wanted to be more involved with music I nagged my mother to learn guitar as my first instrument. Mum wanted me to have a normal life as well as many opportunities to learn things, so she obliges. I began learning guitar in 2002. My first music teacher was aware that I had a hearing loss but didn’t treat me any differently to other students. I recalled sitting in the lessons and my teacher telling me how the guitar works, as well as explaining that it could create vibrations. He got me to strum, then place my hand on the body of the guitar, that’s where I became aware of vibrations, and it blew my mind.
Eventually, I wanted to quit playing. My fingers kept getting blisters and I was over the guitar phase. I wanted to learn something else, I wanted to join the recorder band, so I did and I loved it! I had my first performance with the recorder group. We played at the retirement village, and I loved every moment of it. I wanted to keep going but the teacher who was taking the recorder class left and moved on to a new school. Hence the recorder band was cancelled. I was upset, but it was time to nag my mother to start a new instrument — singing lessons.
The reason I chose vocal/ singing was pretty simple. I got picked on by my siblings whenever I sang along to music because I didn’t know the lyrics. I would make up my own words or mumble along to the tune and my sibling would make fun of me (Gotta love them!) By starting singing lessons, I was bound to get better at singing words. I had a performance singing with a bunch of girls, but I struggled singing along with the faster lyrics. Eventually, I didn’t want to continue, I was losing my voice and I was getting bored with just learning a different song and new lyrics. By the end of 2003, I was done with singing.
2004, yet again I picked up another instrument, piano/ Keys. My mother gave me a final warning, this was the last instrument that I could swap to. During 2004, the school also set up a signing choir. All the deaf kids and some others joined and it was the greatest thing.
Literally, a combination of the music world and deaf culture merge into one. I had never felt like I fitted into something so well before. We had performances everywhere, and whenever the song ‘Lean On Me’ would come on or even ‘Shine’ by Shannon Noll (We changed Shine to sign, it sounded cooler) I would remember those moments and it brings me joy to remember the good times I had. It was eventually incorporated into the school plays and whenever the national anthem was played at the assembly all of the students would sign along.
I simply loved music and performing, I just happened to be deaf with a bumpy start to my language development. It’s hard to explain but I didn’t care about sports, although I did play a few sports, or cooking or anything else. Music was important and I think I knew that from the very start. My parents were just glad that I have that attitude of, ‘my deafness doesn’t stop me’.