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I've always had a passion for music from as far back as I can remember. As a child, I spent a lot of time with Dad who always whistled or sang as he went about his daily chores. I think that's where it all started for me. He would teach me songs and together we would 'sing the day away'.
When I was eight years old we were given violins in class one day. I was over the moon. Although slow at first, I practiced whenever I could and began walking around the dinner table and serenading my family while they ate.
For anyone that has ever listened to a violin player who is learning, you can only imagine the look of anxiety on the faces of family members as I squeaked and squawked from one note to the next!
When I was ten years old we were given recorders in class one day. I was so excited. I shrilled and squealed and practiced and practiced and yes, you guessed it... practiced.
You could say I was obsessed with the recorder. Reflecting on it now, it still brings a smile to my face. I especially liked to practice while mum was doing the ironing. There was always a huge pile, as I came from a family of eight.
I would always begin my practice sessions by playing all the exercises in the recorder book, starting at exercise one. I would then proceed to make my way through the book. If I made a mistake, I would go all the way back to exercise one and start again. I wanted my practice to be perfect.
Well, you can only imagine the look on my poor mothers face as I moved from one exercise to the next. I am sure she spent those two hours in a state of constant prayer, hoping to God I would'nt make a mistake. I will never forget the expression on her face when I did make a mistake. It was priceless.
After a while, I wanted something bigger to blow, so I bought a clarinet. Such a beautiful instrument, but so hard to play. As a youngster without a teacher to guide me, I found it very difficult. I thought I could do it, but my mouth and cheeks became so sore. If you knew me as a child, I loved to 'chat', so I had to shelve the clarinet which I still have to this day.
Yes, you guessed it... I went back to my recorder. I actually became quite proficient at playing it, and was even asked to play recorder as part of the orchestra in the school production of 'Oliver'. Sooooooooooo much fun.
I had an older brother who played in a band and I loved being around band practice at every opportunity. I loved it so much that my brother would pay me ten cents to hold up his microphone for him as he didn't have a mic stand at the time. I did this for the entire band practice. Everyone thought I was crazy, but I thought I was 'blessed'!
Many years later in my mid-teens, my brother left an acoustic guitar lying on the bed which he rarely played. I seized this opportunity and grabbed the guitar with both hands and relentlessly began to learn a few chords. I wanted to play a song by the end of the day.
Persistence is golden. By the end of the day I had played my first song on guitar. Wait for it... Banks Of The Old Ohio by Olivia Newton John. I had achieved my goal and there was no stopping me now. I had found my instrument of passion. I loved the guitar, even more than the recorder. Needless to say, my family was very pleased.
And so began my guitar education. I bought books on how to play and played song after song. As I practiced, I began to sing and began to feel very comfortable with singing and playing at the same time.
The local parish was looking for a guitarist to help with the folk masses. Avril, the band leader, was an extremely talented classical guitarist who took me under her wing and taught me a great deal. I studied two years of classical guitar under her guidance and I will treasure those moments forever.
I played folk masses for several years which led to rock masses. I enjoyed every one of them, as did the congregation. Throughout this time, I began to sing more and more and eventually led the singing during masses.
One day the parish priest asked me if I would sing at the parish dinner. I was over the moon. I nervously agreed, as the dinner was to be held at the hotel where I had a part time job waitressing. However, I love a challenge and what better way to be challenged than doing something which you absolutely love.
I organized another musician from the church who also played guitar. His name was Michael and he was a very talented player. We practiced and practiced. The night finally came and we performed so well that the owner asked us to be the resident band... and pay us!
We were 'over the moon' and I had to keep pinching myself to make sure this was real. Wow, I could not believe the pleasure we gave to others whilst doing something we loved so much.
It was during this time that I wanted to learn more about music, so I undertook three grades of theory and classical singing. I loved mathematics growing up, so for me theory was fun and exciting. It was like doing mathematical exercises with a 'twist'. If you love mathematics, you will love music theory.
As we became more confident, our performances improved and our horizons expanded. The next step was a rock band. We went on to perform at all the popular pubs and clubs in our city and performed a combination of popular and original music.
At this time I had graduated as a teacher and was teaching during the day and singing in a rock band at night. After a while it was obvious something had to give. Sadly, it was my voice.
As a lead singer working and rehearsing 2-3 nights a week followed by early mornings in the classroom, it was unsustainable. When you're young, you think you can do it all. I had to make a choice. Sing and play my beloved guitar, or teach. The choice was simple. I loved teaching but I loved music more. I spent the next couple of years rehabilitating my voice so I could sing again.
During this time of 'no singing', I managed to find an outlet for my music. I became a DJ, and yes, I loved it. It was the 80's and disco was huge. I would dress up and sing along to the music and the crowds loved it. I was ready to sing again.
I formed a new band to incorporate entertainment with great music. We did this by dressing in themes and playing appropriate songs. If we performed a Tina Turner set, we would dress up like her and wear wigs etc. The audience loved it and fun was had by all.
After a few years of doing this I moved on. Steve, my piano player decided to join me and we formed a duo. We played around town at some fabulous venues and did interstate residencies at 5 star hotels. After a few years of doing this, it was time to move on.
Luckily for me, technology was starting to make great strides. I was able to become a solo performer with a full band sound thanks to the help of MIDI. It was a whole new learning curve, but it enabled me to produce a big sound while I played guitar and sang. I became totally self-reliant and I was having a ball.
I totally immersed myself into this 'new order' of music. I would spend up to twelve hours a day programming all my own music via midi. I had to use a keyboard as my midi controller, and as I was not a piano player, it took me a lot longer to program songs... challenging but very enjoyable.
For the next 15 years I continued as a solo performer all over the country, entertaining at pubs, clubs and large hotel chains. It was fantastic and I considered myself to be so lucky to be able to do something I loved and at the same time entertain others.
Music has been so good to me and now I am creating my own music and also help my brother to produce his music. (Remember... I was his mic stand!) I have set up a recording studio at home and spend many hours creating music.
I have created Bell & Co Music to share my knowledge with everyone. I want to share some of my insights and provide helpful tools for all musicians alike, especially guitarists and anyone else beginning this amazing journey.
Countless years of singing, playing guitar and entertaining, has been a great experience. How lucky was I with the opportunities that presented themselves the way they did. Looking back, I realize that it wasn't luck but sheer determination and 'love of music and life' that created those opportunities. "If you love life, you live life".
I hope everyone out there reading this story will feel inspired to achieve their true potential. My vehicle is music. Everyone has a vehicle and if it happens to be music, you are truly blessed.
Here's a song I wrote about my beautiful hometown of Adelaide through my father's eyes... enjoy....takes a few seconds to get going :)
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