In my old job as a music journalist and BBC radio broadcaster I was priveleged to be able to stand in the wings and observe some of the world's finest vocal performers in action from close quarters: Freddie Mercury, Robert Plant, Paul Rogers, BB King, Chuck Berry, John Martyn, Brian Kennedy, Eddie Reader, Kylie Minogue and Carol Kidd, to name but a few. I used my position shamelessly to extort technical tips on voice production and performance skills from the people I interviewed - all in the name of serious arts journalism, of course.
My formal musical background began in church choirs and as a member of the Finchley Children's Music group, where in addition to a solid grounding in music and stagecraft I attended individual singing tuition and regular workshops with Bel Canto expert Esther Salaman and the world-renowned Kodaly Method expert Cecilia Vajda. During this time I sang on a large number of commercial recordings, radio and TV broadcasts and appeared in hundreds of live performances in major theatres and concert halls both in the UK and abroad.
At 14 I entered the Junior Department of the Guildhall School of Music & Drama, progressing to the Senior School after a year and attending a wide variety of classes including Alexander Technique and General Musicianship as well as singing lessons with a number of different teachers over the next three years before going on to read Music at Cambridge University.
I spent the best part of the following twenty years working as a journalist and radio presenter, during which time I trained as a producer with BBC Radio Scotland and presented programmes on all of the major radio networks.
During the 1990s I was lucky enough to take part in four songwriting workshops led by the "songwriters' songwriter", Mr (now Sir) Ray Davies, and in 1997 I attended the diploma course in Music Management and Marketing at Jewel and Esk Valley College, Edinburgh. The course included valuable information on copyright law and the structure and practices of the music business.
I studied jazz singing in workshops with Anita Wardell and Della Rhodes at the City Lit in London in 1999 and 2000, with Mark Murphy, Sheila Jordan, Sophie Bancroft and Fionna Duncan in Edinburgh in 2003 and 2015, in 2006 with Jay Clayton and 2007 with Sheila Jordan again (also in Edinburgh). In August 2009 I was lucky enough to be selected to participate on a songwriting retreat with Maria McKee and the legendary songwriter Donovan.
In April 2007 I participated in workshops & master-classes and took private lessons in Speech Level Singing with John Henny when he visited London. I found SLS as he taught it to be almost identical in practice to the very serviceable technique I learned from Esther Salaman and several of my teachers at Guildhall - a highly effective method of achieving an authentic, natural vocal delivery which can be applied to almost any musical (or speaking) style without voice strain. I. Having studiously ignored their advice while I was singing with a rock band back in the day, I am living proof that using the voice incorrectly can drastically reduce one's range and capabilities to the point at which singing ceases to be an option (Fortunately I got my voice back but it did take a while). I am also something of an unpaid missionary for the Alexander Technique, which I believe to be the key to unblocking all sorts of physical and psychological problems faced by singers and speakers (which covers just about everyone).
I continue to update my skills on a regular basis and have also pursued training in Life Coaching, which addresses in very practical terms some of the key issues singers face in terms of confidence and motivation, whether they are bashful beginners or perfectionist professionals. My studies have led to an ongoing interest in performance psychology and in the cognitive functioning of the brain, particularly in relation to the nature of the learning process, the close relationship between mental, emotional and physical states and the direct bearing these can have on an individual's attainments. I also recently gained a BA Honours degree in Performance Industries from Wolverhampton University.
I record and perform in a variety of different guises: straight jazz, mixed cabaret, solo acoustic performances, straight session work and collaborations with a number of songwriters and producers around the world from Vienna to New Zealand and many points between, plus a long-time musical association with UK blues legend Zoot Money. In 2008 I recorded several tracks with leading music producer Stuart Epps (who has worked with Elton John, Led Zeppelin, Chris Rea, Robbie Williams, Paul Weller, Oasis, Bill Wyman and many, many more). My recorded songs have won several online awards both for songwriting and vocal performance. For the past few years I have headlined in musical cabaret runs at the Edinburgh Fringe - some group productions and also full solo one-woman shows in 2016 and 2017. Details of performances for Fringe 2018 will be announced in due course.