I spent some time with Sian recently online, chatting about music in general and her perspective on it. Here is a woman in those boots that have kept on walking, although she doesn't use them to walk all over others to get ahead. She shows in her interactions that good match between wanting to get ahead and doing the right thing to do it.
I asked Sian to relate some of her music background for those good insights that can help others. She shared this in an interview recently and told me this:
I started out out playing the recorder at about the age of 6, then tenor recorder, which progressed to flute, then guitar, then singing. I had flute lessons free in school, and then my parents paid for private guitar lessons and then singing lessons. After that I went on to study classical singing and flute at Trinity College of Music, London.
My inspiration for continuing with music came from my music teacher in comprehensive school (ages 11-16) who gave me my first singing solo and then took time out to give me extra (free) lessons outside of school, without anyone knowing, going the extra mile to encourage me and give me every opportunity to gain musical experience. Without this teacher I wouldn't be where I am today, as a professional musician.
My experience came initially from singing in a choir, but then I would be asked to sing the solos. From there I learned to perform in a variety of venues, although the choir community remains a strong and continuing interest, where I remain involved.
Many musicians enjoy those reality music shows, but I don't. I am really strongly against these programs.. I feel that they have watered down standards within music and people's attitude about performing and perfecting an art form. Everyone now seems to be an expert in music, as a result. Musicians who try out for the competition are judged by people in the music industry but not necessarily people who know anything about singing techniques or even those who know how to spot whether someone is singing in a healthy way. The programs are heavily produced to play on our emotions, and a lot of emphasis is placed being physically appealing.
In my opinion music should not be treated differently than any other profession, where people are encouraged to train, put to the test to prove that they can do the job fully and apply for jobs that are based on skills, experience and training. The singers on reality shows usually haven't performed before, so they may not be able to handle a performing situation outside of the clinical and manufactured structure of a TV program. These programs don't seem to offer longevity to the singer either, as the next years' winner always takes precedence.
I have always found that music has a magical quality for me; it invades me, encapsulates me and takes over me in a way that I can't escape. I come alive when speaking about or performing music, it excites me still today as much as it did when I was first asked to perform solo as an 11 year old singer.
For me music has no boundaries or labels, only good or bad quality, although I must admit to not liking heavy rock/punk music much. I listen to all kinds of quality music; as long as it's good it gets my ears! If I were to lean towards any particular genre it would be jazz or acoustic music, although where would you pigeonhole the diversity throughout their musical career of artist such as Joni Mitchell or Sting. Favourite artists tend to be older, just because I feel the standards were better then so I look up to artists such as Tony Bennett, Ella, Nina Simone, Kathleen Ferrier, Barbra Streisand, Dame Shirley Bassey, Diana Krall, Pink Floyd, Adele, Regina Specktor, Martin Taylor, The Civil Wars, Gregory Porter....oh the list goes on.
I do compose songs but never really have the confidence to let others hear them. I have also found that audiences are more prone to wanting to hear something they're familiar with. I do a lot of arranging music for my various choirs.
I have the wonderful privilege of having my parents who both performed in choirs. Neither have ever performed much previously, but have lovely voices. As I was growing up everyone always said "I wonder where you get your musical talent from" but then a family member looked back over our family tree and it turns out that something like my great, great, great grandfathers were professional musicians - one an organist and another a conductor, quite something in those times! So I guess what's in the roots, is in the branches.
I have four choirs that I've started up from scratch, and I work at music daily, as I am a full-time professional musician.
The principle barriers I have found in music have to do with gender and age. As the first female conductor of a major male voice choir, I came across many barriers in just being a woman. Asking is interpreted as nagging, if you are a woman. And when I was introduced as the person in charge, and folks would still direct their questions to the men in my group, who may not have had the answers to the questions rather than asking me when I had those answers. Those attitudes likely pervade other organizations and groups as well.
Age is a major barrier within the music industry. I find students who are only in their mid 20s are being given the impression that they've missed the boat as far as making it in music is concerned. There are older people in the music industry, but these individuals are already famous. They found their fame as young people and have lasted the test of time or have made a comeback. But no older people are ever taken on as new artists. I believe this is ludicrous, as quality singers can often perform for decades.
Am I disillusioned? I admit to some concerns, yet I have great support when I make home demos or put on my own concerts. Yet no record company or agent will follow up with a response when contacted. I try to stay fresh in music, am a member of the Musician's Union, and keep practicing and performing to stay current.
For those young people starting out in the music industry, I would tell them to train in another profession first and get training and gigs in spare time. The music industry is such a tough and fickle business in which to make a living, so having other work to help earn a living is important. Those who are good enough will command a fee for performances, which may allow the musician to quit that “day job.”
I have interests and concern for the future of music. The art of reading music and training and studying an instrument has to come back into vogue at some point, as people start noticing the performance standards are dropping. I believe the music industry needs some introspection because of the Internet has changed the way people listen to music. The industry needs to support how its workers can be paid, as income is lost from lack of CD sales and a slow response to downloads and streaming has meant many artists are giving away their music as a result. Musicians and those bodies that represent them need to concentrate on ways to claw back lost revenue from the companies responsible for digital recordings.
My goal is to keep making a full-time living as a professional musician. Part of that goal is oriented towards making my choirs successful and giving individuals a chance to explore the joys of music through singing together or learning to train as better singers. I have conducted at the Sydney Opera House, so my next goal is to perform in the Royal Albert Hall in London and hope that these goals, and my desire to keep performing as a musician will be fulfilled.
Here are the links to my work on my webpage at www.sianpearce.com and my choirs - www.thephoenixchoir.co.uk and www.singersrock.com
It's likely Sian will realize those goals, with the energy and enthusiasm she brings to music, so that good advice for all those who want to make music a full-time career will find a path to success by following some of her lead.