Recently, some TakeLessons students performed at the San Diego Kids Expo, and I had the pleasure of meeting a very talented young lady, Sara C. who takes music lessons with Kristen B. In addition to singing, playing the guitar, and playing piano, Sara is also a budding songwriter. Did I mention she’s only 14?
I was lucky enough to get the chance to ask Sara a few questions about what music means to her, the songwriting tips she’s learned along the way, and how her music lessons have helped her to make music and start sharing it with the world.
Have you always loved music? Who or what inspired you to start taking music lessons?
Sara: I’ve always loved singing. When I was young I would sing “Part of Your World” from The Little Mermaid over and over until my entire family got sick of it, but to me it was really fun. At a young age I wanted to take violin lessons, but then changed my mind and started learning to play the piano. I took piano lessons for seven years and, I’m not going to lie, I hated it. However, not long after I asked my parents if I could start voice lessons because I knew that it wasn’t music that I hated, I just didn’t appreciate classical piano music at the time. However, now I do have an appreciation for classical piano music. I love going to my vocal lessons to learn about and play music. Music is a big part of my life.
You also write your own songs. How did you get started as a songwriter?
Sara: As a really little kid I remember going to the grocery store with my mom and while I sat in the shopping cart I would sing little melodies to her that I had made up. Then when I was about seven years old, I wrote this song called “All the Wonders”. The lyrics made absolutely no sense, but that was the first complete song I ever wrote. Of course at the time I had no idea how to write a piano accompaniment or play the guitar so it was just a vocal part. I’ve written many more songs since then, accompanied with the piano or guitar, and I’d certainly like to think I’ve improved. I’ve also written a couple of piano pieces.
You have a lot of confidence as a performer. What goes through your head when you’re on stage?
Sara: When I’m performing in front of people I get really into it — the atmosphere and the song that I’m playing. If I’m performing an original song I get really excited that I’m letting the world hear something that I created. I concentrate on the way that I sound in the speakers with the music flowing through my brain and the feeling that the song gives me and anyone listening. I get nervous sometimes, but I’ve been told by countless music teachers that if you make a mistake and act like nothing happened, most of the time nobody will notice. In addition to all of this, usually what is going on in my head is, “Wow this is so cool, real people are listening to me.” I love the feeling.
What’s the biggest thing you’ve learned in the course of your music lessons so far?
Sara: In my experiences with music lessons, I’ve learned that you have to know what you want to get anything done. You also need to love what you’re doing. You can’t really walk into a piano lesson and play a bunch of music that you hate because then you aren’t ever really trying. It’s similar with voice lessons. If you want to focus your one hour a week with this person on a specific technique or song, you need to tell them. Otherwise, you’re not doing anything productive for yourself. If you want your teacher to teach you how to make harmonies, how to write music, or how to create accompaniment you’ve got to let them know. If you don’t, they’ll still teach you really great stuff to know how to do, but if you aren’t interested in it, it won’t make any difference for you.
What advice or songwriting tips would you give to other young people who want to make music?
Sara: If you want to make music and you’re really serious about it, don’t let anything stop you from doing that. I’ve had so many instances when I’ve let myself believe that I wasn’t good enough to do anything musical. My dream has always been to create a real studio album and perform it in front of people who love all of the songs on that album. I’ve started to try this so many times, but then gotten distracted by other things in my life. That’s perfectly normal of course, trying to discover what you like to do, but you can’t let these things distract you from what you love to do. If deep down you know you love music more than any other hobbies, you need to let yourself follow that path. I’ve written the first verse of a million songs but then gave up because I hated the melody or the lyrics and this is what brought me down, forcing me to not want to write any more. And then I would become motivated again, and sometimes I would write a really great song that I was proud of. Those are the moments that you need to keep in mind when you feel defeated. Not every song you write is going to be great, and at first you are not going to be perfect at playing the guitar, or piano, or trumpet, or whatever it is you want to learn how to play. You can’t let this bring you down. There will probably always be someone who is better than you, but it would be crazy to think that is a reason to stop playing. If it makes you happy, do it.
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