Over the Christmas break at home, I watched with my Mum a TV programme called “Dance Moms”. My Mum is a fan of this program with its many controversies, in the UK it is on 5 Star every weekday with a double bill on a Tuesday. The show comes in for a lot of criticism because it is speculated the fights between Moms are staged to boost the ratings and that some of the competitions are fake. The dance teacher Abby Lee Miller also divides opinion because of her personal teaching style.
I thought it would make an interesting blog post to ask my Mum what it was like being an Opera Mum.
How would compare yourself with the Dance Moms in the TV programme?
Unlike the Dance Mom’s in the series, I’ve always been a hands-off dance/singer Mum and other than dropping you off and picking you up from different classes I shied away from putting any pressure on you or getting involved with teachers unless I felt it was absolutely essential and then only once in 20 years.
One of the things I do not agree with in the programme though is when the Mums pass on their worries and concerns to their children even though at the outset the children don’t have a problem with what is happening in the dance lesson and are only interested in giving their best performance.
But I do like the Mums passion, support and belief in their children and the lengths that they have to go to in order to help them out.
What encourage you to get me involved with the Arts?
I always wanted to be a dancer but my family could not afford the lessons when I was at school. I wanted you to have good deportment, excellent balance, high energy levels, fitness and access to other like minded girls having two brothers yourself.
What did you know about the world of the Performing Arts before you signed me up to lessons?
Absolutely nothing, that’s why I love the “Dance Moms” programme so much, it gives me a peek into the training room that I never saw with your training as your sessions were after school and parents weren’t allowed to watch, in fact when it came to ballet class it was your Dad that took you on exam day and learnt how to put up your hair buns, he has nerves of steel! It was always nice to watch your end of term performances in dance and later your drama productions.
When do you remember, me putting the majority of my focus into classical singing?
Right up until the start of High School we thought you would train to be a dancer or an actress, then a letter home from school to offer piano lessons for 30 minutes and one shortly afterward to offer one-to-one singing lessons for 30 minutes changed everything. After being told for years you sing too loud for school choirs and your voice cuts like a blade through a group you found a niche that embodied everything you loved; singing, dance, drama, a challenge and the ability to sing as loud as you liked without a microphone and whoosh suddenly you wanted to be an opera singer!
This was frankly a bolt out of the blue and something completely outside of our knowledge, we didn’t listen to classical music, we’d never been to an opera or knew anybody that had, although your Grandpa loved classical music and that was the entire family’s awareness. We put our faith in your singing tutor Jayne Wilson to guide you and we just provided lots of encouragement.
How did you find out more about the world of opera and classical singing?
We were encouraged to enter you for singing competitions in local festivals, your first one in Blackpool was nerve-racking for me, in fact, it was always me that had the butterflies and nerves while you swanned in and really enjoyed it all. This was my perfect introduction to the world of classical music, we listened to lots of singers of all ages and levels of experience, varied repertoire, and critique for all entrants at the end of each set of performances. We also saw how the children coped with the pressure of the events and learned a lot from these annual institutions. The realisation of how long it would take for you to achieve your goals and find a career started to dawn on us, this was not a career path for the faint-hearted. But your natural perseverance and willingness to stick with activities that you undertook encouraged us to believe that you could do it, and that it was not just a passing fad. It had to be your dream Charlotte and not just what we wanted you to do.
After eleven years of training do you still feel the same way?
After working full time in an office from leaving school both your Dad and I just wanted all of you to do what you loved to do and I’m really happy we can still continue to help you to do this, and to thank you for introducing us to this beautiful art form. But I must admit I would try and discourage you if you were not so committed and willing to put so much of yourself into your singing. It is a long and arduous process with no promise of work or success at the end.
But Charlotte we believe in you 100% and will support you every step of the way.