He sings!

Today has been a memorable day.

I asked Ali (now in year 13) to stay behind at the end of our Choir who can’t sing rehearsal this evening. Following our recent flashmob, we’re preparing to make a studio recording of “You raise me up” which is going to include some solos. The idea is to showcase a few of the boys who have really come from nowhere, to show that they really can sing now.

The trouble is, Ali really struggles to sing. I’ve got some scribbles in my notebook from a one to one session with Ali from December 2013 [ie. nearly two years ago] and it’s evident that I really didn’t have a clue what to do with him. He just couldn’t sing reliably anywhere near any note which I sang to him. I’ve tried several more times with him since, and despite serious effort on both our parts, it’s as if he just hasn’t been able to hear me. In fact, here’s the truth: despite my big claims that anyone can be taught to be sing, I’ve been keeping quiet about Ali because he’s the one boy I’ve had down in my mind as … wait for it … a hopeless case. Tone deaf?

That is, until today.

Actually in last week’s rehearsal he sang one or two notes in tune. I was pleasantly surprised, but put it down to chance. But this evening as I picked out a few soloists, I found myself thinking how amazing it would be if Ali could do one. One last try.

So for five minutes after the rehearsal we sang notes. The same as ever – listen carefully as I sing; now imagine singing it yourself; listen again … and now you sing. And he sang a beautiful D, the same as me. Then an F#, and then an A. We carried on singing, me first and then Ali repeating back, and gradually we started missing out the imagining bit until it was just me singing a note and Ali copying. And all of a sudden, after two years or more, his ears were switched on – note after note in tune with me. With Ali’s consent I videoed this session, but my iPad ran out of memory just as we were getting going. So you’re just going to have to believe me! He can sing! [Waiting for Ali’s consent to post the video, but hopefully something might follow soon].

This has genuinely been one of the single most exciting moments in my professional career. It may have taken a while, but Ali has found his way from being ‘tone deaf’ to being able to sing. It has taken determination, which Ali has in spades, courage, and practice; in this instance, two years worth of practice.

Find me someone who says they can’t sing and I’ll prove them wrong.

6 responses to “He sings!

  1. Fabulous! It is the BEST thing that happens in our job!!

  2. I just WISH I’d recorded him two years ago, and then the difference now would be obvious to everyone. So excited 🙂

  3. Brilliant! All music teachers struggle with this.I too had claimed anyone can sing, with help and practice. As a young teacher (50
    years ago) I had a breakthrough with a boy who was desperate to sing and join the choir. Having met him a few years ago, he mentioned our times of practice. He has since gone on to have many years of musical learning and pleasure! Hence another of my early claims that enthusiasm in school music leads to lifetime education and enjoyment.
    Your enthusiasm and pleasure results in great success following all the effort you put in. All good wishes for the rest of your career (life)!

  4. Thank you Pauline for your encouragement – great story. Learning to sing can be life-changing, and clearly was for this pupil for yours 🙂

  5. Amazing – it’ll be one of those moments for him too, that he will remember for the rest of his life and help in other areas of life when they come at him.

  6. Many congratulations to both of you for your determination to succeed with this. I’m so glad that your work is paying dividends.

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