We spoke to FAM student, Patricia Cañizares, on her experiences of Fingal Youth Choir, studying singing at Fingal Academy of Music, and on her music education at BIMM (British and Irish Modern Music) Institute.
In the few years that I was in FYC, one of the things I loved most about it was the atmosphere. I made a lot of new friends, many of whom I'm still friends with and still sing with. Some of us even formed our own ensemble: LUNA quartet. We sing at weddings and other gigs. It's very exciting and I've really, really enjoyed LUNA's first two years.
FYC was a really supportive place to sing. We all wanted to improve. We all cared about it. Choirs are a group. If only a few people care about it, then you start not really caring about it. There's nothing you can do if it's only you who is motivated to improve. But in FYC, everybody enjoyed it. Everybody wanted to be there.
One of the really special things about Michael - founder conductor of FYC, Michael T. Dawson - was that he was really passionate. It wasn't just a job for him. It's not easy teaching kids or young teenagers, especially about choral music, because it has this stigma around it. People think it's boring, church music for old people. That's not true! That's what Fingal Youth Choir showed me.
I feel I've always had an appreciation of music, whether contemporary music, pop music or choral music. Choral music is a sector of the music industry that isn't quite as exposed as popular music. I learned more about it because I was in FYC.
I loved singing with other choirs from around the world. It was like: "Wow! We're singing in Christchurch Choir". Or "Wow! We're singing with Maynooth Chamber Choir, who have travelled the world". That meant a lot to me. Meeting other young people who were on the same page as me musically was a very powerful thing at that age.
The theory classes we had before choir helped so much as well. I'm somebody who really liked theory anyway. You're never fully developed as an artist because there are always new things to learn and I find that fascinating.
I feel FYC really helped with my sight-singing. Even though I'm doing commercial modern music in BIMM, the stuff I learned in choir (such as basic sight-reading) has helped me immensely. I also play a bit of piano, and I felt choir helped that too.
My experiences in choir really did motivate me to pursue a career in the music industry. I'm still only in 2nd year now, but I feel FYC definitely was a gate way into music as a career. It's not really an easy industry to get into. It's more about the relationships, the people you know and you meet. To me, the choir opened up that possibility of saying: "I really, really enjoyed this".
It wasn't just an extra-curricular thing to do something with my time. I really enjoyed going to the rehearsals. I genuinely did! I went even during my exams because it helped me zone out and it did take a lot of stress out of my exams. Some people do yoga... Well, I liked going to choir!
I tried my best to get other people to join too. I would tell them: "It's this amazing thing. It's not what you think choir music is actually like. You should totally try this. You like singing. I think this is amazing." It sounds corny, but it's true. The people who I did manage to convince, they ended up staying and enjoying it too.
When I have to prepare a song for BIMM, I'm able to harmonise the melody and create more interesting harmonies rather than just singing 3 and 5 above the melody. I learned this in FYC. Right now, I'm not playing that much because I'm working on writing my own music.
BIMM is completely different to other music degrees and courses because it's commercial modern music. What i really like about is that they teach about the music business, and what's out there. I feel it's really, really important nowadays. You could go to college and learn to be a great pianist by the end of it, but once you finish your degree, you're out there: what now? How do i sell my music and how do i promote myself? At the end of the day, if you are a musician, you are your own business. You need to manage the business. Most musicians out there today are self-made. It's not an easy thing to do. Studying music business means knowing about music publishing, how to manage your music, how to put your music up online, all these business strategies, how to advertise your music, how to find people to play with, how to write a proper music CV, etc.
In terms of technique, I think Michelle O'Rourke - Head of Vocal Studies at FAM - helps me more than BIMM. However, I still find myself using vocal warm-ups that we used in Fingal Youth Choir all those years ago.
Whether it was his intention or not, Michael made you feel like he believed in you. I believe that's really important as a musician, because we tend to be very harsh on ourselves. We look for other people's approval. We want others to like our singing. Michael put a lot of work into what he was doing and him believing in you made it easier to work harder, to improve. I really loved the repertoire that Michael picked. It was great for young people.
I do miss it.