Tralee's Lisa on her love of music

Fergus Dennehy talks to Tralee singer Lisa Curran about growing up in a very musical family, making her singing debut at age three, falling in love with music teaching and her hopes of setting up a music/performance management business in the future

Lisa Curran
Lisa Curran
Lisa Curran

Where to begin with writing about the incredibly busy life of Tralee singer Lisa Curran?

Do I start with her upbringing in one of the most musical families in Tralee? Her work with autism awareness charities alongside raising raise her son Christopher? Or do I jump further ahead in time to where she discovered her true passion in life lay in the teaching of music?

Whichever direction I take, there is one constant to take away from my wide ranging chat with the Voiceworks vocal coach - and that is : "how in the heck does she find the time to do it all?!"

Right back where it all started seems like a good a place as any to start though and for Lisa, she said that she was lucky enough to have a very musical start in life - thanks in part to her Nan and Granddad.

"Well, I am very lucky to be from a family that is just steeped in music from the organization side, right down to the performing side," said Lisa, speaking to The Kerryman on Thursday.

"My nan is Peggy Ash and she grew up in the CYMS. So, she would have been there in the days where they were booking all the big acts like Thin Lizzie and U2 when they were first starting out," she continued.

"Then, my grandfather he still to this day at 84 is playing two to three nights a week in a trad ballad band; they travelled all over the world with that band so I've definitely grown up with music in my life," she said.

When you grow up surrounded by so much musical talent, you can't help but be influenced by it from a young age; still though, even the most optimistic of parents must have been surprised by a young three year old Lisa stood up at her aunt's wedding and sang 'You Are My Sunshine' in front of everybody.

"Everyone always says that was my debut and actually, it's always a song that I come back to at family parties and stuff," she laughed.

Having always been geared towards the musical theatre world, Lisa soon got stuck into a number of stage schools around the town, went on to get her voice trained and managed to secure a number of lead roles in a number of productions throughout the years.

A move to college in Cork though and an introduction to a module on teaching and Lisa soon realised that performance wasn't everything when it came to music.

"I always thought that I only wanted to be a performer, but when I started teaching and seeing that side of it, passing on knowledge and seeing somebody come in the door really nervous and you get to change that and give them confidence - it's just so rewarding," she continued.

"I mean it's so lovely to see someone come in and they are adamant that they can't do something. Then, without realising it, you are doing exercises with them , you are doing other songs with them and then you come back to this apparently impossible task and it just clicks with them,"

"You have gone the roundabout way of getting them there without putting the pressure on that specific goal and then when they do eventually get to the goal, I think it's just amazing," she said with a smile.

"Like I see students there that I would have been teaching 12 years ago and they're finishing up college themselves and they've gone to do music in college. So, it's nice to think that I was a small help to them on their way," she added.

A choir from the school will take another big step in their musical education at the end of the year when they perform alongside the brilliant O'Neill sisters from Ballyheigue in the INEC in December.

If teaching and performing weren't enough to keep her busy, Lisa then decided to try and add a little bit of event/performance management to her seemingly endless repertoire of skills.

More specifically, she has tried, and is still trying, to find a place where young musicians under the age of 18 can go and perform; thus gaining vital playing experience that they couldn't gain in the classroom setting.

"They don't get the opportunity to perform. Say we have John there in the corner and he's 16 and he plays in the guitar. Usually, you'd see those guys playing in pubs and stuff but at 16, he can't get many gigs there so where is he meant to go to play," she said.

With this in mind, Lisa approached the Tralee Food Festival and pitched the idea to them about having these under-age performers play at different venues around Tralee over the weekend; the result?

"Yeah, I've gotten inundated by groups and solo acts that are all under 18 and they are all looking to play and I have to say, they are absolutely unreal."

"Performing live in front of a crowd. You learn things that can't be taught in a classroom setting. For example, they can learn how to judge a crowd. You can be the best performer to your teacher, in a space where you feel comfortable, but when there's a crowd of strangers walking past listening to you, you don't know how you are going to be. You won't know what your adrenaline is like," she said.

Anyone looking to get in touch with Lisa about vocal classes here in Kerry can do so by heading over to the Voiceworks studio website where all the details on classes and prices are available.

"You always have that twenty minutes to half an hour with your students but I guess I like being a bit more personal with students," she said, speaking about her teaching style.

So if the student find the song during the week and they can text it to me they can say I want to try this one and then that can help me to prepare for the class," she continued.

"It is a bonding experience between yourself and the student. You do become friends and it is the most rewarding thing.

Anyone looking to check out more of Lisa's own work or wants to contact her, then head over to her 'Tralee Vocal Academy - Lisa Curran Soprano' page on Facebook and send her a message.

Until then, let's hope that she manages to squeeze some free time into her busy schedule!