Sally Stevens is a local vocal coach who brings a wholistic approach to singing – along with a knowledge of the live music circuit thanks to her early success in music performance
When Katoomba's Sally Stevens was a kid she admits to singing all the time, to the point it was a joke in her family. "I just thought it was totally normal to sing and play music," laughs Sally as she explains her early love of music to us, meanwhile chasing her new daughter around the Cultural Centre's well-worn rug. Sally's bubbly energy comes from deep within and it's immediately obvious why her students are so excited to see her each week.
"I was about 7 years old when my Mum took me to see Cats. She said I just came home and sang, I was so excited, so I guess that's where it all started," she recalls.
With support from her muscial family Sally naturally followed the path from this young age. At 15 she landed a gig overseas with jazz piano legend Jan Rutherford, playing jazz in US bars. The spark of vocal talent then took her to McDonald Performing Arts College, where she dabbled in various things – touring and acting – before finally heading onto Western Sydney Uni to complete a Performance degree. It was during her years at Western Sydney that Sally 'fell' into a vocal group called Kaya who would later enter the reality TV show X-Factor (remember Mark Holden and his 'touchdowns'?).
"Kaya formed at a party, having a jam! There was this guy being mean to my friend so we started doing a beatbox vocal jam to get back at him. It worked so well that we decided to start a Monday night jam group. The girls were all really strong amazing singers in their own right. A lot of people didn’t understand that - it didn’t matter who did the lead," she says. "It was not the usual X-Factor stuff either, and audiences liked us for that - we covered Australian artists like John Butler and did original compositions." Inspiring others Sally talks of the pitfalls of these types of reality television shows, explaining that the shows have therapists on set because they take so much of a performer's confidence. "We were lucky to be a strong group. We hope to have inspired others. It’s funny because everything that makes you awkward in everyday life is cool on stage! I learnt so much from those girls ... but it was like being married to them!" Kaya toured for over five years off the back of being on X-Factor, playing festivals and some huge support gigs. "Not bad considering we went on there for a joke!" laughs Sally.
The Teaching Bug "One of the Kaya girls got me into teaching, and I actually prefer it to performing. Watching someone find their sound and confidence, just to hear people, it’s such an honour. Our teaching, it’s about people sounding like themselves," she explains. "I think there’s a tall poppy syndrome in Australia, but when you are in that room one-on-one it’s so special. Everyone deserves to be heard!"
Sally and partner moved her studio from the Northern Beaches to Katoomba three years ago to escape the city and pursue something more creative. "It was such a positive move. I think people up here, like parents, are more supportive of their kids. People are more open to having an emotional outlet,particularly for teenagers, music is the only thing they can control. Why they don’t like music is just as important as why they do like music. I’m the one time in their week they get to do what they want, and that’s pretty exciting!"
Sally says Singing Alive offers a free trial lesson, and are a Creative Kids provider.Find her on Facebook for more info.