Going To Music School With Alison Trelfa

By Kevin Burton

   Twice in her life Alison Trelfa has worked as a music teacher. Some of her advice on a recent zoom call has me going to school.

   Trelfa is a blind singer/songwriter from Middleborough, England. I wrote about her and her self-released album Decades Of Creation Saturday and Sunday on Page 7.

   She said one of the things she has asked students to do is to identify their musical influences and find out who those artists listened to early on.

   Studying the influences of your influences she said, is a fascinating way to discover how the musicians you look up to became who they are.

   A main influence for me is Gerry Rafferty. He is the one I was listening to during my most prolific songwriting period.

   On his early influences, his Wikipedia page reads, “His mother taught him both Irish and Scottish folk songs when he was a boy; later, he was influenced by the music of The Beatles and Bob Dylan.”

   We also have this Sunday Facebook post from daughter Martha Rafferty upon the death of Don Everly:

    “The Everly Brothers were one of the very earliest records I remember playing at home. Those harmonies were a magical sound even then,” Martha Rafferty wrote. “My dad and I would sing those songs together in the car on long journeys, he’d sing the harmony, later we’d switch but we sang this song all our lives. RIP Don.”

   I am just beginning a renewed search into Rafferty’s past, taking that and other advice from Trelfa.

   Trelfa says to enjoy what you do in music and as a songwriter, write what you know. 

   Of course musicians want to please the fans, but start with yourself Trelfa says.  “In order to please everybody I’ve got to be pleased with it myself.”   

   She said one key element to progressing in music is to know when to take that leap forward and not do it too soon. Going from sounding good at home to entering Britain’s Got Talent too soon can be a problem.

   “In the grand scheme of things, what they have written needs refining,” Trelfa explains, “and Simon Cowell is there to say ‘you’re rubbish.’”

   “At some point, when you get better at what you do then you share what you’re doing with more people but you need to keep yourself in with a group of people that are going to support you through that process to begin with. To give you those building blocks.”

   “Knowing when you have passed the ‘this is only for me and a few friends’ stage, that’s the hardest stage to get past,” Trelfa said.

     There Trelfa was talking to me but also about me.

   “You do have to have a bit of drive,” she said.

   “If you really believe in yourself, keep going with it,” Trelfa said.  “Some publishers have turned down some absolutely cracking songs then other publishers have heard them and said ‘wow, that’s amazing!’”

   “If somebody turns you down for something and if you really believe in what you’ve done keep prodding at it with somebody else.”

    Many groups and artists are rejected at first, including the Beatles and the Carpenters.

   “You know what, if no one else will do it for you, do it yourself, which is exactly what I did.”

   What comes next for me musically is something I plan to circle back to sooner rather than later in my continuing “Letters From Hamburg.” series.

   The next step for Trelfa is “Winter Warmer,” a collection of Christmas songs set for release November 30. Some of the songs will be are originals such as “The Twelve Guide Dogs of Christmas.” Can’t wait to hear that one!

   Others will be old favorites from the great treasury of Christmas songs such as “Away In A Manger.” and “O Holy Night.”

   Trelfa says she is still working on some of the originals.

    You will hear many voices on this album, including The Warbling Baubles a group of Trelfa’s blind friends and former classmates. “O Holy Night” by the Warbling Baubles is already available on You Tube

    Provided I get my act together in time, I may have a small role in one of the songs from that album.  That would be a true honor and another step taken down my musical road.

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