Welcome to the (Listening) Party

This month, we took the listening party to one of our mentor-student pairs, Tanya and Ally. On a bright Saturday morning, KING Community Outreach Coordinator Brooke observed Tanya and Ally’s lesson, filled with wonderful music in progress and even a song Ally composed herself! Ending on a conversational note, Tanya and Ally described their musical lives, ambitions, inspirations, and more:

Brooke: Ally, what are your favorite things about playing music?
Ally: I really like the piano because it calms me. If I’m frustrated about something I’ll just play the piano. Singing makes me excited though; when I sing, it feels like I’m lifting my spirit.

Brooke: That was a really cool song that you wrote — do you like writing music on the piano the most?
Ally: Yeah. The song is based on a movie I watched called Dancin’: It’s On.

Brooke: Wow! I’m going to have to look that up. What about you Tanya, what are your favorite things about music?
Tanya: It’s all about sharing. Even if you are practicing by yourself, you’re able to have a thought about what you’re writing or going to perform. Or, you’re thinking about sharing the communion of playing together. It’s like a party! But you’re speaking through your music instead of through your words.

Brooke: Definitely. It’s like a different form of conversation. Ally, how did you get involved in music?
Ally: I watch America’s Got Talent and I’ve always wanted to try out. My mom told me that I should probably know how to play an instrument and sing. So, that’s when KING said Tanya might be able to help me.

Brooke: That’s awesome! So when do you think you’ll be ready for America’s Got Talent?
Ally: Oh, in about two years maybe.

Brooke: That sounds about right. You’re pretty rockin’ already. Tanya, how did you end up teaching? You mentioned earlier that it happened somewhat by accident?

Tanya: Yes! I had never taught in my entire life, I had just moved to Austin and started playing live with my friend Matt. A woman named Mandy Rowden who runs Girl Guitar Austin saw us play one night. She came up to me and asked if I would be willing to be her songwriting teacher. I thought, “there’s no way I know how to do that.” But eight years later here I am! Turns out I loved it.  

Brooke: Well I’m glad you did it! So Ally, what are your favorite types of music?
Ally: I like Country because Blake Shelton is my idol for Country. I also like pop and Christian music. I think my idol in pop music right now is Taylor Swift. She’s always been someone that I look up to.

Brooke: Yeah, talk about a good songwriter — Taylor writes some pretty great lyrics. What about you, Tanya, what are some of your favorite types of music?
Tanya: I like almost everything. As for singers, I think Bonnie Raitt is amazing. I love the Indigo Girls because I love harmony so much. I love Joni Mitchell. As for more current stuff, there’s this guy named Gabe Dixon, his band is so great. I love Alison Krauss. There’s also a Jazz singer from Italy named Chiara Civello. The sound of her voice is amazing to me.

Brooke: Ally, what’s your favorite thing to do out here?
Ally: I like to go to this local restaurant; I always get a hamburger.

Brooke: That sounds so good right now actually. It’s been months since I’ve had a really good burger!
Ally: I have to start school soon.

Brooke: Oh yeah? Are you looking forward to it?
Ally: A little. I’m going to be in 6th grade.

Brooke: That’s an exciting time. 6th grade is a good age. And before you know it you’ll be in college!

Tanya: What’s your favorite subject?
Ally: Lunch.

Brooke: Haha! That’s great. Do you know what you want to be when you grow up?
Ally: A singer-songwriter.

Brooke: Do you know where you would want to live as a singer-songwriter?
Ally: New York.

Brooke: Yeah, that’s a great place to be as a singer-songwriter. Tanya, what’s your songwriting process?
Tanya: It kind of depends. Mainly because I’m teaching, whatever I ask one of my students to do, I’ll also do. Lately we’ve been writing with a big group where we have a prompt – a word or a sentence or an idea, and then you write to that. But do I start with chords, do I start with a melody, do I start with lyrics? It depends on how I’m feeling that particular day. I feel strongly that the most cohesive songs you can write start with lyrics.

Brooke: That’s a great insight. Thank you both so much for your time and your music!