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Home / Achieving Woman

Christine Maina: Seek out people who aren’t afraid of making mistakes

 Christine Maina. She is a performer and vocal coach, and is also a music lecturer (Courtesy)

Christine Maina’s world is surrounded by music. She is a performer and vocal coach, and is also a music lecturer:

One of the most appealing things about my job is that no day is ever the same. My schedule changes depending on the semester. I normally wake up at six o’clock and ready my daughter and myself for the day.

I have classes at the Technical University of Kenya on Mondays, Thursdays and Fridays, and these take the whole morning. In the afternoons I teach voice lessons at the Kenya Conservatoire of Music.

Growing up, I wanted to be a singer. However, I was afraid of admitting this out loud because then, music was not really considered a profession. My family was also big on education, and the only singer I knew of who had studied music was Eric Wainaina.

The only possible option after studying music was becoming a music teacher. I thank God for my open-minded parents because they challenged me to research more on music.

I started taking lessons at the Kenya Conservatoire of Music and met teachers who were passionate about their work. They also taught at Kenyatta University, a fact that opened me up to other possibilities.

My father, who was worried about the viability of music as a profession, made a pact with me: I would join Kenyatta University to study music and in that first year, I had to prove that I was really into it. Otherwise, I would have to switch to another course. At the end of my First Semester, I had joined a band and was making some money. And my grades were stellar.

My father could not dissuade me after that. His major concern was whether music was sustainable. Later on, I pursued a master’s degree in African Music Performance at the University of Cape Town and funny enough, I started teaching.

I realised that it fell in line with my passion for empowering people. Performing and teaching also enhance each other – being a performer makes me a better teacher, and a better performer.

I love seeing the growth in my students. They come in timid but with consistent practice, they start growing confident and witnessing that breakthrough is always beautiful.

Also, voice is different from instruments in that when an instrument fails, you can say that it is broken. But with voice, you cannot say it is broken because that is you, and you have to work on it. I love encouraging my students and watching them overcome challenges.

I have surprised myself by how resilient I can be and how confident I have become at doing new things. The biggest contributor to this is not overthinking, a trap that many singers can fall into.

Overthinking meant I held myself back from doing certain things. I started by saying yes to the tasks that scared me without thinking too much about it, and with time this has become a practice.

Self-care to me means paying attention to who I am and having a relationship with myself. That means practising with myself the virtues I strive to practice with others. It also means being kind to myself and forgiving myself (self-forgiveness can be difficult since it takes time to admit that you are being hard on yourself).

Being in a relationship with myself also means recognising that I change, and what may work today may not work the next time. The trick is to accepting change and being open to learning.

I wish I knew when I was younger that everyone is just trying to figure themselves out. But then again, I think I would have been too young to appreciate the message. So even if someone had told me that no one knows what they are doing, I would not have understood it.

The last great thing I read was Aleph by Paulo Coelho. It has many gems. Here is one quote that has stayed with me. “If I had to give you one piece of advice it would be this: do not be intimidated by other people’s opinions. Only mediocrity is sure of itself, so take risks and do what you really want to do.

Seek out people who are not afraid of making mistakes and who, therefore, do make mistakes. Because of that, their work often is not recognised, but they are precisely the kind of people who change the world and, after many mistakes, do something that will transform their own community completely.”

My life revolves around music. My work is fun because it involves music, and when I am not teaching music, I am performing or dancing. But I do love silence too. It is how I rejuvenate myself.

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