The time of my life
Indiana Gregg is a singer/songwriter whose debut album Something Like Me was released in April 2006. She tells Speaking Out about the struggles and hard work that lay behind it.
As a musical child, Indiana was known in school as 'the girl who writes songs'.
"I transferred my anxiety to writing songs," she said. "But I didn't just write songs, I wrote everything.... from short stories, to essays, loads of letters to European pen pals, my diary and as a by-product of my piano playing, lots of songs."
There are now over 300 of them, and she says that this is only a sample.
Like many children who stammer, Indiana kept quiet at school, and stayed with a small group of friends. Later, it was performing on stage in music theatre that broke the ice. She found that she could express herself and communicate. "I then realised, 'I can go up and talk to my teacher'."
Music gave Indiana a focus and outlet from her communication difficulties.
Performing on stage came naturally, and is something she has done since primary school, feeling more free on stage than in every day life. It provided a way out of the teasing because when the other children saw that she could entertain people, they eventually no longer made fun of her. "Singing makes it much easier to communicate because you are opening yourself to others and they are then more receptive to you. I also found speaking to groups easier when taking on another identity. It was less personally invasive," she explained.
"I was able to perform without having any trouble, since a song could easily be rehearsed and not stuttered. It gave me the opportunity to relax. Memorizing a song and performing it became much easier than having to speak out loud to people."
However, music and performing wasn't enough by itself. There were painful times at school. "I was so ashamed of how the words would come out distorted. I was made fun of, obviously, on the playground and was embarrassed to participate in any class discussions. But I used to find it easier to talk in groups. I took refuge in going around in groups. I would ask my mum if I could invite two friends rather than one, because it was always easier talking to a few people than to just one. But later, that made dating difficult!"
Later, there were nerve-wracking public speaking classes, especially when having to do impromptu speaking. Indiana survived all this, but it could have been very different without the speech therapist that she saw two days a week for five years.
"This one woman really changed my life and had such a major impact upon my personality by helping me not only speak, but also building my confidence," she says. "It's so important for every child to have the opportunity to get help."
Therapy techniques included slow breathing - very important as a warm up- drawing, and storytelling to get the focus away from herself. Shifting this focus was particularly important. Her therapist helped Indiana to draw pictures and use her hands to tell a story - 'to draw the ideas in the air to help get the point across' as a way of distracting her from being nervous. This is something she still uses. A major jewellery designer has now designed a piece for her hand because it is such a part of her performance.
Something Like Me was released last month and covers a broad musical range from blues to gospel and soul. It spells out her philosophy of life. "Absolute persistence and hard work has a lot to do with why this album came into existence. Building stone by stone takes time and patience. In life you just have to jump in. You can't hide all your life. If you want to do something [badly] enough, and do it often enough and not let fear overcome you, you can do it."
From the Summer 2006 edition of Speaking Out, pages 7 & 11
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