My name is Jamie Serafi and I am the founding company and choir director of Alive and Singing Rock and Pop Choir – a trio (soon to be a quartet – more about this later!) of ‘all-inclusive’, non-auditioned adult rock and pop choirs across Hertfordshire, Bedfordshire and Buckinghamshire, now in our successful third year! With over 150 members taking part in three choir rehearsals across three evenings a week in three different counties, I am living the dream! Work it is most certainly not! With choirs currently in Stevenage, Ampthill and Milton Keynes, what better way to earn a living than laughing your way through the week with the most wonderful, loving group of like-minded friends (aka ‘choir members’ but very rarely given this label!) all sharing in the same common love – singing! In fact somebody once asked me what I would spend the money on should I be fortunate to win the lottery. I told them that I would never be faced with any such predicament since I do not play the lottery. What’s the point? The simple fact is that I already consider myself a lottery winner to be making a living full time from my musical craft – one which encompasses a multitude of skills – all used to their maximum potential each and every week. As well as running the choir rehearsals I also run the business itself – admin, marketing and the arranging/composing of the songs the choir perform (the fun part!). This leads me nicely onto providing a little information about me and my background.
After graduation in 2002, I undertook a PGCE in Secondary music teaching for one year. From 2003 to 2008 I worked as a full time head of music in two different schools in my native Cheshire. I enjoyed the teaching side of the job, however the politics and paperwork, combined with lack of time to pursue my own creative exploits, sadly drove me out of the profession and down to London where I have been working as a freelance pianist/saxophonist and composer for film and TV ever since. You can learn more about me by visiting www.jamieserafi.com.
But how exactly did I come to open Alive and Singing Rock and Pop Choir? As a composer and solo musician I found life very lonely and isolating at times. I adore meeting and mixing with new people but finding a job which would perfectly combine music and people was not immediately obvious to me. One day I saw an advert seeking choir leaders for a national choir company. It sounded just what I was looking for so I hastily applied. A few weeks later following an audition I got the job and was now faced with starting up a set of choirs under their name within a thirty mile geographical radius of my hometown. I worked for this company for a year as a choir leader and enjoyed the rehearsals immensely. However, while the concept was fantastic, the execution wasn’t to my taste as I felt restricted creatively. With this in mind, I decided to leave the choir company and stay true to myself. One thing I did not bank upon is the fact that when I turned around, behind me (figuratively speaking) were seventy of the choir members I had been leading for the last year from one specific choir. There was simply no way they were going to continue singing without me. I learnt a very valuable lesson that year – people had only bought into about 20% of the actual singing and choir experience. The other 80% they had bought into was ME! The rapport and friendship I had built up with one particular choir that year had clearly developed into a far greater friendship than I could have imagined – it seemed that choir and choir leader were inseparable as far as they were all concerned!
With this in mind, Alive and Singing Rock and Pop Choir was born. The name was not chosen by me but by the members. For them it symbolised the starting out of our new journey together – free to do as we pleased without corporate restriction and indeed free to run the choir as a group of friends where all decisions were open to everyone to have a say. A short time after opening my first choir in Ampthill, Befordshire with around seventy members, I opened a second a few months later in Stevenage, Hertfordshire. In September 2012 I opened my third Alive and Singing Rock and Pop Choir in Milton Keynes and now I am delighted to be on the brink of opening my fourth choir in January 2014 in Bedford. At the end of our first year we recorded our debut album entitled “Don’t Look Back” as a nod to our past and we have just recorded our second album “Days Like These”. Both albums contain feel-good, upbeat popular rock and pop choir hits arranged especially by myself and on each album, all the choirs combine to record so as you can imagine, the sound they produce is quite phenomenal as they belt out harmonies in no uncertain terms!
So here we are – time is moving on and with the advent of my new choir opening in bedford in January 2014, Total Choir Resources have very kindly asked me to contribute a weekly diary from November onwards, leading up to the first rehearsal of the new choir next year. This is a real honour for me and I am very excited to be keeping everybody up to tempo (excuse the pun!) with the preparations, marketing etc of the new choir before it finally opens. As I write this, I do not currently have a choir and with the venue hire charges already paid in advance in Bedford, it could be very costly if I do not enter into some serious marketing between now and January towards attracting a good number of people to try Alive and Singing Rock and Pop Choir and, I hope, join. Wish me luck and watch this space!