Discovering the voice of Vanessa Parkinson
Words by Louise North
Most 18-year-olds would baulk at the thought of performing in front of hundreds of people, but give the usually quiet and studious Vanessa Parkinson a microphone and she comes alive.
While the Warrnambool R&B/pop singer/songwriter is busy preparing for VCE exams, an audition for Holiday Actors, working two part-time jobs and keeping up with singing lessons and performing, she still has time to dream about a career on Broadway.
And that might not be just a pipe dream.
Last year Vanessa spent six months in New York on a student exchange and revelled in the opportunities.
She saw the musical Les Miserables on Broadway along with other shows and was wowed by musical theatre, and encouraged that her New York vocal coach suggested her voice was suited to that style.
Now she has a big decision to make about the direction of her burgeoning performance career.
“I’m at a turning point and not sure whether to stay with my indie rock interests or to move more into musical theatre,” Vanessa said from her family’s suburban home where a keyboard and guitar in the corner of the loungeroom form the space of her creating.Vanessa’s interest in music began like a lot of young women: singing in her bedroom miming her favourite songs with a hairbrush (and the odd toothbrush) as a microphone. That was at age seven and then she started singing lessons.
Her mother, Jenni Larsen is a talented creator in her own right (see our story here), but is a self-acknowledged non singer. Jenni says while she has a love of vinyl music and retro record players, her musical daughter definitely didn’t inherit her singing voice!
“I’m a music appreciator, and have been known to attempt karaoke, but I don’t sing well,” Jenni laughed.
Jenni’s first memory of Vanessa’s singing talents is when she watched her perform The Jacksons song “Blame it on the Boogie” in front of her primary school at St Joseph’s.
Now at Emmanuel College, Vanessa’s love of words and literature has helped shape her songwriting skills and along the way she’s taught herself to play acoustic guitar.
Her song, Love Somebody, was entered in the Triple J Unearthed High school competition last year and later it won the national Kool Schools recording project’s “Best R&B Track”.
You can watch it here:It’s clear that Vanessa would rather be performing (and singing in the bathroom!) than tied to songwriting.
“I get excited when I perform and you just get one shot at it, but with songwriting you are always questioning yourself,” she says.
In the last few years Vanessa has performed at the Port Fairy Folk Festival, 15 Minutes of Fame at St Brigids, Crossley, Warrnambool Art Gallery, and had singing roles in stage plays with Primary Performers and more recently Holiday Actors.
Vanessa credits much of her success to Emmanuel’s VCE VET Music program which draws students from six regional colleges.
Former students have variously won local Battle of the Bands competitions, and – like Vanessa – featured in Triple J Unearthed High, and received airplay on Triple J and the ABC.
The college has participated in the national Kool Skools Songwriting & Recording project for six years, winning 12 awards, including Koolest Skool last year, college spokeswoman Jean Christie told Bluestone.
You might also enjoy…