Margaret Keys: Be willing to take a chance

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Margaret Keys is a young soprano from Derry N Ireland.

At the age of 15 she was awarded the "Trinity College of Music London Medal" for the best overall singer in music examinations. She has sung extensively throughout Ireland, UK and America and New Zealand. She has won numerous awards including the "International Artists Profile Award," "The New York Artist award" "The BBC Fame Academy Bursary" and was chosen as one of 8 finalists in the "RTE young Diva of the year."

In February this year she performed at the prestigious "Rotorua Lakeside Concert" to an audience of 35,000. We have all seen the kind of determination it takes to stand out head and shoulders from your competition in the cut-throat business of music. While YouTube and other online forums have made it easier for artists to build their brand and get "the breaks" it still takes significant determination to break through the noise of new bands and artists.

Margaret tells us a little about what drives her forward...


I was born and grew up in Derry, Northern Ireland.

Hobbies & Interests

Walking, teaching, theatre and meeting up with friends and family as often as possible. I also love shopping even if it's just to window shop!

My Companies & other Roles

* Teacher for 4 years before taking a career break.
* Two years ago I founded my own production company "MKeys Productions." I produced and directed three productions all of which were in aid of a range of charities. I also frequently carry out singing and performance workshops for children aged 8-17.

My Favourite Time of the day is...

Night. I would describe it as my "quiet, thinking" time.

While you are an entertainer- you effectively run your own business- what are the challenges?

Being well organised.

How have you overcome them?

Planning well in advance and never being afraid to ask for help and advice.

The music business is tough. What keeps you going?

Only my love and passion for singing and performing. The way I see it is that obstacles and difficulties are put in our way to see if what we want is really worth fighting for. It's important to follow your passion and have the courage to follow your dreams.

What does the recession mean to you? How are you responding to it personally and professionally?

It's definitely a very tough time for everyone at the moment and is a particularly tough time for artists. I have been very fortunate and I always grasp every opportunity as an experience rather than putting a price on it.

List a few of your recent accomplishments that you are proud of:

* Securing a four album deal with Universal Records
* Winning the BBC Fame Academy Award and the New York Artist Award
* Working and training with the Broadway stars
* Playing the role of Carrie in RTE's production of Carousel
* My debut as lead soloist in the National Concert Hall and Helix Theatre, Dublin with the RTE Concert Orchestra.
* Directing my own productions in Ireland with 80 children on stage.
* Raising money for a range of charities in particular the "Alzheimers Society"

Did you celebrate them? How?

With a huge smile, a proud heart and thanking my family for being there every second.

I am busy at the moment doing:

Preparing myself for my album launch and series of concerts.

What drove you to become involved in your industry?

I have been singing since the age of 4. Although none of my family worked as professional musicians music was always a big part of our family life. I was very close to my grandparents "Nanny" and "Pop". Whilst growing up I spent endless hours singing with them to Josef Locke, Julie Andrews, Mario Lanza, Deanna Durbin recordings and all the classic singers of their day. My grandmother was the winner of the "Deanna Durbin Award" at aged 16 and this really inspired me to sing. Singing is a huge part of who I am.

I knew I was onto something when:

When I saw I had the ability to make people both smile and cry. Singing is a very powerful form of communication. It can reflect our own experiences, thoughts and hopes. As a singer I need to feel and experience what the song is all about and the meaning will automatically ring true to the audience. When I see a tear or a smile I know I'm doing my job right!

My secret for getting things done is to:

Be organised, trust others and set yourself a time to complete a task. Generally I set it at least 10 days before the actual deadline so that I can spend the "extra" time enjoying it and gaining confidence.

My darkest hour was when:

When my grandfather "Pops" died a few years ago. As he lived with us it was particularly difficult to cope with not having him around. He was a truly wonderful person and played a huge role in my life.

I came through it by:

My faith. I truly believe that he is looking out for me in everything that I do. Just before I perform I always repeat the words he used to say to me "Give it Lilty!"

What do you do to cope with stress?

Listen to music, go for a long walk or drive and talk it all over with my family.

What do you do when things aren't going your way?

I try and remember how fortunate I am. My father would always say to me there are lots of people much worse off. If we all threw our problems in a pile and saw everyone else's, we'd grab ours back!

What is the hardest lesson you've had to learn in life?

Never be afraid to ask others for help and advice.

What separates successful people from unsuccessful people?

The willingness to take a chance. I truly believe that the difference between successful people and others is not a lack of ability, not a lack of knowledge nor talent but a lack of courage. Some people don't realise how close they were to success when they give up.

I once read "success is to be measured not so much by the position that one has reached in life as by the obstacles which he has had to overcome while trying to succeed."

Do you have any daily rituals that help you keep focused and in the right mental state to succeed?

* I look after my voice and general health on a daily basis. I always warm up before rehearsing.
* I have a few sayings that sometimes help me stay positive such as "If it's for me it will not pass me" and "I don't always sing because I'm happy, I'm happy because I sing".
* I always say a prayer in the morning and at night so that I make the right decisions and will be the best that I can be.
Do you have any school/study qualifications?
* First Class Honours Degree in Music Education from Queens University, Belfast
* Masters in Singing and performance from The Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama.

Have you ever been scared to .........? What did you do about it?

I was pretty apprehensive about my first big professional concert. I trusted in my own abilities, passion for what I do and said a few prayers.

What comes first...success or confidence?

I would say confidence although they are very closely connected. Confidence brings success and success brings confidence. It's important never to let success go to your head but at the same time never let failure go to your heart.

The Parting Shot:

"Your talent is a gift to you, what you do with it is your gift to others"

[Her debut album, "Legato" is due out around in July this year. Margaret will tour New Zealand in August, just as her debut album is being released.]

* Dwayne Alexander is founder of LiveMyGoals. Follow him on Twitter


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