Teacher Spotlight: Abigail Sykes

12/31/20 12:15 PM / by Metro Music Makers


1. How long have you been teaching at Metro Music Makers, and what do you teach?
I've been teaching voice, beginner piano and ukulele at Metro Music Makers since last July.

2. What is your first musical memory?
I grew up Church of Christ, a denomination that only sings a capella, so I learned vocal harmonies from a young age. I specifically remember singing along to something in the backseat of the car—I was probably 4 or 5—and my dad complimenting my harmonies. Obviously, it meant a lot since I remember it to this day.

3. What was the first album you bought?
I think the first album I ever bought for myself was a CD of Speak for Yourself by Imogen Heap. She was the first artist I remember "discovering"— the first artist I listened to because *I* liked her, not because my parents or my peers listened to her. It may sound silly, but it felt like a transcendental experience! It wasn't just about hearing music I enjoyed—it was also about discovering myself a little more. While I don't listen to her often anymore, I still have so much respect for her as an artist and an experimental songwriter.

4. Who are you listening to right now?
Oh my goodness, one of my very favorite artists at the moment is the unfortunately unheard of: Gia Margaret. She self ascribes as a "sleep-rock" artist, which perfectly describes her sound. Her music is gentle, authentic, and emotive with theoretically solid musical underpinnings, which I assume stem from her classical training background. She is experimental in the most subtle, beautiful ways. Absolutely recommend her to anyone and everyone. My all-time favorite artists are The Swell Season and Sufjan Stevens.

5. Why do you love teaching?
I absolutely love getting to connect with students and stoke the fire of love for music in them. Having grown up being primarily classically trained, then attending a school of music that frowned on anything apart from classical training, I have a very real understanding of what it is to kill the love for music in a student's heart. While I do still have an admiration for classical music and many elements of classical training, I love to bring that to music that students are excited to sing or play! Finding ways to still instill foundational music techniques and knowledge through contemporary music is extremely satisfying. At the end of the day, though, seeing a student grow in their self-confidence and creative fulfillment is absolutely the most fulfilling part of teaching.

6. Who inspires you as a musician?
I previously mentioned my favorite artists: The Swell Season, Sufjan Stevens and my current favorite, Gia Margaret, each of whom deeply inspires me, yes, musically, but mostly for the emotional realness each expresses. Listen to any song Glen Hansard (The Swell Season) performs, and you can't help but connect emotionally. The modern commercialization of music has stripped so much of popular music of its authenticity (Billie Eilish is a phenomenal exception!), which is why I cling to indie artists such as these. Phoebe Bridgers and Julien Baker are a couple more recent artists who I greatly respect for these same reasons.

7. What musical accomplishment are you most proud of?
This will sound silly, but one of my "musical accomplishments" I'm most proud of is stepping back and deciding what I really wanted and what my role was in the world of music. I've sung with Kathleen Battle, been lead in musicals, and interviewed world famous musicians, but the most long lasting, important thing I've done as a musician was stepping away from it all and rediscovering what I truly love about music and how I can build a sustainable relationship with the craft for the rest of my life. For now, that looks like teaching and playing for myself and my family at home. One day I hope to write about and photograph more artists, but performing isn't a big aspiration of mine.

8. Tell me about one of your best moments as a teacher.
One of my best moments as a teacher was the first time I discovered that the instructional words I said could actually make a difference for a student! I told her to try a certain thing to increase the resonance in her head voice, and by the next time we met, the fullness and volume she was creating in her head voice made it almost indistinguishable from her chest voice. Made me realize that all those years in lessons and school had actually taught me something. 😅

9. What’s the latest in your own music world?
As I previously mentioned, there's nothing that would seem big to outside eyes going on at the moment. My biggest recent development has been teaching itself! And it's been one of my most fulfilling musical milestones so far.

10. What’s the latest in your world outside of music?
My husband and I lead a fairly quiet life here in Atlanta! My photography business continues to grow, which has been so much fun and such a blessing.

Topics: Teacher Spotlight, Our Teachers

Metro Music Makers

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