In conversation with Roxanne Goodman, Musical Director, Big Soul Project

Roxanne Goodman

Roxanne Goodman

My name is Roxanne Goodman and I am the Confidence Booster.

Could you tell me about your childhood? Where were you born? Is there anything about your childhood that stands out for you?

 I was born in Montreal, Quebec, where I learned how to speak French before I spoke English, and my Trinidadian parents had fun understanding what I was saying.

Was there any person or persons that influenced your childhood the most?

My parents influenced my life the most. My father was an English teacher by day and musician by night. My mother did administration work by day and was an actress with the Black Theatre Workshop at night. It was as if they lead two separate lives, like superheroes, and I benefitted from both. I remember my father having jam sessions in our home with his good friend Marius Cultier, a well-known musician from Martinique. As I was sitting on the stairs to the basement where I would witness musical magic frequently happening, Marius called out to me, invited me to play the piano and jam with them. They let me play what ever I wanted and then the musicians all started to jam. It was a magical moment in my life that I will never forget. These seasoned musicians let a child (I was 8) play music with them. This changed me forever.

Can you describe your musical career and how it has evolved over the years?

I never see myself as having a musical career, I just see myself doing the things that I love that always seem to involve music. I started with theatre in my late teens because I thought it would help me get out of my shell, since I was painfully shy through my childhood and teen years. I was cast in a musical that required me to sing in public for the first time and although it was a frightening experience, I am happy that I did it because it assisted me in getting out of myself. This experience unlocked the creativity that I was previously unable to share. Then I went to Concordia University and under the direction of very accomplished teachers like Madeleine Therieau and Jeri Brown, I was taught the proper technique to singing and how to perform.

But it is only when I started to discover that there were other people out in the world who were locked up inside of themselves and did not have the confidence to express themselves that I discovered that I was the person suited to assist them in unlocking their gifts. I did this through singing. I’ve performed in Montreal, Ottawa, and the USA, at festivals and private gathering. I’ve never waited for someone to discover me, I just went ahead and orchestrated the kinds of shows I wanted. I hired musicians, had rehearsals, made cds, printed T-shirts, and then had the cd launch that people always came out in droves for. I never let the fact that I did not know how to do a thing stop me from doing it. I could read and I could learn, so I could do. Sometimes we are waiting for someone else to do what only we can do for ourselves. I have discovered that I love to teach but I always make time to perform.

You are the Musical Director of the Big Soul Project. Can you tell us the history of the choir and its successes and challenges?

Big Soul Project was founded in 1997. They have had four music directors before hiring me in 2008. They are a non-audition choir who I’ve told repeatedly they don’t have to sound like anyone else but themselves. I choose and arrange all the songs the choir sings (I get all the song suggestions from the choir) and we’ve developed a sound like no other choir. The Deep Groove Band is our house band that makes us sound amazing. I tell the choir that our Monday night rehearsal is always the main event. When we perform to raise money for worthwhile causes in our community, this is the overflow of our rehearsals, the cherry on top. Choir members see these rehearsals as a wonderful community, a place to rejuvenate, to heal, as their church.

We’ve opened for the Blind Boys of Alabama, performed at the NAC, performed with Barbra Streisand at the Canadian Tire Centre and have done many fundraising concerts for local and international charities. When I started with the choir there was approximately sixty something members. Now we have 150 active members with a 100 people waiting list. I love working with the Big Soul Project. In an organization of this size, not everyone will agree with what you do and how you do it, but I always remember that I am always making decision based on the welfare of the entire choir and I can only do what I do like I do it! I also work with the Sunset Singers, a senior’s choir that I’ve helped establish to produce emotional and physical well being through singing.

You are owner and proprietor of Confidence Booster Inc. Can you tell us about your programs and services?

Today I own and operate my own business called Confidence Booster Inc. where I teach people, one on one or in groups, proper vocal technique. I have clients that I work with in a mentoring capacity. I am an associate teacher at Carleton University where I teach pop and jazz students proper vocal technique and performance skills. I am hired by many organizations to facilitate workshops and seminars and I have been called upon to be the keynote speakers at various conferences. I’ve worked with people of all ages, from the Federal Government to preschoolers. I love what I do.

Some of my very successful workshops are “Crossing the Line” and the “Rejuvenate, Reconstruct, and Redirect your LIFE” workshops. I enjoy watching people see for the first time that they do have the ability to do what they want to do with their life and they have the power (always had the power) to get it done. Music is the method that I use, but at my core, I am an encourager; I encourage people to freely express and be themselves. I believe that the reason most people feel they cannot sing is because they lack the confidence to let their sound go, due to some bad past experience (which we all have had). They lack the confidence to do other things also and sometimes disqualify themselves even before they’ve started. I help people develop the confidence they need to go for what ever it is they want to accomplish in their lives. My method, singing is usual, but it works.

You are also the author of the book: Confidence Booster – Rising Higher. Can you tell us about the book? What has the circulation been like so far? 

Two years ago, I hired a marketing specialist to help me develop my business further. I had great ideas but I did not know why I could not always get them off the ground. The first thing she told me was that I had to write a book. Since I had already paid her and felt she knew what she was talking about, I took her advice and writing Confidence Booster: Rising Higher was the best decision I have ever made. The book is me, Roxanne, encouraging the reader to step out of their comfort zone and do the things they are afraid of. I give many examples of students I’ve worked with who are no longer in their shells and give many examples of how I too overcame doubt and fear. It is a little book with big time encouragement!

You are obviously a person of many parts. How do you find time to fit in all the activities in your life?

I am a wife, mother, singer, vocal instructor, choir director, speaker, and author. I believe that we all have many gifts. When we are faced with something that seems like a challenge or problem, this is but another opportunity to discover what else we are really made of. Too often people shy away from the things they’ve never done before thinking that they cannot do them. But they never give themselves a chance to develop, grow and see what they are capable of. I see challenges and problems always as opportunities; because that is what they truly are.

There are some who suggest that black men do not respect black women and vice versa? That we respect other races, especially white people, but not own. Do you agree with this perspective?

I don’t agree with this statement. I believe that if you don’t respect yourself, you will not be able to respect others and that has nothing to do with black or white; this has to do with humanity. As human beings, we have a really bad track record of not respecting one another.

You are one of the few people in our community who volunteer for the well being of others. Why do think it is so hard for others to do the same, to give back a little of their time, so as to improve the quality of life of vulnerable people in our community?

I believe that “you reap what you sow”; that “what goes around comes around”. Because I choose to believe this, it is only natural that I give back to my community. I have been blessed, so I want to bless others.

You have obviously achieved a lot in your life. What advice would you give a young black girl about to choose a career path?

My parents were very involved in the civil rights movement and they constantly reminded me, as I was growing up, that I could do what ever I wanted to do, go wherever I wanted to go and accomplish whatever I wanted to accomplish. I have never felt that I was somehow second-class or beneath anyone else in any way. My parents made sure of that. So, I would say the same thing to anyone…”Do whatever you want to do, go where ever you want to go, and accomplish whatever you want to accomplish!” I would just add that, if you are going to take my advice, do it whole-heartedly and go all the way!

Looking at Canada’s black population, there seems to be a divide between African and Caribbean communities on the one hand, and Anglophone and francophone communities on the other. Do you agree with this perspective and if so what can be done to remedy this divide?

I think we forget sometimes that, even though we may have similar skin color, we all have our own culture, eat different foods and have our own traditions. I am all for people coming together and working together, but emphasizing skin color is something that has been perpetuated and emphasized by the slave masters to disorganize, disorient and isolate. We, as people of color, seem to want to perpetuate this idea in some way, and it wasn’t even our idea.

Looking at the Black population in Canada, what do you see as our greatest challenges and how do we resolve them? What are our strengths?

I would say that the greatest challenge for blacks in Canada is to stop blaming their misfortune on someone else. My understanding of my life is that I am responsible for it. The decisions that I make or do not make will affect the outcome of my life. I cannot blame anyone else for the actions I choose to take. I can be influenced, but ultimately I make the decision!

Finally, do you have a message for readers of Black Ottawa Scene?

To the black community of Canada, I would say: Go out there and do what you see as the right thing to do for YOUR life, and do not allow yourself to be intimidated in any way by other’s opinions of what they think you “should” be doing. Do everything you do with confidence and know that no one else can express him or herself like you. “I believe that every human being on this earth is here to share their gifts and talents with others. We are here to make this world a better place by fully developing who we are an making our contribution.”

I have one life to live so I am going to live it how I believe I should live it. This is a true statement, no matter what color you are! Thank you.

Roxanne Goodman can be reached at : roxanne@confidencebooster.ca; 613-424-0595; web: www.confidencebooster.ca.

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