Monday, February 18, 2008

Hayley Westenra: The World at Her Feet

Teen international classical cross-over sensation, Hayley Westenra, has been an influential person in our lives. We've never met her in person, though I've chatted with her in the forums of during its heyday (and before its demise). She's never spoken to us, though she's answered one of my girls questions on her website. We have seen her perform live when she toured with Celtic Woman last year, and we've studied her life with great scrutiny. Even with such sparse contact it is though she has directly advised us every step of the way in fostering our children's talents and ambitions.

I was, therefore, predisposed to like this book. Published in 2005 in New Zealand and written by Paul Little, this book was an official peek into the life of this amazing girl. Unfortunately, it's a bit difficult to read at first because the author is too busy strewing petals in Hayley's path. Hayley, the perfect child. Hayley, the Saint. Hayley, the Immaculate. Yes, this girl, apparently, has sun shining out of her Kiwi caboose.

Once I donned sunglasses, and got past the first few chapters, the book became a very insightful inside look at how Hayley and family managed her life and career. This was important to me because I have a daughter who aspires to be an entertainer. She actually tours local county fairs and performs year round. We are working on her first album and are excited about her future. Thanks to Hayley's example we understand better how to balance my daughter's career goals. We floundered three years ago, but once I discovered Hayley I had a better roadmap to follow.

Since the book is a biography and not a "How To" manual, by looking for nuggets here and there I was able to find the information that I needed. Hayley isn't perfect, but she's fabulous, and the book captures an exciting part of her budding career. You will follow her from her early days performing in school plays and busking in the streets of Christchurch to her serendipitous introduction to the music industry. All performers, actors, authors, etc. get a lucky break, but the successful ones have the legs to take the ball and run with it. Hayley was one of those people that had talent and drive to make the best of her opportunities.

Sun doesn't illuminate the path behind her, but Hayley's a high class act. Her future is bright and, up to this point, doesn't involve vomiting in the streets outside London clubs, cruising around LA without her panties on, or retreating to rehab repeatedly. She's twenty and plenty old enough to flush her career down the loo like her counterparts in England and America. I found plenty to enjoy in this book's pages, especially the final chapter written by Hayley's mum for "stage parents" all over the world. I was happy to see I was doing all the proper things already and not doing the improper things.

(I should mention that my daughter and I fully realize what a difficult business this is to get into. We have no delusions of grandeur. We just needed advice on beginning steps. The rest takes care of itself. I look forward to being able to share her music with you one day soon.)

Why you should read this book: You could read this book because you want to read about a young girl who's been on top of the charts who actually appreciates the enviable position she is in and works hard to further her craft. You could read it because you find "How they did it" stories inspirational. I read it because I wanted to glean practical information on how her parents managed Hayley's career and prevented the music machine from turning their daughter into a painted trollop who sold her body for fame. (Their secret? Hayley's parents were the managers and when time came to get a pro, they demanded the pro co-manage with them.) Unfortunately, you will have to search for this book. It may be out of print, and sellers seem convinced that this book is printed on gilded pages. I only paid about $40 for it, however.

Why you shouldn't read this book: You are a cynical sot who blanches at the thought of reading inspirational stories of squeaky clean girls who manage to become millionaire International singing sensations without getting a tramp stamp and being filmed sniffing lines at a trendy nightclub. If you want dirt, grit, and grime this book is not for you. Not only because Paul Little writes as if Hayley is a modern manifestation of Divine Providence, but because Hayley hasn't acted out. There's no dirt to dig up. If you don't have experience already managing a child entertainer, you may not be able to find this book helpful. The final chapter is certainly not worth paying collector prices for. In fact, you won't find a checklist on how to make your child a superstar in this book. If that's what you are looking for this book may bore you.

AD/HD Friendly? Yes. This is an easy read, broken up into small chapters. It's not a thin book by any means, but it's layout is simple, clean, and pleasant to digest. I could even read it out of order.

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