Rising Music Stars The Kingdom Choir On The Five Things You Need To Shine In The Music Industry

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My advice would be to stay true to your passion and where you can make a difference for others. That will keep you going when things become challenging or discouraging. There’s something in the word “discouragement” — from the French word for ‘heart’ — coeur. Keep working on the thing that gives you life, that makes your heart full.

As a part of our interview series with leaders, stars, and rising stars in the music industry, we had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Karen Gibson (founder and conductor) and Kim Samuels (in the choir, Karen’s sister).

The Kingdom Choir is a British gospel choir based in London. It was founded by choir conductor and workshop leader Karen Gibson. After performing for more than 20 years, the choir became world-famous after being invited to perform at the wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle. On 19 May 2018, they sang a gospel version of “Stand by Me” by Ben E. King. The conductor, Gibson, was described by the British press as “Britain’s godmother of gospel”. Their performance of the song topped the U.S. Hot Gospel Songs chart. After the performance, the choir signed a record deal with Sony Music.

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Can you tell us the story of how you grew up?

I grew up with my mum and my sister in Inner London. She was a strict mother, because she had the idea that she had to be both father and mother. Even though she was tough, she was loving and always let us know how much we were loved.* Mum started to take us to church quite early on, which I was happy about, because I always yearned to go. Those early days were wonderful — the music was lively, vibrant and so powerfully moving. This was my informal music training — this was how I learned to sing in harmony and as part of a team.

My formal musical training came from learning piano and then later, oboe. For a long time I thought that mum sent my sister and I to lessons because she thought we had a special talent. Of late, however, she has been saying she did it to keep us out of trouble when she was out at work!*

Can you share a story with us about what brought you to this specific career path?

To be honest, I didn’t really know what I wanted to do as a career, growing up. I passed various exams at school, then after school I left home to go to university. I was still into music and was still involved in various groups that I was singing in before I left London. I finished my degree and passed that then drifted into working for the local council working as a technical administrator.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

Mum always encouraged us to participate in events — whether at church, at school or public competitions. I don’t think she ever intended for music to become a career, but because of her intentionality in wanting us to be a well-rounded individuals, I am where I am today. I would also say that I was definitely influenced and impacted by my musical peers, some amazing singers, and musicians from the church, who helped to shape my journey. Our first piano teacher, Debbie Dunne, and our music teachers at school were also incredibly powerful in the way that they mentored me in my musical endeavours.

You probably have a lot of fascinating experiences. Can you tell us the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?

I think receiving the call from the then Prince Charles’ office while riding on the number 87 bus inviting me to gather some singers together to perform at the wedding ceremony of Prince Harry to Meghan Markle was one of the most surprising and memorable requests in my career. Other highlights have been meeting and performing in front of President Nelson Mandela, Bishop Desmond Tutu, Pope John Paul II and meeting Michelle Obama.

What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?

We’re very excited to say that we have just completed a performance at the Sanremo 2023 festival, which takes place every year. It is a huge deal in Italy and watched by about 15 million people. It has been described as being akin to the Eurovision contest, the Super Bowl, the Grammys and Christmas all rolled into one. I will performance was a collaboration with the incredible Marco Mengoni. It was an honor to be chosen by him to collaborate with. It was also a lot of fun!

The upcoming North American tour is also exciting for us. We’re thrilled that we have another opportunity to visit our neighbours “across the pond” and can’t wait to share our music — including some of our own new music. Our 2019 US and Canada tour was such an amazing experience that taught us so much about ourselves as well as people in general, about the touring industry and, funnily enough, about performing — even though many of us have been performing for many years.

You have been blessed with success in a career path that can be challenging. Do you have any words of advice for others who may want to embark on this career path, but seem daunted by the prospect of failure?

My advice would be to stay true to your passion and where you can make a difference for others. That will keep you going when things become challenging or discouraging. There’s something in the word “discouragement” — from the French word for ‘heart’ — coeur. Keep working on the thing that gives you life, that makes your heart full.

Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in the music industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?

I think it follows on from the last point — that it’s important to know why you’re on the journey that you’re on. Knowing your ‘why’ means that you won’t only find identity in the performances and the events hat you take in. That is unhealthy and will create the mentality that you are only as good as your last creation. When you understand the bigger picture you will find your career path much more meaningful. In addition, proper rest, nutrition and exercise are so important. I find that I feel totally different when I’m exercising and eating well. Rest is good for the mind as well as for the body.

Thank you for all that. This is the main question of our interview. What are your “5 Things You Need To Create A Highly Successful Career in The Music Industry” and why? If you can, please share a story or example for each.

If I’m totally honest, I don’t know if I have all the answers to creating a highly successful career. I didn’t really design my career path but at every stage I’ve tried to incorporate a standard of excellence in whatever I do. Sometimes that means collaborating with others who are more skilled and gifted in certain areas. It’s important to know yourself and your limits and also I believe if we’re all working at our best, together we can be incredible.

You are all people of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

I am? Haha! Ok, well, my idea is nothing new, to be honest. If I were to lead a movement, it would be something to do with the youth that we are raising. We need to protect them from unhealthy influences, I feel. We need to raise them to be strong, rounded, and healthy individuals, with the right tools to tackle the things of life. We are responsible for giving them a world that is in a better state in which we found it. Our ceiling should be their floor in every sphere of life.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

Pulling out the gold! I love to find the things within people that they don’t necessarily see themselves. Everyone has “gold” within which helps us serve our families and communities — big or small — and enables us to be the best that we can be.

We are very blessed that some very prominent names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them.

I’m inspired by people who through integrity, and goodness change the world for the better and who set an example for others.

I would love to sit down with President and/or Michelle Obama. Or Nelson Mandela (again). Or Oprah Winfrey.

I’ve recently read Viola Davis’ book, “Finding Me”, which was brilliant! She is so inspirational. There are so many questions that I’d love to ask her if I had the opportunity to lunch with her.

How can our readers continue to follow your work online?

You can follow The Kingdom Choir on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram at @thekingdomchoir

Rising Music Stars The Kingdom Choir On The Five Things You Need To Shine In The Music Industry was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.