Singing became Katy Bradley’s saviour from a young age as she sought solace in music after a family tragedy. She tells AASMA DAY her story and why she is aiming to share the joy of music and singing with as many people as possible
Katy Bradley can vividly remember the day her baby sister died, after becoming ill with an infection just before her first birthday.
Even though she was only three at the time, Katy can recall sitting on the stairs watching everything and seeing her distraught mum and dad, the police and the pram in the middle of the room.
Unlike many youngsters who can remember very little if anything from that age, Katy remembers everything so clearly and believes she has clung on to any memories of time with her sister.
Katy, now 28, who lives in Little Hoole, near Preston, says: “I remember being really happy to be a big sister and I have memories of days out and spending time with my sister.
“When my sister died, I remember looking up into the sky and seeing a big angel in the form of a cloud waving at me and it soothed me.
“It might sound crazy to everyone else, but I knew it was my sister waving at me and telling me that everything was going to be all right.
“It has now been 25 years since my sister died. I desperately didn’t want to forget that part of my life and I think that is why I have stored all the memories in my head.”
It was around this time that Katy first started singing, and she would go away on her own and sing to herself when no one else was listening.
She explains: “Singing was my medicine, my therapy.
“I would sing anything from Twinkle Twinkle Little Star to songs I made up myself just using random words.
“I realised from an early age that singing makes people so happy. It lifts your spirits and is a tonic.”
Katy describes her childhood as really happy and spent a lot of time outside in the fields with her dad, who was a turf farmer. Her mum Susan has been a teacher at Penwortham Priory Academy for 35 years.
Although her family are musical, Katy believes her musical talent stems back to generations before.
She says: “My great grandma was a music teacher and my great grandad on my mum’s side was really talented and could and should have been a concert pianist.
“But he was not allowed to follow his dreams as it was not a secure career.
“You hear this a lot, even from parents today.”
As a young child, Katy remembers the piano in the house and after her dad began having lessons, she begged to learn the piano too.
She remembers sneaking into the room where the piano was at breaktime at primary school and working out the tune for ‘Let’s Go Fly A Kite’ from Mary Poppins.
Katy says: “There was just so much stuff inside me musically, it is difficult to describe.
“Music is just in me. I breathe it and live it and it is part of who I am.”
At primary school, Katy began learning to play the flute and it became her main instrument. She also learned how to play the piano.
Katy says: “I secretly wanted to sing but I was too shy to tell anyone.”
It was when Katy was a pupil at Penwortham Priory where her mum teaches that her singing first came to the fore.
She remembers: “We had an open evening and there was a group of us singing songs from Abba Gold.
“I sang Fernando and I remember the older students saying: ‘Wow!’
“The music teacher Mr Wootton heard me sing and made me sing the Diana Ross song When You Tell Me That You Love Me.
“I remember I was absolutely terrified. Before that, singing had been very private for me. Mr Wootton really encouraged me with my singing.
“It has taken me a long time to have the courage to sing in front of people.
“Even now, before any singing gigs, I get really nervous and get bad butterflies beforehand.
“But usually by the time I am halfway through the first song, I have calmed down.”
Katy has been teaching music since she was 11. She began teaching a six-year-old boy who lived down the road to play the piano and charged £2 for half-an-hour on a Saturday morning.
After that, she gained more pupils through word of mouth and has been teaching ever since.
Katy joined the school choir and church choir and at the age of 15, she joined Preston’s Gilbert and Sullivan Society which she describes as “amazing” as it “opened up a whole new world and was so much fun.”
After leaving Priory, she went to Preston’s Cardinal Newman College and joined the choir there.
She recalls: “The opportunities that Newman gave me were phenomenal and I had some of the greatest moments of my life with the choir there.
“It really made me believe in myself and inspired me.
“I went to Barcelona and Venice in the choir and we were the first non residential choir to sing on a Sunday morning at St Mark’s Basilica in Venice.”
In 2005, the year Katy left college, and joined the Liverpool Philharmonic Choir. She also landed the leading lady role of Elsie Maynard in Gilbert and Sullivan’s Yeoman of the Guard.
Katy says: “Everything was coming together.
“I was just spending my time teaching and studying and singing ready to go to singing college.
“I had my heart set on going to the Royal Northern School of Music.”
It was on her way to the last night of performing in Yeoman of the Guard, at the age of 18, that Katy was involved in a car accident which jeopardised her singing.
Katy remembers: “It was the last night of the show and I was on my way to Lytham Lowther Gardens with my then boyfriend and I was the passenger in the car.
“We were at some traffic lights when someone turned right in front of us and went into the front right of the driver’s side.
“The car bounced off and went into the railings on my side.
“When the ambulance arrived, I begged the paramedics to take me to Lytham as I was due on stage in 20 minutes.
“One of my biggest regrets is that I didn’t do the show. I wish I’d done it and felt the pain after.”
Instead, Katy was taken to the Royal Preston Hospital and she suffered pain and stiffness from her injuries and whiplash.
It had a huge impact on Katy’s life, denting her confidence, and it took her four-and-a-half years to recover from the accident.
Katy explains: “The pain was unlike anything I had ever experienced before.
“It affected my posture so all my breathing was out of line so I gave up in my head. I felt as if my singing career was over.
“To go from having an extensive part in Yeoman of the Guard to nothing did not do me any good.
“Because the show was so operatic, I had built my fitness levels to high standards and suddenly, I wasn’t able to do anything.
“It really knocked my confidence.”
During her recovery, Katy carried on teaching music and researching it and at the age of 21, she decided to go to Lancaster University to study conducting.
However, she admits it was a struggle and she spend the first term bedridden before eventually recovering and completing her degree.
Katy kept up her teaching and even taught her former science teacher Heather Young from Priory to play the flute.
Katy set up KTB Music, a music services business, after her aunt came up with the idea.
Katy says: “I was walking the dog and bumped into my aunt and she suggested I try and earn a living out of my love for music and make it my job.
“It was a great idea and we ended up talking in the lane for three hours!”
Katy carried on teaching at home until a portable building became available and her dad and partner helped her salvage it and KTB Music was born in 2009.
They have now moved into a bigger building and Katy has another teacher, Sam French, who teaches other instruments while Katy concentrates on teaching singing.
KTB Music has now been built into a music school with two choirs, a drop-in singalong group, a library and more than 100 pupils.
KTB Music has put on shows, while Katy also teaches at Penwortham Priory Academy and other schools and gives talks about her life and love of music.
Katy says: “My pet hate is the idea that music is elite.
“If people don’t have a lot of money to spend, they don’t have lessons.
“I was so blessed as I had flute lessons and piano lessons and then singing lessons.
“I was very lucky and my mum and dad had to work hard to make that happen.
“I really want to bridge that gap and make music available to all.
“Music and singing is free. It is something that is in you.
“Your voice is inside your body and you don’t have to buy an instrument and singing can make you feel so good.”
Last Christmas Day, Katy’s life took another twist when she was involved in another car accident.
Katy says: “We were driving back to my boyfriend’s house in Chorley when a car went into us on the roundabout.
“I broke three ribs, fractured my sternum and a disc came out in my neck.
“It has been really difficult and I am still trying to build up my strength.
“But it has not put me off and I am determined to recover fully and carry on with my singing and music, and it is my life.”