Women’s Empowerment through Music Profile: Nathelie Sam. Composer, bassist.

Is there a woman who empowered you through her music?

I don’t usually think about the gender of people when I listen to music. Like almost everything else in life, I don’t believe that gender plays a large role in the product or the work that we create. I do listen to pop music which have outstanding female artists including Adele and Sara Bareilles (who both write their own music).

What is the driving force behind your career?

My own determination is my driving force because I don’t usually compose for just anyone. I compose because I want to. I might compose with certain musicians or people in mind, but my own imagination and ambition is what pushes me.

What is one experience or story that has been particularly empowering for you or how you have empowered others in your industry?

I remember at the time this experience seemed absolutely horrendous and humiliating, but today, I find it a pivotal point in my discovery of my creativity. I first started piano when I was 6. It was a learning experience for my since it was my first time learning to play an instrument. I am a very stubborn person (no hiding that), and I didn’t want to read what was on the page because I had ideas of my own. That gave me a lot of trouble.

What is one thing that young women should know about you?

That gender barriers are a social construct. There is no such thing as professions, careers, jobs, or even instruments which are made for boys or girls. My fellow female musicians and I have been told our instruments are for boys which is completely false. Everyone should be free to pursue whatever they wish. We are all smart and talented in our own way, but we still have to work towards success.

Where has your passion for music come from, and what was the driving force(s) for you in pursuing this as a career?

I don’t really know where my “passion” came from really; I think passion comes from determination, perseverance, experience and creativity. I have always just gone with the flow when it comes to pursuing music. I have found with every door that closes, a whole bunch of new doors open.

Do you have a mentor or a music teacher who has influenced you?

I did have a cello teacher before who really encouraged me to pursue composing. I originally found composing to escape boredom. I had ideas beforehand, but I never thought about writing them down. He was a composer himself, so he recommended me to use Sibelius. From there, we would have mini composition classes where he would give suggestions.

How has music empowered you?

Music in a way gives a voice in ways that words cannot say. Often when I try to describe my music, I can’t make out the words that I want to use to describe it. Music has given me an activity that isn’t necessarily just recreational. It has given me a sense of purpose whether it be through composing, teaching, or playing. It is an art that comes in so many forms, and to a certain extent, everyone can be involved in music.

What do you hope that youth will grasp or achieve from their own musical experiences?

I hope they will learn that if a door closes, that doesn’t mean all the doors are closed. When I first auditioned for the Vancouver Youth Symphony Orchestra (debut level) with my cello, I didn’t expect that I wasn’t going to make it, so I for sure didn’t see the offer of bass coming. I ended up playing bass with them, and I learned to love that instrument so much that it’s now my main instrument. Also, comparison isn’t always right. Don’t compare yourself to those prodigies or anyone else. It can end up making you feel terrible. Just know that everyone goes at their own pace.

List any accomplishments, awards and honours that are most meaningful to you.

When I first had my music played by an orchestra, it was astonishing. I have heard it on the computer, but hearing it performed in an orchestra just gives it such life and beauty that can’t be expressed in words. I don’t look as awards or certificates as anything really. They’re nice and all, but I compose for the music and artistry as well rather than for the fame and glory (though those things are nice too).