JOanne clara | music & flower composer
interview and photography: corina esquivel
there's something beautiful about spending an overcast day surrounded by flowers, listening to carefully curated music, and sipping on a warm cup of coffee. that's exactly what our day looked like when we visited joanne in her beautiful home in south hampstead. we arranged flowers, talked about what motivates her when things get hard, and what truly matters in life. enjoy!
Tell us a little bit about yourself
I grew up in a Christian home with my elder sister (Jessica), and two incredibly supportive parents who exposed me to the arts and music very early on. (Thank you, Mum and Dad!) Besides classical music and flowers, I have a soft spot for nature, travelling, babies, dogs, French toasts, and movies with good soundtracks. We will get on very well if flowers, good food, rollercoasters or jokes are involved. Extra points for a good surprised too!
How did you start your career?
(both in music and floral arrangement)
I started playing the piano when I was around three. My mother said I would sit like a hawk and observe my sister learning the piano, with gaping eyes and mouth. I would jump on as soon as her lesson was over, and start playing the piano like Davy Jones from Pirates of the Caribbean. I cannot tell you how good or bad it sounded. All I know is my darling mother would give me an equivalent of a 50p coin every time I played a tune, and that was the beginning of my musical career as a (mini) human jukebox. Motivated by getting extra pocket money for a pack of fizzy strawberry belts, I played often and put up with encores in between mains and dessert. I improvised when I ran out of repertoire, and enjoyed writing songs for imaginary pop bands. Later on, mini-Joanne also took up cello lessons and singing at school, and the best part was joining the orchestra and choir. I didn’t mind the rehearsals a bit because it meant we got to travel and tour- it was so much fun.
Looking back, I had no idea what I was doing and where it’d lead me. It’s still a mystery to me that I actually got accepted to the conservatoire of my dreams, where I was given the opportunity to learn from one of the greatest living composers. My professor, in other words, kickstarted my professional composition career, and is responsible for almost everything I’ve learnt about composition during my Bachelor’s and Master’s degree. I could not dream of doing what I’m doing today if it wasn’t for him- I’m wholeheartedly and eternally grateful.
Aside from my musical persona, I adore working with flowers. For two years, I tried to run a small floral business alongside my music, but it soon became apparent that it required more than a part-time commitment. It was a tough decision to put floristry on hold at that time, because it gave me so much joy. I do miss it, but I look forward to doing events and floral workshops again when the time is right.
Who or what is one of your greatest inspirations and how did they impact you?
Walt Disney. Man, virtually everything he said and did was inspirational. Look at his legacy! He meant it when he said that ‘all our dreams can come true, if we have the courage to pursue them’; and ‘the way to get started is to quit talking and begin doing.’
Walt, it would be really nice if we could work together someday on one of your animations. I feel we have a lot in common.
What is one of the things you love most about your line of work?
Solitude and silence. This takes practice and discipline, especially in a busy city like London. Some days it’s harder to focus, but I always make sure I treat myself to something I love after working hard. One of them is visiting the flower market early in the morning when the city is still asleep and there are no traffic noises. The best part is strolling along River Thames on my way back, watching the sunrise against that glorious rainbow-coloured sky!
Is there anything that has surprised you about your industry since you started working in it?
(both in music and floral arrangement)
I am always pleasantly surprised by how nice people are in both the music and flower world. What baffles me even more is seeing how good these people are at what they do, and yet they are some of the most humble and kind-hearted people I know.
What advice might you give to someone interested in pursuing a career like yours?
1. Focus on what you can give, instead of what you can gain.
2. Be passionate in pursuing what you love with all you’ve got, whatever the price.
3. Have a big dream? Great. Assess your current resources (time, energy, skills, finance, connections etc.), work out what your first step can be, and get moving.
If there have been times you’ve wanted to quit, what has kept you going?
Humour is key. Never lose the ability to laugh, even at the worst of times. Your joy is much too precious and the world needs it more than ever!
Secondly, don’t forget that however frustrating, miserable or painful a season may be, there is always an end to it.
Remember: ‘Love always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never gives up.’ (1 Cor 13:7-8)
What is most important to you in life?
DMR’s = deep meaningful relationships (aka the real mothership of Deep Meaningful Conversations)
Obviously, the most important DMR I have is with God: by whom I’m fully understood, fully known and fully accepted. Without that deep conviction and revelation of being loved first, I would fail to love others well.
How does your faith play a role in what you do?
In every possible way: it gives me a reason to sing, to be in awe, and to stay thankful. It shows me the bigger picture of what really matters in an eternal perspective, and frees me from any anxiety or insecurities as a person who performs and creates. It also gives me the courage to be vulnerable; to risk looking dumb sometimes, especially when I’m learning a new skill.
What is one of the things you find particularly important for Christians to do/be today?
Learning to be brave, vulnerable and honest in your communication with others, whether they are Christians or not. Do not let fear stand in the way of what truly matters. Somewhere in the process we will get hurt because we are choosing to be vulnerable, but the quicker we learn to forgive one another, the more we become like love. We must lead by example, so be bold!