Nature Nurture or is it in the blood?

I have often thought about the Nature Nurture argument. How important are your environmental or childhood experiences as your life takes shape or do your ancestors and their history preempt where you come from?

Over the years I have leaned towards the importance of ones environment as the major determining factor in how our lives will progress. Lately the importance of my forefathers and my small history makes me think that we do inherit more than we know from our ancestors. It also make me wonder – what am I handing on to my children and their children because of the way I am behaving today.

I can’t remember a time that I didn’t feel musical notes pulse through my veins. Music is something that I have always done and by the looks of things, always will do.

 What I didn’t realise is that what happened to me wasn’t perhaps a natural slide into the love of sound but something that has been passed down through the ages like a beloved curse and something I will fortunately or unfortunately pass on to my children and their offspring.

 Once upon a time I bemoaned my career choice. Music! Why didn’t you do a professional degree or marry well?; but for me it has always been music. From the time I first touched a piano and learned how to sing I have been hooked.

 I have often tried to extract myself from the thrall of producing music, tried to opt out and work in a more normal 9-5 environment however every time I do, I get pulled back in. I think of music all the time, everyday. And that is me you will see singing at the top of my lungs in a car… that is where I practise. And because of that I seriously wonder if I ever had a choice and if part of me was pre ordained in a village 1000’s of miles away 100’s of years ago.


My name Hellriegel is from a long line of musicians and we can trace back to a Village  called Einöllen. Einöllen and other towns of the Westpfalz district in what is now called Germany had a large percentage or musicians and people who made a living from playing music. Performing music was on a par with agriculture and other industry.

Rock stars and famous musicians rolling in money and dodging the taxman are a relatively new phenomenon and probably more akin to the 20th Century than the 16-19th Century's. The main way musicians used to make an income was by performing live. It will be interesting to see if the decline of the modern music industry which is based on record sales will see the rise of the travelling minstrel again.

 My great grandfather  Julius Hellriegel was the second son of a farming family in Einöllen. As was the custom of the time he did not inherit the family farm but was educated in music as this was considered an  adequate career however when Julius travelled the world and ended up in Gympie, Australia it seems that the life of a working musician was hard and he ended up in the mines for while.

 My Great Grandfather hanging out in the mines: Gympie Australia 

My Great Grandfather hanging out in the mines: Gympie Australia 

 I am not sure why he came to New Zealand or why we are here? I would like to suppose that he made the best choice as my preference would be for living on these islands, a small but creative hub of the world, suits me just fine.

 I find it so strange that the musical history of my family was so quickly forgotten. My Dad didn’t really know much about where he came from except he did play brass instruments and always suggested to me that if I was in a bad mood I should play a happy song because he knew music was a language I could understand.

My  Dads cousin Pam Regal, Author of The Hellriegel Story decided to go on a family tree hunt and found out about our history and I found it  incredible that I knew nothing of my ancestors even though they had not long departed  the mortal coil.

 Where is gets super strange and why I think that part of us is made up of the ghosts of our forefathers who enter the bloodstreams of the younger generations… is that my Dad had two favourite colours. Yellow and blue. Everything always has to be yellow and blue!   All of the trucks in his panel shop were painted with these combination of colours and he just loved the combination. 

 And then it turns out that family crest was made up of these colours.

Hellriegel Crest.jpg

So now when I chastise myself for opting into an music career, full of pitfalls disappointments but then also incredible personal fulfilment I say to myself. You had no choice but to follow this path – it’s in the blood.

Dame Sister Mary Leo said to me once “If you can talk you can sing – and then it just boils down to practise”  and then I wonder a little dash of pre-destiny.