Real Life

Schoolgirl’s dream recital

Becoming an overnight success was a snooze for this tween!

Isabelle Welby loves to perform so much, she even does it in her sleep. The 12-year-old, who has aspirations to one day carve out a music career, became an internet sensation recently when a video of her playing the piano with her eyes closed and loudly snoring went viral.

The one-minute clip, posted to YouTube, not only shocked the Taradale Intermediate School student – who had no idea what she got up to at night – it also amazed her piano teacher.

“My teacher was very surprised because we hadn’t learned any of those chords yet,“ Isabelle explains.

But the performance didn’t surprise her mum Renee (37) or her sisters, Anna (16) and Myer (7). Most nights, Isabelle is up sleepwalking or sleepsinging, and Renee has taken to locking all the doors and removing the keys from their Napier home so she doesn’t wander outside.

Watch the video her Mum captured:

Loading the player...

“One night, Issy was belting out the song Bicycle Race (I Want to Ride My Bicycle), then she’d stop and she’d cry, ’Someone stole my bicycle, someone stole my bicycle!’” Renee recalls. “The next morning, I asked her, ’What did you dream about last night?’ and she said, ’I was on stage with Queen and it was amazing!’“

Isabelle is usually up around two or three o’clock most mornings, which Renee admits can get exhausting. When her daughter is asleep, she’s a “dead weight“ and the only thing to do is put a pillow under Isabelle’s head, until she finds her own way back to her bed.

Renee has noticed that Isabelle’s sleepwalking has became more prevalent over the past year and she has wondered if it is brought on by the hormonal changes of puberty. Another factor is that sleepwalking appears to run in the family.

“Anna, Isabelle’s older sister, used to do it and my cousin is also a big sleepwalker,“ Renee tells. “He jumped out of a two-storeyed window while he was asleep. He thought he was a fairy!“

Isabelle with her mum Renee.

Isabelle’s passion for music began at an early age. As a baby, she suffered pain from low muscle tone and didn’t walk until she was three years old. When she was restless and couldn’t sleep, her mum would pop her daughter into her carseat and drive her around with the car stereo on.

“She loved Bic Runga,” recalls Renee. “Her occupational therapists would put music on too, and her little face would just light up. The music seemed to encourage her to walk.“

Almost a teenager, Isabelle now prefers American indie band Echosmith and Kiwi singer Gin Wigmore. She’s been playing the piano for two years, is the lead singer in a band at school and she’s writing her own songs.

“To get out and show people what I can do would be really cool,” says Isabelle. “It’s a dream for me.”

Left: In the YouTube clip, the 12-year-old plays the piano while sleeping Right: The schoolgirl hopes to have a professional career in music.

The video that made Isabelle an overnight star was posted by Renee’s cousin. The day after it went online, Renee was fielding phone calls from media in the UK, Australia and Japan.

Isabelle had prepared herself for the usual negative comments and non-believers on YouTube, but she says most people were supportive.

Currently, the video has been viewed hundreds of thousands of times, making it desirable to advertisers who pay for the slot before it plays. That could make Isabelle some pocket money – which will go towards buying her a new computer.

But Renee says what she’d like most to come out of this experience for Isabelle is an opportunity. “Someone seeing her and wanting to listen to the music she’s writing would be nice – and she’d also love to meet Gin Wigmore.”

The family has decided not to post any more videos of Isabelle’s sleepwalking, but there’s no doubt that we will be seeing and hearing much more of Isabelle in the future. With all those late-night rehearsals, she’s set for stardom!

Words by: Anastasia Hedge

Photography by: Meredith Lord

Get NZ Woman’s Weekly home delivered!  

Subscribe and save up to 29% on a magazine subscription.

Related stories