Annie Lennox’s musical journey began at age 3, when she began to pick out tunes on a small plastic toy piano. She loved to sing all the time.

Luckily her parents realized she had a musical ear. By the time she was 6 or 7, she sang in a local choir every Saturday morning. She took piano lessons at school. At an annual music festival in Aberdeen, Scotland, Lennox gave her first public singing performance at age 7. “Little did I know that I would ever come to be known or recognized as a singer/songwriter,” she said. “I didn’t even know that such a thing was possible.”

At 11, she began studying flute.

To learn about the musicians who influenced her, listen to this video clip from her recent graduation speech at Berklee College of Music (from 7:59). Don’t be surprised when she bursts out in song.

At 17, Lennox was accepted by the Royal Academy of Music in London. Her new flute teacher said she would have to unlearn everything she had been taught and relearn how to play the flute. The next three years, she tried to avoid classes, doing as little as possible. Finally, she dropped out, with no idea what to do next or where she was headed.

At 21, she found herself “dangling precariously from the precipice between survival or checking out of the program entirely.”

Eventually she realized she had to unlearn everything she had been taught about music and embrace the idea that she was a singer/songwriter who was going to do her own thing in her own way.

“Where you think you’re heading right now might turn out to take a completely different route down a completely different path,” she said. “And what looks like an ending might actually be the start of a brand new beginning.”