He has pulled me back from the edge of so many cliffs vocally and otherwise I cannot even count them. I was in vocal ruins when I showed up on his door step, having gone from a very high lyric coloratura to a who knows what with no high notes, no low notes and a fuzzy middle in the short space of a two year graduate degree. I had no idea what to do. I was working two jobs, exhausted, I had built walls of all kinds to protect myself from the pain of no longer being able to use my voice the way I wanted. I was afraid he would hear one phrase and decide that I wasn't worthy of his time. But not being able to sing when you are a singer is a kind of pain that you will risk a lot to try to fix.
From the moment I walked in, he took me seriously. He knew right away what to do to help me, and he never made me feel inferior, bad, less than, or without hope that my problems could be fixed. He gave me the confidence to keep working. I did what he said. I practiced what he gave me, and it worked, slowly but surely. He was not a "quick fix" teacher. He never wasted his time with self-promotion or so much of the drama that we see with high-level voice teachers-- his students were his best advertisement-- the people whose lives he had changed.
Those of you who have read this blog from the beginning may have an inkling of some of the intense struggle I have had with issues from my past. I grew up unable to trust my father, alienated from my uncles, and lost my dear grandfathers when I was twelve and thirteen. Male role models? Any male I felt I could trust? They didn't exist as far as I was concerned. Until this teacher. He was the one person in my life at that time that proved to me that kindness, honesty, and true caring could exist in male form. I think that knowing him helped me to understand the kind of man I had when I met Joe (he and my teacher are very similar), and how it was these qualities that mattered most to me.
When he saw that the pain I had grown up with was influencing my singing, he recommended the lovely Sally, my therapist that I speak of in my posts a couple years ago. I took his advice and began seeing her on a regular basis-- a journey of unburdening myself that I am confident changed the course of my life. It not only helped me to be happy again, it made my voice emerge. Peeling back all the layers of armor I had been wearing, I began to remember who I really was and with my expert teacher's guidance, my singing responded. He understood the connection between singing and soul.
All I can think about is all the things I wish I could tell him. That he gave me back my voice. That he restored my confidence in myself. That he taught me that a male could be trustworthy, patient, and kind. That he modeled good musicianship without haughtiness or condescension. How much I appreciated that I could always turn to him. There were many frantic emails-- am I too sick to sing? Should I cancel? What did the judges at the Met competition mean when they said this in my feedback session? Should I quit singing? Is it all worth it? Why am I doing this?
His last email to me (after I had written to tell him about my program) contained these words:
"Just keep singing this new song in your heart and feeding your soul.