Monday, August 06, 2012

What I wish I could say

I lost my dear teacher of eight years on Saturday, completely unexpectedly.

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."


CraftyCarole said...

he touched so many of us and healed us all. Truly an angel that walked among us. May we all pass his love forward. It's the best tribute we can pay to him. Much love to you as I feel your ache with this loss.

BellaDiva said...

I'm so sorry that you have lost your teacher, mentor and friend. I'm sure you will honour him with the wonderful voice you have that he helped shape.

Georgeanne @ The Arkansassy Soprano said...

I am so, so sorry for your loss.

uberviolet said...

So sorry for both of your losses--he sounds like a wonderful teacher. I hope you can carry that same energy and compassion forward through your own lives.

Sopralto said...

Dear Girl,
Although I do not know you or your teacher, my sympathies are with you right now. I know it feels horrible right now. That tight ache in the back of your throat that makes you feel if you breathe too deeply, you are going to shatter. As hard as it is, concentrate on this glorious gift he gave you; the confidence to sing and sing well. Your very fondest memory of him cannot compare to all the wonderful arias still in your future to sing. I imagine he's asking the angels "Have your heard my Jessica sing?" Keep breathing.
Your blogger friend

Jessica said...

Thank you all so much for reading and for your kind words!

divamover said...

Thank you for an eloquent post. My story closely parallels yours, and I'm certain there are scores of people nodding as they read your post. Thom was an example of generosity of attention, time, and spirit that I have tried to emulate each day. Even though I had not seen him in person in years, his regular emails kept me "in the loop" and feeling connected. Now, I miss him more than I can say. Will be writing about some of this on my blog in the next days. Thanks again.

Kim said...

I'm really sorry to hear about this and I send you all my love. I lost my first voice teacher and I know how hard that was. This is a beautiful thing you've written and I'm sure it's the highest praise that he could receive.