Monday, September 26, 2011


When it comes to singing, I've always considered myself a bit of a late bloomer. For some reason, it's taken me all these years to come to terms with the idea of being publicly very very loud. If you think about it, there are far-reaching psychological implications when singing in public, being a soloist, and being good at it.

The way I was raised, women were to be quiet in church, to avoid asserting themselves, to fulfill our role as "helpers" to the men. I've since formed my own opinions about women's roles, but the voices in my head have proved harder to shake. The problem is that those messages get kind of inside you somehow, so deeply, that it becomes impossible to go through the rest of your life without it coming up again, no matter how hard you work to change your thoughts, beliefs, actions.

I have had a fear, for the longest time, of really singing out. Forever, I had no idea what it actually felt like to sing as loud and as intensely as I could. I didn't know where my limit was, because I had never gone there. I had been told for so many years by careful voice teachers not to push, not to do damage, etc. I was afraid to screw myself up by singing with as much intensity and energy as I could muster.

The other piece about singing out, is that you lose some of your control. Now, I am am learning what it feels like to sing with abandon and know that what usually comes out is presentable, but for so long I was unsure, and holding the voice in a bit allowed me to sound better inside my own head, instead of risking everything by unselfishly giving the sound of my voice to the audience.

Oh, and there's another piece. I was afraid to be too loud, too special, or to attract attention. I'll never forget the day my undergraduate voice teacher, one of the single most important people in my life, even to this day, said to me: "You have to learn to be okay with being better at something than someone else is. You are afraid to hurt people's feelings with being great."

How can we grow beyond the limits we thought we had if we are afraid to go as far as we can go? How can I build the muscles to support a large sound if I'm afraid of bothering people all the time?

We have to claim our accomplishments and all the things that make us special, instead of down playing them in order to blend in with our peers. Yes, it's tough to do without seeming like a jerk, but I figure if we focus on the idea that we have something to give, instead of what we want from others, it is easier to avoid being the dreaded opera monster that we've all seen in action one time or another.

My reminder to you and myself this Monday: Go out and be absolutely wonderful. Astound yourself with the freedom and largesse of your sound, and the openness of your heart.

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