Monday, February 11, 2008

La La La

I'm sick. My voice sounds really sexy, all gravelly and sultry and very much like a bedroom voice. It's the one thing I'd actually keep about being sick. Usually though, it disappears for a week or so as a mousy squeak that comes out better as a whisper or not at all. It happens every year or so. Honestly, it's part of why I quit singing, but it's not the real reason.

After over 25 years of sining in choirs, I can sing. Not great, mind you, I'm never going to be the next American Idol (I'm too old, anyway), but I can sing backup on pitch, in key, and in the 3rd or the 5th. No one has ever said "Ooh, you're an awesome soloist", but I've been accepted to plenty of professional ensembles/choirs over the years. Even got invited to sing at Carnegie Hall with one of my groups. But not being a diva isn't the reason why I quit singing either.

My mother was a double music major in college. She taught me as much as any other source about singing, playing woodwinds, percussion, beat, rhythm, music theory, and how to hear how flat or sharp I am. That's not to say that I'm an expert in any of those things, by the way.

When I was thirteen, I sang my first solo. At thirteen I also sang my second, third, and fourth. In anticipation of sining that first one, however, I started taking singing lessons from an opera enthusiast. He taught me how to breathe, he taught me how to force a vibrato, and then he slightly told me how to let go of it again. Apparently my mother thought I sang much better before the lessons.

Nonetheless, I sang my first solo in one of the only two performances my father attended, I sang in front of my unimpressed mother, and the song was met with tepid response. But even that is not why I quit singing. That song, that solo, was supposed to be a piano solo by a classmate of mine. One day I was listening to him practice and started singing along. He asked me to sing to his accompaniment and I agreed. We practiced for two months and a week before the performance he backed out stating he didn't feel good enough. It was already planned, so I went on with another pianist. But I felt guilty for stealing his thunder.

That happened again when I was 16 and an understudy for another soloist, except this time the soloist was murdered*. I just simply refused to sing the part, given the circumstances.

It seems that when I might actually have a chance to step up, I back down. I quit singing because of a complete lack of confidence. My mother used to tell me "sure, you sing well enough, but it's not what you're best at". She forgot to tell me that "well enough" was indeed good enough, even if I had stronger talents. I always felt untalented at singing. So I learned to not trust my own voice.

I think she apologized for this after I sang with the opera a few years back, but it seemed too passive, too permissive of her for me to believe it. Besides, by then I'd turned it into a hobby, and nothing more.



*see "Thanks for Giving Us a Break" Nov, 2007 for the related story.

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