I once met someone who told me she was an opera singer. We became casual friends and I had occasion to invite her one year to a party at my home. At my house, if there is a party, there is singing. All kinds of singing, all of it fun and kind-hearted. Classical, pop, jazz, music theater, whatever. Group singing, yes. Solos and duets, yes. Surprises? Always!!
When this woman was invited to sing she declined. “I can’t”, she said, “I’m not warmed up. I never sing at parties or when I am not warmed up.”
I remember thinking at the time, “Is she kidding?” Unfortunately, I was not familiar with this attitude. Also, unfortunately, she was very serious. When I queried her further, she seemed miffed that I did not understand. A REAL voice needs warm-up, and a REAL voice doesn’t just…….open up and sing. A REAL voice has to be handled carefully, as it is very special.
Someone else once told me, “If you are asked to sing, do so. You never know who is asking or why.” I never forgot that. I have sung in all kinds of situations and for all kinds of reasons and I have never been sorry. OK, sometimes I didn’t sound terrific, and maybe I wasn’t warmed up or in my best vocal shape, but so what? The idea that I had to treat my voice like a Ming Dynasty Vase seems ridiculous, then and now.
Don’t get me wrong, I honor my voice and I treat it with great respect and care, but because I do, and because I understand it, I do NOT have to treat it with so much fussiness. I have sung in taxi cabs, in backyards, and at all kinds of parties, with and without accompaniment. I was also very honored to sing for the roommate of my late mother-in-law in their convalescent home. My mother-in-law told this sweet woman that her daughter-in-law was a PROFESSIONAL singer and that I would sing for her, and I did. The lady requested Schubert’s Ave Maria and that is what she got. She rewarded me with a big smile and tears in her eyes. My mother-in-law’s grin was the dessert.
Someone else once asked me what to do when her family asked her to sing, as she said they did not understand that she was professional and that she got PAID to sing. I told her to forget being paid, as when her parents were gone, she wouldn’t care about whatever money she didn’t make, she would care that she had been too worried about the money to grant their request.
Please, people, don’t make training your voice a reason to hoard it. Step down your training and your mind and be a simple, real person. Sing like you have never had a lesson in your life when that is appropriate. Remember that you are a human being first and a vocalist second.