Stepping It Down

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.

Oh, really.

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.

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3 thoughts on “Stepping It Down”

  1. YES YES YES!!! :) I just spent the last several days reading everything you’ve written that I could get my hands on, and you are dead on the money! I’m a disciple!

  2. But what do you do when you’re afraid that you’ll open your mouth, and as usual, what comes out in front of your friends is completely different from what comes out in your lessons or practice sessions? Isn’t it okay not to want to be laughed at, or not to want to be thought of as “that person that everyone’s too nice to say that he sucks,” especially if it isn’t true?

    Or perhaps what is most frightening about that situation is the possibility that maybe it IS true…

  3. Jaadamgo,
    If you don’t believe in yourself, then how do expect others to? You must be confident in yourself or you will never be able to share your gift with others! I think the fear you are facing is more a battle within… wondering if you are “good enough”. Who cares? You have a gift! And as long as you believe that it is amazing and worth sharing, others will listen and believe it as well. And even if some don’t particularly “love” it… again, who cares? Take great joy in your gift and don’t let the thoughts of others bring you down. There will always be someone who will try to criticize you. Just let it go. I only say these things because I know EXACTLY how you feel…. I am STILL working on my confidence issues, trust me. I hope this helps. Sing with FREEDOM!

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