When I was 17 my high school choir teacher sent a note home to my Mom; she said, “You need to get this kid some voice lessons”. She was only trying to help and it turned out to be a good thing as she knew I had some talent worth developing. Singing was my passion; it kept me straight and out of trouble. I spent my high school years singing in the Chorus, Choir, All-County, musicals and even managed to snag a spot as a first soprano on the most coveted high school singing group, The Madrigals. I was terribly self-conscious, but I loved performing and surrounded by my fellow singing comrades, I mustered courage to get on stage.
I was a teen that had to be coaxed out of her shell, so when my new voice teacher was yelling at me over the phone that I had 20 minutes get my butt out of bed and down to the Christmas Pageant that we’d rehearsed for months, you better believe I did it! She molded me, taught me how to sing properly, started instilling confidence in me. She was daring and sassy and put me on the spot – expected great things from me and nothing less. But she too wanted to sing and not just teach, so she moved away to the Big Apple and I never saw her again. Jeanette LaVoy where ever you are – you were a life saver!
I lamented how I would never find anyone like her again, but eventually moved on with some other fine instructors. Back then, I assumed that the voice coach had all the answers. I never gave a second thought to singing anything but the classical genre of Italian art songs, opera, Mozart, Handel and the like. I was told many times that classical was the only thing I could sing with my high and bright coloratura. I knew they meant well and I knew what they were trying to say – “it is a beautiful voice, why would you want to do anything else?” From their perspective, I was doing just fine; I would finish my studies and move into the opera world, but the thought of being in that haughty, uptight environment full-time, just wasn’t me. So, I felt stuck as I listened to their words play over and over. Even when I was out of that world years later, those words were still trapped in my head. I didn’t think I could sing pop, country, or even ballads for that matter. The truth is, words people choose to say, whatever their intentions, can have repercussions that last a lifetime.
Eventually, I came to own my voice, know the songs I sing well and master genres that I never thought I could handle years back. I think it’s important to remind ourselves, especially these days, that words do count and our mindfulness that what we say to others can have lasting impact. Although my road from classical singing to pop wasn’t a smooth one, in the end it has made all the difference for me.