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#31 Challenging Yourself

After I got my first real role in ‘A Chorus Line’ I thought to myself, ‘Hey, if I’m going to go on-stage and sing in front of a few hundred people, perhaps it would be wise to take some singing lessons.’ I had taken dance lessons my entire life, and the result was that I got better over time with practice. Athletes spend years training to become Olympians, as do musicians, and doctors just to mention a few. So wouldn’t the same rule apply for singing here? If I spent time training and practicing, would I, too, not get better? We’re not talking about becoming Christina Aguilerra here. I do believe there is a genetic component at play for some incredibly talented people. But with proper instruction and daily exercise, there would be improvement. And that’s all I was looking for. So, at thirty-six years old, I found a vocal coach who was going to get me into shape.

That’s exactly how David, my new coach, described it. He used the physical exercise metaphor, which worked out quite well for me because it made sense. He explained that in order to sing, you need to use the muscles in your throat. Much like the muscles in your legs you work out to get stronger, so too will your throat if you work it out. Which is exactly what we did. The day of my first lesson, I was shaking from pure and utter fear. ‘What if I’m the worst singer in the world, and I offend him? What if I suck so bad and he tells me to not bother and stick with counselling? What if I’m so awful and he doesn’t have the heart to tell me?’ were all very loving thoughts I was having on that first day. So I said to him point blank, “If I totally stink at this, please tell me; in a nice way of course. I don’t want to embarrass myself on stage in front of hundreds of people if I suck, okay? I can take it. There’s other stuff I’m good at, so if this isn’t one of them, I can handle it.” That’s when he gave me my money back.

Just kidding. He told me I was an idiot, and that there was something pretty in my voice. So I settled in to start my ‘workout’. He started playing keys in the middle of the piano and then note by note, he moved to the right where the notes became higher and higher. I repeated each one back to him until I got dizzy and slightly nauseous. Cool! “We are stretching your vocal cords,” he explained. And the more we did, the wider range of notes I was able to sing. It was AWESOME!

So what’s the lesson in all this? Challenge yourself to take singing lessons, or any other kind of lessons that interest you because training and practice does result in improvement. Who would’ve thunk it?



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