It’s Wednesday and, though my body has returned home, my mind is still not back from its trip down memory lane last weekend. After spending several days with great friends remembering ‘the good ol’ days,’ and doing what we always did together – make music – I’ve thought of little else since I returned home, and am having a difficult time getting my head back in the game of life. As I reflect on the past, specifically my days as a member of a chorus, my mind is flooded with thoughts and feelings that, for whatever reason, I feel like sharing. I hope you enjoy the glimpse into my soul.
Aside from my family, there have been two people in my life who have influenced me in such a way that I am forever changed for having worked with them. Ms. Sally Schott and Dr. Ken Adams. These two individuals are not just incredible choral directors, but also they are dedicated to making a difference in the lives of the people they meet. I’m not sure how I was lucky enough to have experienced the joy of singing with such an accomplished and passionate director – TWICE! My connection with them goes far beyond simply being another member of their choir. Their names aren’t just another on my list of former teachers. They were mentors, and now they are friends.
Many years ago, I was just a girl who loved to sing in choir – but not alone. I would get so nervous anytime I had to sing by myself that my body would begin to shake uncontrollably, and I simply could not control my voice. I couldn’t even match a pitch. It was so embarrassing. I would get so mad at myself because I knew that I could do better. I knew that the voice others heard was not the voice inside of me. I knew there was something more. But how would anyone else know? Why would anyone think I had potential as a singer if I couldn’t even sing the correct pitches? Well, they wouldn’t. And Ms. Schott was no exception. She wasn’t one to beat around the bush. So I knew without a doubt that she didn’t really give me much thought…in the beginning. I was determined to prove her wrong (sidenote: I HATE being made to feel like I am not capable of doing something). So I worked. Never had I worked so hard at anything before in my life. And never before had anything been so important to me. I would become a good singer. I would find my spot in A Capella, Chamber, and Company. And I did. I improved enough in high school that I thought I could actually major in music in college. And I did. I even got a vocal scholarship. That’s a long way from the girl who couldn’t control her voice as a freshman.
Then I got to college. I had no idea what to expect at the tiny Christian school. Well, what I found were fabulous voices all around me. I was once again at the bottom of the pack. How in the world would I find my place here? How in the world would I be able to keep up with these people, who were obviously much more talented than I? Well, I worked. If I thought I had worked hard in high school, I was wrong. Now I was working double time because I knew I had a long way to go. My new life as a music major had me singing everyday. I loved it. I couldn’t have been happier if I had chosen any other coursework. But I had my work cut out for me.
As my college years played out, I quickly realized where I ranked among my peers – at the bottom. Or at least that was my perception. I knew I was improving, and I knew what I was capable of when no one else was listening. But still I struggled to really give everything I had when performing. Again, how would anyone else ever hear what I wanted them to hear? They couldn’t because I couldn’t deliver. It was so frustrating for me. Here I was in this sea of musicians whose talent dwarfed my own. The music just oozed out of them, seemingly with no effort. They heard it. They felt it. It was born in them. This was truly where they belonged. I, on the other hand, was just a girl who loved to sing. I wasn’t born with the natural ability these other people had. I didn’t come from a family of musicians. I didn’t just open my mouth and sound like I was born to sing. But, this is what I wanted to do, so I kept working at it. I kept giving it 110%. All the while I was terrified that someone would find out that I was a fraud among the actual musicians.
In the end, I accomplished what I had come to do. I sang a few solos along the way. I had my spot in Chamber Singers. I performed my senior recital to the best of my ability. I finished my degree. I think by the time I graduated I had gained a little respect, though I still knew I was different from the others. I wasn’t Dr. Adam’s go-to soprano, and I knew it. I wasn’t the musician that my friends were. I was still just the girl who loved to sing. I was plagued by this. Why couldn’t I be as good as everyone else? Why didn’t Dr. Adams see potential in me? For years I just quit doing anything music related. I really had a bad taste in my mouth because I felt like no matter what I did, I couldn’t be as good as I wanted to be, and I would never be taken seriously as a singer. I was devastated.
Slowly through the years I have picked back up with music. I have taught a few voice and piano lessons. I was even a music teacher and my son’s school for a year. I sang on a couple of CD recordings. I have been on several praise teams (and even led one). I auditioned (which totally freaked me out!) for a chorus and actually made it (thanks to Sally Schott!). And I realized that a part of me had been silent for too long. How could I go on ignoring the fact that I loved to sing? Specifically, I love to sing with a chorus or small ensemble. I also realized that my voice had changed. It had matured and I could now do things with it that I couldn’t before. My ear had improved and I could now hear things more clearly than ever before.
Now that I’m older (and hopefully wiser), I have some perspective. I realize that I am more than just the girl who loves to sing. I have been perfectly created by God. He made me to be exactly as he wanted me. So, He didn’t create me to be the best musician on earth. So what. So He didn’t give me all the natural talent that my peers have. So what. What he did give me is a love of music so deep that I can’t ignore it. He also gave me the determination and perseverance to follow my dream, no matter how difficult. I am finally at a place in my life where I am perfectly ok with the musical abilities that I do have. I’m not bothered anymore by the abilities I don’t have. Thank you, God for blessing me with the ability to grow as I have.
Thank you, also, to Sally Schott and Ken Adams for having high standards, for expecting the best from your students, and for challenging me to dig deeper than I ever thought I could. As it does with most young people, it took several years and some life experience to fully understand what your teaching did for me, and how it changed my life. Thank you for giving me a chance, and not giving up on me, even when I didn’t deliver as well as I could have.