Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Yesterday I received a challenge - a surprisingly apt challenge, from someone who has only known me a few weeks. I'm used to receiving encouragement and challenges from people who know what I'm capable of, i.e. my parents, my boss and my close friends. But I guess I'm more transparent than I thought I was. Either that, or my new voice teacher, Mr. Cook, is a very discerning man.

During our first few lessons together, we've mainly been working on taking deep breaths and opening the mouth wide enough to let some sound out. He keeps pushing me to give more. And yesterday he made me sing waaay higher and louder (and longer) than I wanted to - and finally asked, "Are you scared of your sound?" And then, "Do you feel any emotion when you sing?"

Well, what a stupid question. Of course I feel when I sing - I've spent years of my life singing to and about God, or singing love songs, or (at ACU) singing pieces from operas, which require a big dose of emotion. Singing is a huge part of my life. Of course it elicits an emotional response.

Here's what I learned yesterday, though: If I'm feeling emotion when I sing, it does no one (including me) any good unless I show it. Sometimes that may feel like exaggeration; it will almost always feel dangerous. Mr. Cook explained that my voice is a gift, a gift I give my audience when I sing - even if my audience is only him listening to me doing screechy vocalises.

Something else clicked as I listened to him: I realized that I can't keep being afraid to give the gift. I have to trust my audience enough, and care about them enough, to give them my voice even when I'm not sure what they'll do with it. I can't simply detach myself from caring what they think, because when you give a gift (especially of yourself), you do care deeply what the recipient thinks. I can't choose the safe way of objective detachment from my audience. I have to choose the more honest, more dangerous - and ultimately more rewarding - way of confidence born out of compassion, and a longing to give.

My assigment this week is to show some emotion when I sing, and I'm going to try to make that true everywhere (church, choir, Come As You Are, chapel, Sing Song). Maybe I won't move Mr. Cook to tears next week when I sing for him, but I hope he'll at least be able to tell that my heart is in it. Even if I'm shaking with every note.


Blogger Scott said...

There's a fine line between showing emotion and getting all "Clay Aiken" on us ;-)

4:31 PM  

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