I had my first voice lesson with Mary Jane Johnson, and let me tell you, she is a dear. Her big eyes, her big voice, her big and sweet Texan accent, and her big heart just overflow with a love for the art form and those of us trying to understand it. She cares about who I am, where I came from, and truly wants to see me succeed. She was honest about my shortcomings, but encouraging about where I will go, even in just this short time. I got some great pointers that I’m excited to put into practice this week. I decided to head down to the little nature trail, sit on a bench by the rushing creek, close my eyes, and let it all sink in. (This, I also hope to make a regular habit after each of my lessons this week!)
At our orientation on Sunday, Linda Poetschke, one of the directors, shared a quote from a local Taos publication. “The Taos Ski Valley is known for the alpine skiing style and emphasizes 'pushing out of your personal envelope.' It is about overcoming your fears through new adventures. Pushing oneself to the limits is still the key to exhilaration, especially when one is successful!” I experienced a bit of this recently skiing in Tahoe. My expert skier friend Jeff was patiently working with me, and trying to get me to be ok actually facing straight downhill, and to trust myself to turn when I needed to, managing my speed. I caught glimpses of what this exhilirating next level of skiing could be like, and I really wanted to get there, but my fear just kept holding me back. Perhaps I also just needed some more practice to get comfortable with the muscle memory, but still, my fear and lack of trust was a major hinderance.
The same goes in singing. Just in my lesson today, I gave up on high notes, I gave up on fast notes, I retreated to a style of breathing that I was “comfortable” with, and had trouble trusting enough to give it my all. This led me to ponder two things:
1. Well, with skiing, my reasons for being afraid are a little more concrete. I could fall and break my face, I could become paralyzed, I could hurt someone else, and well let’s face it, I could die. So maybe this is a bad example. Although, if I died, then I would just get to be with Jesus, and I imagine that will be pretty awesome.
Then there’s the idea of giving up my life completely to the Lord, another concept I’m apparently afraid of. I’m afraid because I don’t know what to expect. I’m afraid He’ll make me do something I don’t want to do, or don’t feel equipped to do. But that’s just the thing. God doesn’t need us to be equipped, He just needs us to be willing–willing to be open to the most thrilling, exciting life, full of love and peace. And He loves me more than I could ever comprehend. I should probably stop being afraid of that.
So why the heck am I so afraid of singing? Let's see. As far as putting myself out there and auditioning, I suppose I'm afraid of rejection. With high notes, I’m afraid of cracking or being out of tune. With coloratura passages, I’m afraid of missing a note or not making it through the phrase, so I just give up and let go of my breath before I even try. But all of those fears, in comparison, are pretty lame! Singing will not kill me, it most likely won’t even hurt me, and it will probably even be quite beneficial. Who cares if I get rejected? If I wasn’t right for the part, then the part probably wasn’t right for me at the time either, and how is that even a reflection on me personally? And finally, high notes are just awesome. When they’re in the right place, they feel awesome and they sound awesome. Why wouldn’t I want to do whatever necessary to achieve that??
2. I have a bad history of “winging it.” I let my self just scrape on by because I've gotten away with it. But where did this come from? Is it because in school there is such pressure to just get good grades, and not enough on the actual learning process? If I can manage to exercise my short term memory and cram 300 vocab words in my head the night before a test and still end up with an A-, why bother actually learning them a few a day? If I can sight read music decently, why bother learning something before a rehearsal where we’ll drill it anyway?
Because I’ll end up stuck where I am now. At a crossroad. I can either keep doing what I’ve been doing, doing just enough to get a couple degrees under my belt, but never knowing what could actually happen if I really applied myself, and sought God’s best for me, or I can start trying a little harder, with a litlte more focus. What if I had actually taken time to enjoy that research paper? What could I have learned, or contributed? What if I had read the whole opera before showing up to the first rehearsal? How much more engaged could I have been throughout the rehearsal process?
I’m realizing now, that all these things aren’t even really an issue of discipline, but rather the concept of being in the moment, or living in the present. (Funny, because God revealed this to me yesterday afternoon, and then confirmed it in our talk last night with an Olympic psychologist. She talked about the same thing!) For so long I prided myself in being able to pull things off at the last minute, and still manage to fit in “fun” things. But so often, these were really just distractions from the incredible opportunities God was giving me. I mean, who really needs to peruse 24 Cats That Are So Single Right Now? Don’t click it! Stay in the moment! At least wait til you’re done reading this. I’m almost done. (But if you do, I think #9 is my favorite.) These silly pictures may make me smile, and marvel at their silliness for a moment, but that’s just it. A moment of happiness or so-called “joy” is fleeting. It’s not the kind of Joy that prevails. Not the kind of Joy when I really nail something, and am proud of it, because I know God got me there. Not the kind of Joy I feel when I know I am doing exactly what God intended me to do, and am right where He wants me.
So here’s to a new chapter of excitement, to "pushing the envelope," to trusting that God has my best interests at heart, and to seeking true accomplishment. Not just for the sake of accomplishing discipline, and checking off all the healthy things I intended to do today, but for the glory of God, and learning what He wants me to learn. How much more motivating and exciting is that than browsing the internet, backing off the high note, and winging it?
Today, I am excited to try this new breathing idea, a strange squeaking exercise to work on my range, and nail that high B at the end of “Una voce poco fa.” Let's do this.