Call it mid-life crisis, or just plain living life, but I started taking vocal lessons at 38. I had just finished my Masters in Engg., had moved countries and worked from home. So I needed to challenge myself a little more than the usual chores and raising a 5 year old. I just needed more than a normal day to keep me going.
So, I looked up a music school in the vicinity, read the reviews and enrolled without thinking any more. I can get cold feet very quickly. Cut to the first class and I was a bundle of nerves. I asked my husband to drive me the 2 mile distance as I didn’t trust myself enough to be able to make it on my own.
I reached the class and had the instructor asking me why I decided to learn at this age. I wasn’t prepared to answer the question. Ummm, well, I did sing in school – though I have never been trained. But I gave it up as “life” took over and then I stopped singing completely until I started singing again to soothe my colicky daughter to bed.
But I always wanted to learn. Back home, when I was growing up, one was to pay attention to academics and nothing else. Everyone grew up to be a doctor or engineer, music and arts had no room. But I didn’t want that to be my forever story. So here I was.
The instructor got me warmed up and asked to match pitch to the piano – it was easy for me. She was delighted after the first 30min session and she started sharing her books from the next session. She said she was going to retire in a year and her goal was to ensure that I was independent and singing before she retired.
She gave me several songs to practice, the one that really caught my fancy was “Never Enough” from the “Greatest Showman”. And I could sing it – I had the range. And I practiced and improved with every attempt. Three months into the classes, the first recital came up. I just happened to ask if I could enroll and I was in!
Now I was back to being all nerves. Perhaps, it was too soon. I had missed three weeks’ classes, too. So, practically, I’d just been learning for two months. And my instructor said that she would not be my accompanist on the piano. Lord! And I had been singing to the melody and not the actual music. So the piano had been supporting my voice when I practiced but not at the recital. What had I done! I went for the rehearsal with the accompanist and lost my voice at the high notes. Then I found it again – I had exhausted my voice by rehearsing too much.
I was too close to the recital. Just two days away. I decided to rest my voice after the rehearsal – sang just twice the next day and just once on the day of the recital. But my chords were stuck. I was a mess. And I was home alone with my daughter which meant that she would stand with me on the stage when I’d sing. She refused to sit alone and watch me from a distance.
I reached the venue – I was number 17 in the recital and one of the two singing. Rest of the performances were drums, guitar and a lot of piano. We were called to get a group picture clicked. Oh my, they were all less than 8 years old and I stood amongst them – a 38 year old. I knew I would find a spot in the last row 😉
I sipped on hot water and prayed fervently. It was finally my turn. My name was called out and then all hell broke lose – my daughter refused to get up. I asked her to sit and watch me and she refused. She was neither willing to join me at the stage nor sit there and watch. So I dragged her along, literally. The announcer thought that my 5year old was the performer and tried handing over the mike to her, and of course, my daughter became even more clingy and refused to take the mike. And I corrected the announcer and told her that I was the performer. Oh! Oh! Oh! Is all she could manage to say 😂
I had planned to leave the mike on the stand – there was no stand. So I held it. And I needed a music stand for my song – there was none. Oh this wasn’t going as I had planned. I signalled to the pianist – I knew the song by heart anyway. I sang the first line – all right notes, ok I can make it, I thought. And then another and then another, the first high notes are half way through the song and there came the first croak. I didn’t stop though, I kept rolling through, I may hit the next one – nopes! May be the next one – no! And then I hear my daughter (who was clinging to my leg) giggle. And that took away the last of my confidence. Ouch. It wasn’t her fault but my pride was injured. I’m glad that I sang till the end.
I didn’t look at anyone. I was glad that my instructor wasn’t there. We sat back in our seats again. But my daughter didn’t want to sit through the rest of the performances. I don’t know if I was relieved or not but we left. After sulking for hours, I tried singing the song again, and I could! All of it! Now I was really upset.
The next day I had to travel for work. I shut out all music for the next 5 days. I wanted never to sing again. How would I face my instructor. What would I tell her. And I dreaded the next class where I told her that I lost my voice. She said that she was sure that i was being overtly critical of myself. I told her that wasn’t the case and was grateful that she didn’t witness it herself. She got me warmed up and we sang. My voice range is 2.5 octaves – 4 notes higher than what I couldn’t hit in the recital. She was kind, she told me that nerves got me. She said that she herself couldn’t sing in public for a very long time. I had sung many a times in public before – my voice never failed me. Perhaps, I was tired. Perhaps, I didn’t want to fail in front of my daughter.
I told my instructor that I would like to sing the song again. We sang again, I did it again. May be the next time, I am going to give myself more time. I was nervous, I was too raw, the song was too tough but I should have done better. My instructor said that I could sing it for friends or family. So I recorded myself at home. No fancy equipment, I just wanted to sing. And get over it. I may already be over it, I’m going to enroll for the summer recital now – it is still 4 months away. And I know the song that I want to sing. Meanwhile, if you want to hear me, find me here.
I promise I will get better 🙂