Tuesday, November 6, 2012

New Beginnings, Part 1

Something monumental happened for me this weekend.

Let's back up. I graduated with a BA in Vocal Performance three years ago. Singing was my life. If anyone asked me what I'd do when I'd grow up, the answer would always be "sing!"

So, when I graduated from high school, and was on my way to college, I optimistically and blindly signed up for the only degree I could imagine, Vocal Performance.

I started as a double major in performance and education, but my advisor basically laughed at me and said I'd be in school for eight years. So, I decided to drop education, and stick with my passion of performing.

Immediately, I was barraged with the rules, opinions, and strong beliefs of all the music professors.

"This isn't American Idol"
"Your performance must be perfect!"
"Don't close your eyes when you sing, you close out the audience"
"No parallel motions with your hands"
"You don't get to sing songs you enjoy in real life, so you don't get to pick what you sing now"
"If you can't sing all day, then you're not singing correctly"
"There's too much air in your voice"
"Your voice isn't airy enough"

I was tugged and pulled back and forth between feuding professors, forced to pledge my allegiance to one or the other, wanting to please everyone.

I spent hours and hours practicing, never to feel good enough.

I was constantly sick with strepp, bronchitis, and other illnesses because I was so stressed and overworked.

One of the lowest, most brutal moments was when I was preparing for an operetta. I worked so hard, and was so prepared for our performance. The night before, I got very sick. I had bronchitis, and I lost my voice. I had to perform anyway, and my solos were divvied out to the other singers. Did I receive compassion and concern? No, I was treated as an inconvenience. In fact, I was told that I'd be able to sing if I did my best to take care of myself that night. The day of the performance, I could barely get out of bed. Putting my hair back and my makeup on was near impossible. I trudged to the performance hall, half alive, and sat back stage, ready to mime my parts.

On stage, no one would have known I was sick. I was animated, vibrant, and entertaining. Between scenes, I hobbled back stage, and coughed up blood.

If I were in a stronger state of mind in college, and had a clear, unfaltering vision of why I was a singer, all of the things that were said and done by the professors and other students wouldn't have made as big of an impact. Unfortunately, I was a vulnerable, na├»ve, moldable girl, fully believing the words of anyone with authority.

So slowly, my passion began to fade, and I became horribly critical of my voice, and myself. My instructors didn't need to chastise me for mistakes, I did it well enough for them. By my last year, I was drained of all joy in music, and went through the motions like a mindless drone. I got to be a lead in the opera that year, which would have been a dream come true before. At that point, I just wanted to get through it.

I sang the national anthem and alma mater at our graduation, but all I could think of was getting out of there. When I graduated, I got married immediately afterward, and moved out to the Washington D.C. area.

I was deeply depressed and lost. Being a small town Alaska girl, D.C. was overwhelming and terrifying. The one thing that was consistent in my life before was music, and without it, I didn't know what direction to take. I worked retail, hated it, and then got a receptionist job at a medical company., where I was unchallenged, and unfulfilled.

I was going through the motions, doing pretty much everything but singing. Every once and a while, I'd feel the strong desire to sing, but as soon as I would the critical voices in my head would attack, and I'd go silent.

After two years, we moved to Seattle. This is where things slowly began to change for me.

(Continued tomorrow on Part 2)


  1. For what it's worth, I remember that time you got so sick, and being so amazed by your perseverance! I never realized you spent those years so unhappy, but I'm excited to see what's next for you! Sending lots of love your way!

    1. Thanks Ari. I still remember your kindness through all of that. I had wonderful memories too, and there were happy times, of course. :)


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