Sing-a-long

You don’t know me if you don’t know I sing. Like, if you know me, but you didn’t know that singing is a major part of my life, then you really don’t know me. Honestly, to me it sounds really trite – I’m a “singer.” A “vocalist.” But I make music with my voice – and I’ve been doing it for as long as I can remember. There are songs in my heart, in my soul that I can’t get away from. I sing all the time. I drive around in my car just so I can sing to myself. I like the sound of my singing voice.

People ask, “How long have you been singing,” and my mother says forever because she says I had a sing-song voice as a child. I would talk as if singing. In school, I was always in the choir. I remember singing in every talent show. My high school music teacher told me to sing background to pay for college. I eventually did sing for money. I was a wedding singer. I sang backgrounds for no money, just for the love of harmony. I miss those days.

The highlight of my singing days was definitely college. The Inspiration, still world-class a cappella. You know that show “The Sing-Off“? Yeah, we did that. And did it well. Sometimes 17 of us, sometimes 11. Always family, always fun. The Inspiration got me through college without killing myself.

Despite being successful in singing, I’ve always doubted my ability. I’ve never had any training, save a few voice lessons I paid for when I was 21 or so. Two events stick out to me. First was when I first auditioned for the Inspiration. I also auditioned for another group, when this guy was in it, musical director I think. Just a senior at a Ivy-League school, but I’d bought the group’s CD the previous spring during admit weekend and his rendition of “One Of Us” was amazing. I wanted to be in that group too. But I didn’t get a call back.

That was my first singing rejection. Never before had I’d been rejected. And knowing a cappella as a I know it now, you don’t let good talent go, even if you don’t really have a space for it. And this was before we had some rules within our a cappella council about multiple groups wanting the same person and how to deal with that conflict. So… And as he blew up, I have not been able to let it go. Like, I must not really be that good. I mean, if he would have floundered, not won multiple Grammy’s, if I didn’t actually like his music, then maybe I could put it off as a fluke or on something else other than my ability. But now I just can’t.

And of course, I got into the Inspiration and it was 100% a better fit and I wouldn’t go back and change anything, it just makes me wonder. And doubt.

The second event was the whole wedding singer thing. I sang with an orchestra – horns, piano, strings, all that. But my tenure was short. I replaced a singer who was also singing with another orchestra, and sometimes she had gigs booked on the same date. The woman running the orchestra just didn’t like that, so she kicked the singer out altogether, instead of finding a substitute. I was the wayward singer’s replacement.

She loved me when I auditioned for her; but when rehearsals came around, everything came crashing down. I was 21/22 – they were an older crowd, by like 20 years. Some of the songs I didn’t know well enough to just create a 3rd part in a 3 part harmony where I wasn’t the top note – I’ve sang soprano my whole life. And because I was new, of course I had to be the one to adjust – not the other way around. After a few gigs, the other chick came back – and I was released.

That experience crushed me. I felt like such a failure, and really doubted my ability to do anything more than karaoke. I eventually started doing some backgrounds for great local artists, this one especially, until I got pregnant with Big A – then I stopped altogether.

Until right before I went into the hospital. I was driving to Oakland twice a week to sing with some folks in a hypomanic state before the depressive crash. And that’s been that. Nothing but karaoke for the last two years.

I tried the church choir last month. But 1) I am just too overcommitted and 2) it didn’t feel right. I don’t think I like singing with choirs. It may be my own ego or something, but I hate not being able to hear myself. It’s just a lot of sound and I could be singing anything and it wouldn’t matter. That’s not where I want to be.

I sometimes wonder why my parents didn’t push my musical abilities. Did they think I wasn’t good enough? That’s probably not true; they didn’t really push us in anything except to be well-behaved and get college degrees. And they were at everything I ever performed in – they were supportive. I guess you can’t say that a lack of positive reinforcement means a lack of faith. Not that I have anything like Beyonce or Whitney like talent, but maybe I could have been really good. Right now I don’t feel like I’m really good at anything.

*Sigh* This post has gotten a little wordy and out of hand so I’m going to leave it there….but not before I start my birthday wish list. I’ll add one a day.

#1: tickets to see Janet Jackson

I’m one of her biggest fans. Not the biggest, but one of them. Not big enough to buy the ticket myself, but big enough to beg for a few.

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