On finding your voice

This past year, I’ve ended my Wednesday night teaching schedule at the house of a fun young couple who inherited an incredible grand piano from a relative. They have the most beautiful space for it in their living room with 2-floor ceiling. There is a stunning chandelier that hangs from the ceiling above, and the husband even painted an incredible 10 ft x 8 ft abstract painting to hang on the wall beside it. He had to stretch the canvas himself and everything!

This couple is incredibly talented.

And, upon inheriting their piano, they decided to take lessons. The husband had taken lessons as a child, but nothing “stuck”, and the wife is a viola player.

Our first lesson, par for course, we went over the basics… where the notes are on the piano, where they are on the staff, and we had fun improvising (getting the fingers all moving!).

As the weeks went on, they grew incredibly in their abilities to where the husband could expertly play Moonlight Sonata, and the wife could play Vietnamese songs from her childhood with such skill!

But, one week the conversation changed from piano to voice. Both of them work in public speaking, and they thought that taking voice lessons would help them develop stamina and learn vocal health.

During the conversation, the wife shared that in elementary school, she had auditioned for the choir. The students were all scored based on how well they could sing, and she got the lowest points possible.

It scarred her so deeply that she decided to never sing again…. not in the shower, not in the car, not even humming. Never.

I can’t imagine that!

Now, when I start with a new student, I let them in on how I work: our lesson is a safe space to make mistakes, to try something new and hard, and to keep trying!

And, the truth I speak to my nervous voice students is this:

Everyone can sing, they just have to find the right song in the right key.

So many people compare themselves to singers on the radio (who, lets be honest… are processed and auto-tuned).

My goal is to help everyone find their voice, and to help them sing in a healthy way so that they can sing for their whole life.

So, I let my student in on all my thoughts, and we started with finding her range.

She could sing over an octave, all on pitch! For someone who has NEVER sung, I was super impressed with her!

Once we got the initial jitters out of the way, and with even more encouragement from her husband, she sang “You are my sunshine” perfectly.

It was so beautiful!

For Christmas? She is singing “Mary did you know”, and the sound that comes out of her is absolutely stunning. I get goosebumps every time!

I am just so blessed and honored to be a part of the story of this amazing woman finding her singing voice.

 

So, what about you?

Have you ever been told you couldn’t do something and you actually never tried again?

What would it feel like if you actually took a chance?

The lessons of life

I have been teaching music lessons for over 20 years now, but the reality is that I can’t remember a day I wasn’t exposed to them.

My mother is an incredible musician, and she filled our home with music from the time I was a baby.  She would even take me and my sister to her students’ houses sometimes when our normal babysitters weren’t available.  I heard her students improve week after week, and I remember her sitting patiently by their sides, playing the parts for them or playing the duets.

When I was asked to teach lessons to Dr. Warren Anderson’s kids and other neighbors while I was at Judson, I could feel my mom’s voice speaking through me; her gentle encouragements and duets  flowing out of me as easily as they did from her. 

I have always loved music.  From playing the piano and violin at an early age, to playing the clarinet, bassoon, tenor sax and percussion in middle-school and high-school, to finally picking up an acoustic and bass guitar and drum set in college.  I have always had a knack for playing music by ear, as well as a love for Mozart and Beethoven.

Music was my outlet when I had no way to verbally express my emotions. I would play and sing all the time.  I can’t remember when I started writing songs, but by the time I was in high-school, I was writing arrangements of known songs as well as my own melodies and rhymes.

It has always been there. 

One of my greatest joys is teaching music to children.  Even today, I was teaching piano at The Worship Club and showed some 5th graders how to do the simple inversions from G to C and Em.  Their faces lit up!  “That’s so easy!” they exclaimed.

Yep.

I’ve often joked that if you give me music and children, I can do incredible things.  If you make me organize my house or budget… that’s a different matter. Ha!

There are so many life lessons that I love to insert into my music classes.  One of them in particular has to do with tuning the guitar. 

In the days before apps (and clip-on or installed tuners), you had to get a note from a keyboard or a different guitar that was in tune.  And while tuning to a keyboard is handy, there is something beautiful about tuning with another guitar.

You have to listen to the tuned string a few times to get it in your head before you play the un-tuned string with it.  Even the slightest dissonance can be heard, but as you bring the string into tune, the sound that was totally wobbly becomes aligned.

The first time I ever do this exercise with my students, I let them play the un-tuned string at the same time as mine, and they say that they have no idea how to fix their string.  It’s really hard!  I would have no idea how to do that, either.

But then, I have them tune my way… really listening to the string that’s in-tune first.  Then, it’s pretty easy to recognize if the un-tuned string is flat or sharp, and they love the feeling as they bring it to the exact sound as the other string.  Their faces always light up!

Then, I let them in on the lesson:

We HAVE to have the sound of the in-tune string in our ear so that we know how to get in tune.  In the same way, we HAVE to know the voice of our Creator!  If we know the voice of TRUTH in our lives, when Satan comes to try to throw us off (even in the slightest way), we will know! It won’t sound right! When we notice ourselves doing things that are different from the One who is the Way, the Truth and the Life, we need to stop… listen carefully to the right way, and patiently allow our sounds to line-up again.

It is a powerful lesson that I’m even still learning.  Every time I tune a guitar (which is multiple times a day), it’s a heart-check.

I just read this today, and it’s what prompted this blog post:

Psalm 43:3-5 (the Passion Translation) says:

Pour into me the brightness of your daybreak!
    Pour into me your rays of revelation-truth!
    Let them comfort and gently lead me onto the shining path,
    showing the way into your burning presence,
    into your many sanctuaries of holiness.
Then I will come closer to your very altar
    until I come before you, the God of my ecstatic joy!
    I will praise you with the harp that plays in my heart,
    to you, my God, my magnificent God!
Then I will say to my soul,
“Don’t be discouraged; don’t be disturbed,
    for I fully expect my Savior-God to break through for me.
    Then I’ll have plenty of reasons to praise him all over again.”
    Yes, living before his face is my saving grace!