Singing & Performance: “I used to sing, but…”


November 7, 2014

Since 2011 (or when I started keeping track), I’ve met individually with more than 1400 singers.  Crazy, right?  When I look back at the list of all those people, I’m struck by a) how many specifics I can remember b) how cool the experience is of getting to know each in this unique way and c) what themes tend to arise.

I was recalling this with a client last week as we had a conversation about the role singing played in his life and how similar it was to someone I had been working with earlier in the day. In that moment, I spouted some categories I’ve noticed with regards to how people who sing identify themselves and I thought I’d share one of those today to see if the story resonates with you.

I call this group of singers the “I used to sing, but…”’s

This is one of the most common categories of client who comes through our door and their stories have a wide range, but one common theme. Here are some examples based on true stories I have heard.

“I had a band in college and in my early 20’s with whom I toured. But, after we broke up I went into a 9 – 5 job and just sorta stopped singing.”

“I grew up singing at church and leading others in worship. As an adult, I came out of the closet and left the church. Simultaneously I stopped singing.”

“As a kid, I performed in a national children’s choir and traveled the world. When I became a teen and my voice matured, I became very scared to sing and haven’t sung since.”

“I went to college for musical theatre and after, moved to New York to give it a go. It didn’t exactly work, so I came back to Chicago to find something more stable. I haven’t done any performing or singing.”

“I was in choir as a kid, and in my high school’s musicals. I tried out for a few things in college but didn’t get accepted and never pursued it any further.

The next sentence in most of these reads like “I feel like a part of me is missing.” or “I feel like my creative self is gone.”

I always admire the courage of those who have stories like this and put forth the effort to come back to singing lessons as a means of rediscovering their voice. Sometimes it can be scarier to revisit something you left than to tackle something completely new. What will this unearth? What does it mean for who I am now? Some, who do, last and find ways to reintroduce singing regularly into their lives while others have difficult time creating that regular space for it.

As with any creative endeavor, if you once made something… a painting, a dance, a song… it was a part of how you told your story. Part of how you contributed to the world. Part of how you found fulfillment. If you cease to create, it is often the case that a part of you will seem to missing, absent or unfulfilled.

But, such is life, right? We have obligations – jobs, families etc. We have struggles! Financial, emotional, physical, personal… There is so much to get in the way creating and all of these excuses can be legitimate. But regardless of legitimacy in the struggle, if you used to create, you’re bound to feel a tug to continue to do so.

It is my personal belief that there is no more unique and personal way of creating than with your voice. The vibrations you make can permanently alter your emotional and physical landscape. Further, they can change the space that surrounds you. It’s an epic endeavor and it matters. Your voice matters.

Are you use a “I used to sing but…”? Does it feel a little bit like something is missing? If so, that feeling isn’t going to go away, as the stories above can attest to. Your voice isn’t gone, you’ve just been ignoring it. Find a place for rediscovery! This could be in the quiet of your own home, or in your church choir. Maybe you need to get out there and try to put a new band together or maybe it’s time for another audition? Voice lessons can be a safe space for rediscovery and experimentation. Regardless, of where, take comfort in the fact that you’re not alone and there are others who each and every day are taking the bold step of uniquely uncovering their voice. Not more “but…”

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