DYV Students: Student Spotlight Interview No. 1
November 4, 2013
For the past year, I’ve been posting student spotlight interviews on Facebook. The truth of the matter is, nearly every day I meet some awesome people who happen to sing. They have great stories to tell and I think it can be super valuable in the learning process to share our stories with others who are pursuing something similar or even very different. I’d like to give these interviews life in a different forum, so I will posting them here as well.
Sometimes I meet students who I would label perpetual learners, and the truth of the matter is… I’m a bit jealous! Some people seem to be committed to consistently putting themselves in the way of learning and I can’t help but think this is what we should all strive for.
Melissa is absolutely a perpetual learner. Just listen to all the cool stuff she has done and is doing. Oh, and she has made huge strides in singing! Read more below…
Davin: Helllloooo, Melissa! Tell us a bit about yourself - where you’re from, what you do during the day/night etc.?
Melissa: Heyyyyyy Davin! I never know where to start when I talk about myself! Let’s see…I’m 28 and my life has been kind of nuts so far. I’m from Michigan originally, came to Chicago to study international relations, political science and photography at Loyola in 2003, graduated in 2007 and joined the Peace Corps. They sent me to Panama where I ended up kind of hanging out until 2010…during that time I met a Panamanian guy, married him, and then managed to persuade him to move back to Chicago with me, which brings me to now! I work for Rosetta Stone (the language company) which requires me to work three overnights a week, but it’s from home so I can fill in the rest of the forty hours whenever I have time. What else…I’m in the second year of my linguistics MA at Northeastern Illinois University where I’m a graduate assistant and tutor for the department. I’m also currently in rehearsals for a musical that will go up in November and when I’m not doing all that I’m either in dance class or voice lessons. God, I’m tired just recapping all this. Sleep is not high on my list of priorities.
Davin: So, why voice lessons? What brought you to study singing?
Melissa: At first I told myself I was going to start taking voice lessons for the same reason I started taking acting classes - to get me out of my house and prevent me from being a hermit since I work from home. That said, I was totally lying to myself. If I’m being semi-truthful, it’s because I missed being involved in music, since it was a big part of my life in high school. If I’m being totally truthful, it’s because I love singing and am a 28 year old who has never totally relinquished her pipe dream of being on Broadway someday, despite being really late to the game with that realization and subsequent action to try and make it a reality…better late than never! I can’t say it’s a total bust though…I recently just kind of decided to start auditioning for things and now I find myself cast in a musical, which is one musical more than I’ve been in in the last ten years, so it’s progress!
Davin: Has there been anything about lessons you’ve found surprising or impactful?
Melissa: Oh my God, lessons manage to surprise me every week! The first surprise was that I am a soprano, and that came on day one! The next surprise, two minutes later, was figuring out what exactly that meant and how high I can actually sing. A lot of the surprises come from my own conquering of hurtles that I construct for myself…coming into these lessons, I had preconceived notions about my voice and how much (or little) talent I thought myself to have. Those have fallen by the wayside now, and it’s crazy how every week I manage to sound a little bit better, even if I don’t realize during the actual lesson and even if I spend most lessons telling you how horrible I sound to myself! The slow-building self-confidence and the realization that maybe, with a ton more hard work and focus on technique, I can actually be good, not mediocre, is the most surprising and impactful of all.
Davin: Do you have any words of wisdom for someone else interested in embarking on a similar singing journey?
Melissa: My words of wisdom to anyone thinking about starting voice lessons would be ‘brace yourself!’ People might think that taking voice lessons is all about going to a studio and doing nothing but singing scales for 45 minutes straight, but it’s not. It’s so much harder than that and so much more than that, and that’s why it’s amazing. When someone walks through the door of the studio they have to be brave enough to shut their inner critic up, and just listen to you and do what you’re saying. Sometimes that means not intellectualizing every single detail like I am 100% prone to do, and sometimes it means being willing to feel weird or silly in order to get the best results. Taking voice lessons and dedicating yourself to it means having really awesome days where you can’t believe you made that sound and you feel like you should have won a Tony for that song you just sung; it also means having really rough days where you feel like you’ve taken a million steps back and you want to go home, curl up, and die. Brace yourself for those too and remember that those bad days are few and far between compared to the good ones. Most importantly, stick with it…if you listen to Davin, you practice like you’re supposed to, and you open your mouth and don’t blow off vowel shapes, you’re going to end up sounding the best you possibly can!
Davin: Thanks, Melissa! I’m proud of all the progress you’re making.