Starting from Zero

I am a Teacher.  I am In Control.  I fear No One.

Except the person who, unlike my students, might know more than me.  Okay, with a doctorate in choral conducting, he knows way more than me.  So much more that I'm majorly intimidated.  Oh, who am I kidding?  I'm freaking out.

Relax, I tell myself.  Breathe.  Sing.  You love to sing.

I do.  I love to sing.  And I know I have a gift for it; I thank God for my voice.  But until last month, I'd been skating by on tips and tricks I'd picked up from hanging out with musicians.  You know, really impressive terms like "glottal stop" and "diaphragm support," standing with an open rib cage, over-pronouncing consonants.  Stuff I really didn't understand, but was happy to throw around as if I did.

Until last month.  Suddenly, while sitting through a grad school lecture and wishing my classmates were not quite so verbose, I decided I was tired of being insecure about my singing voice.  I'd never actually had a voice lesson.  In a twisted kind of way, I was proud of that, the way I was proud of never having dyed my hair.  Then one day I just decided, who cares?  I feel like a change.  And I had my stylist put in highlights: 3 different colors, but wonderfully subtle.  I loved them.

So I guess this was similar.  What was the distinction of an untrained voice worth?  Certainly not more than the distinction of a trained one.  I looked up Suzuki voice teachers, found one in the area, and asked if he'd be willing to take on a piano teacher who had never really learned to sing.  He responded enthusiastically.  We set up the first lesson.  Here I was.  Learning, just like my students.

Also, like my students, completely overwhelmed, anxious and neurotic about every little thing.  Stand up straight.  Feet apart.  Hands and arms down.  Shoulders back.  Jaw loose.  Belly full of air.  Pure, clean vowels.  In a foreign language.  And for goodness' sake, RELAX!

I saw it from the other side: my teacher patiently corrected all my errors, one by one.  Breathe deeply.  Give more support to the lower, richer notes; back off on the higher ones.  Relish the consonants.  Slide from lower to higher register seamlessly.  Let the volume expand; fill the room with sound.  And just as I was getting it, really getting it, I'd forget to breathe again.

"What did you learn today?" he asked after an hour.  (Only an hour?  Not three?)

"Singing is a lot more complicated than I thought!" I said.

He looked disappointed. "Then I've been talking too much," he said.

No, no.  You've only forgotten, because I fake it well: I'm starting from zero.