Finding my voice

Next stop: X-Factor?

I’ve written before about finding my voice, about learning to speak up for myself, to say my truth and state my needs. I’m learning to do this in my relationships, both professional and personal. But I’m excited to say I’m about to take the concept of finding my voice to a whole new level.

I went for my first one-on-one singing lesson last night. It’s something I’ve been meaning to do for quite a while. I love singing but I’ve never thought I was very good at it. That’s partly because I was told I wasn’t very good at it when I was quite young and I’ve held onto that for many years.

I’m sure my dear Dad didn’t mean any harm and was just poking fun at me, but I remember very clearly when he said, in a playful tone: “Katherine’s really good at most things, but, bless her, she can’t sing” or something along those lines. At least that’s how I remember it. Fair enough. I was good at sports, captain of lacrosse and netball, prefect, head girl and good at my studies – all part of the over-achieving I’ve written about before. To be talented in music or good at singing as well would have been a lot to ask. But as many of us know, children take things to heart, even when they’re said in jest.

I assumed, therefore, that the musical talent had stayed with the male side of the family. My late Dad was a semi-professional musician – a guitar and banjo player and singer and a founding member of the Merseysippi Jazz Band, Britain’s longest standing jazz group. My brother went on to learn the guitar and sing in bands. My Mum, however, always described herself as tone deaf and I assumed I was too.

But that didn’t stop me from loving it. I’ve always loved singing karaoke – although I generally do a duet so I can hide behind my partner’s better voice – and in recent years, I’ve loved singing out in church and at carol concerts.

But my attempts to join choirs haven’t been very successful. On my first visit to a choir, I actually ended up in tears in the toilets. I couldn’t reach the notes, I couldn’t sing in harmony and I didn’t have a clue what I was doing. I felt embarrassed, ashamed even. But my tearful reaction was rather extreme, which reminds me of the idea that ‘if it’s hysterical, it’s probably historical‘. In other words, my exaggerated reaction to my inability to sing in public likely brought back a lot of shame around my singing voice from my past.

My second visit to a different choir was less traumatic but it still wasn’t enjoyable. I didn’t have the confidence to sing out and I was afraid of sounding ridiculous.

But I’m not giving up! I’ve just decided that I need a little assistance. Hence the lessons.

So, in my first lesson last night, I discovered I’m not a terrible singer (unless the teacher was being kind to me!) but I don’t know how to control my voice, it’s never developed and I struggle with my breathing. I also learned that my posture – my slightly lopsided frame as a result of a long-standing ankle injury and lower-back pain – is affecting my ability to sing. And I discovered that I might actually be a soprano, not an alto as I’d assumed. That’s interesting for someone who’s always shied away from the high notes. My teacher suggested that maybe, as a child, I had a “wild” voice, which is why I may have sounded tone deaf to my Dad. But people with wild voices often end up to be very good singers if their voices are developed and trained, or so my teacher says.

I sang two songs last night so she could gauge my voice. I chose my favourite hymn “How Great Thou Art” – sung in the following clip by Elvis Presley. My rendition was a little different, but Elvis’ version really makes me smile:

I also sang Whitney Houston’s “The Greatest Love of All” – a little slushy perhaps but I love the power of her voice and the lyrics seemed rather appropriate, given my decision to pursue my singing is part of a process of increasing self-love and self-care. To quote Whitney, “The greatest love of all is easy to achieve. Learning to love yourself, it is the greatest love of all.”

I admit I fancy myself as a bit of a Whitney Houston!

So what next? Well, more lessons, lots of practice and back to Pilates and the gym to try to resolve my postural problems. Fortunately, though, my singing teacher wisely suggested that I took some time to think about whether I was ready to give the time and commitment required to progress with my singing. As time and commitment are two things I struggle with, I was pleased she’d encouraged me to think about it. But she also observed that I seemed very determined – and I am! So I’ve decided to spend some time in the next few weeks trying to get some routine in place around my exercise/Pilates classes and then start the singing lessons in earnest early in the New Year.

A new year, a new voice!

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