10 Things I’ve Learned from Singing

After a month of private singing lessons and facing my fear of singing in front of people, here’s what I’ve learned from the experience….

If Your Fear Won’t Kill You, Do It – Most of us have a “biggest fear in life” that’s really just one of many types of fears.  We all have a fear that we could die from (like my totally rational fear of swimming in the ocean because a shark could eat me up) and we have fears that probably won’t take our lives but feel like they’re killing us because of embarrassment (public speaking is found to be people’s #1 fear).  My #1 fear in the category of things that I’d die of embarrassment from is singing in front of people.  I’ve learned this month that if a shark won’t kill you and eat you for dinner then you should go ahead face your fears.  You will survive and see how much you’ve been missing out on.

Disconnect and Wear Normal Clothes – The best part of private singing lessons was doing something that wasn’t related to work or working out – the two things that take up so much time and energy in my life.  What a relief to do something that didn’t require email or wondering if my stomach is or isn’t flat.  I would recommend trying music lessons just simply for this reason.  Even if you never perform anywhere, it’s nice to just have an activity that can take your stress away.

No One is a Perfect Singer – After listening to people sing more closely this month, no one is perfect.  Beyonce…maybe…but she’s not even human, really.  You don’t have to be perfect to sing.

Warm Up – There’s something to vocal warm-ups.  You wouldn’t run a race without stretching out, or lift weights without a warm up, or dance without a few twists and kicks, so you should treat your voice the same way and warm up even if you feel dumb.

Keep Your Friends Close and Your Musician Friends Closer – Having musician friends is awesome.  Music/singing is something you can do your whole life.  There’s no age limit on music.  When I was recording the song I eventually posted on YouTube/this blog, Angela played keyboard and her husband, Joe, played cello behind me.  I felt so supported.  I mean, I’m not a professional musician or singer, but in that moment, I felt like we were a little…..group….clique….support system.  Hearing your friends make music behind you while you stand in fear singing your little heart out makes for a magical little moment.  Make friends with musicians and magic things can happen.

Reading Music is Like a Secret Lingo – Reading music is cool.  I only learned the basics this month with the time I spent in the computer lab at the music school, but every time I look at sheets of music now I think “this is so cool, it’s like a secret language.”  Music sheets are beautiful and I secretly think it’s awesome when I see Angela mark special little notes on music sheets like fancy musicians do.  Insert cliche but true phrase:  I only wish I would’ve learned to read music sooner.

Find Your Fans – I use humor often when I’m uncomfortable.  I made 5 billion jokes about getting a record label or singing like a Real Housewife to avoid the uncomfortable feeling of worrying if everyone was making fun of me.  Like all the other goals this year, people really step up and support you.  I received so many encouraging notes and comments this month after I finally recorded myself singing.  Even if people are laughing at you just a little bit…they typically do it behind your back, so you never really have to deal with it (that’s the saddest statement ever, but I’m convinced it’s true).  But every time I try a new goal I am reminded that I really do have a great support system and those people carry me through every single time!

Listen – If you want to be a good singer, you have to be a good listener.  So much of my formal singing lessons or my “YouTube self study” lessons were about listening.  Listening to the notes, listening to the teacher, listening to yourself, listening to feedback.  Sometimes when we’re super nervous we don’t want to listen.  We fill the silence with self talk like ‘Oh my God, what am I doing?  That sounded  horrible.  They are perfect and I suck’ but with music lessons you really have to slow down and push that out, there’s no time for the negative self talk and listening to all the other things you have to listen to at the same time.

Sing With Your Kids – When I was explaining my fear of singing to Angela early in the month, she was not surprised and summed it up pretty well.  She says that if you don’t grow up in a household that sings, then of course you’ll feel uncomfortable singing in front of others.  I started testing this theory out (even though she has a doctoral degree in music so I believed her) and everyone I spoke to about my goal who actually does sing  normally threw in a story about how their mom used to always sing, or they grew up in a household that sings, or I would leave the conversation with an image of them with their giant family gathered around a fire with a guitar singing songs all night.  (Same goes with reading too, I’m convinced.  My friend Molly grew up with her parents reading a ton and she can crank through books that would take me 10 years to finish).  Anyway, if you have kids and don’t want them to be blogging about facing their fear of singing when they’re 33…get your guitar and s’mores out.

Praise The Lord – If you’re learning to sing, I’d recommend practicing a praise/worship song.  It’s much more fulfilling on many levels.  Plus, the Lord created our voices and delights in us.  You can’t go wrong.

I did it!



This Is Me Singing on YouTube

Aug 19 – 21:  I normally don’t consolidate my days on a blog post in attempts to give you the real day-by-day details of the goal of the month, but, since this month has been building up to a video of me singing – let’s just hit the high points of these 3 days briefly:  I practiced “In Christ Alone” every one of these days, I wondered what I would wear when we recorded on Saturday knowing darn well I’d default to a plain black shirt, I text with Angela on the logistics of where we’d record, and I probably said my “I may get a record deal out of this” joke one too many times when people asked about my singing progress.  There’s no turning back now.  There’s a song, a date, a time, and a couple of friends who are giving up their Saturday night to play the cello and keyboard/sing with me so I can face my biggest fear of singing in front of others.

Aug 22:  I want to give all my commentary leading up to this moment, but let’s just jump to the footage, shall we…..

Black left is Angela playing keyboard and singing, back right is her husband Joe playing cello, and the guitar is pre-recorded.

So, I did it.  I faced my biggest fear.  I’ve never sang in front of anyone in my whole life (excluding the Sound of Music audition I did in 6th grade when my mom heard me sing a little – reference past posts for dramatic play-by-play on that one).  I’ve never been in choir.  I’ve never sang in front of a friend or my husband.  I’m not claiming to be an amazing singer or the next American Idol (which I think I’m too old for now anyway ::sigh::), but I stood in a best friend’s house and sang in front of her and her husband and recorded it and posted it for anyone to hear/see.  I mean, there’s a 75% chance I’m hiding under a blanket right now until September, but….I did what I said I was going to do despite wanting to back out and hide my face so many times.  And I figured since I’m singing about Jesus, you really can’t knock me or you won’t get angel wings in Heaven.  Or a jewel in your crown, says my Grandma Linda.

I wouldn’t be me if I didn’t use a lot of words to describe how this all felt….

22 days into August I’m standing in a living room with a music stand singing in front of people and recording it.  I don’t even know how I got here?  22 days ago you couldn’t have paid me money to do that.  Plus, I had just won a jackpot in Vegas so I could have afforded to pay you money not to ask me to do it.  I am SO glad I did this goal this month.  Honestly, I was angry sometime around February/March just knowing I had announced I would do this goal.  As I’ve mentioned in past posts, I have learned a lot about how I react to fear….even if it’s in the form of playing poker for the first time in Vegas or singing in front of a best friend.  Fear can make you want to hide, it can waste a lot of time on “I’m not good enough” and “what if they think I’m dumb?” and it can sometimes make you angry because you’re masking that you really want to break down and cry and throw a tantrum like a child.

I had to remind myself 80 times before recording and posting this that no one really cares if I’m a good singer or not, but hopefully everyone is seeing me face a fear and inspired on some level to do the same in their lives.  That’s really what this blog is all about.  I don’t think Angela and I ever set out to falsely represent what real life looks like when trying new things – so you’ve seen my 4:45am collection of selfies back in January, you’ve seen her eat a turkey sandwich when she was eating vegan, you’ve seen me try new recipes that turn into green oatmeal, you’ve seen her go through a month of audition preparation, and now you’re seeing me be squirmy and fidgety and embarrassed and proud to sing and post it on YouTube.  I feel happy and want to hide all at the same time.

I’ll be sharing the 10 things I’ve learned from this experience next week.

If you’re interested in booking me for a gig or a recording contract, please contact my agent.

On a more personal note, I am dedicating this song and experience to my great aunt Jenny who passed away last year.  She used to sing praise songs in the living room while my Great Grandma played on the keyboard and I always thought her voice was amazing.  I shared this with Joe and Angela while we were recording and kept her in mind while I was singing.


In Christ Alone (plus some curse words)

Aug 14:  Oddly enough, my team at work put on a Talent Show for a Hunger Relief fundraiser, so I spent all day listening to my coworkers sing, dance, play piano, etc.  I sat in the front row during the Talent Show and gave so much credit to the people who put themselves out there and sang their hearts out.  I was really impressed with the talent of the people I work with everyday and I was encouraged to see that you just have to do it.  Everyone sounded different and there was a wide range of ability, but they were just brave and did it.  I mean, singing in front of people is one thing, singing in front of coworkers is another!  On the inside, I was thanking myself for not getting too crazy with this goal and committing to sing in this talent show!  My vocal abilities (or lack thereof) and professional life should probably stay separated. 

I practice “In Christ Alone” in the privacy of my own car on the way home from work without headphones because I left them in my gym bag.  I don’t like the way I sound when the noise of my YouTube video is quieter than my voice.

Aug 15:  It was our monthly Meals on Wheels Day followed by a visit/dinner with my in-laws, so my primary practice happened in between when I went to Whole Foods.  I sang “In Christ Alone” and messed up the same lines all 6 times I sang it.  Having 1 headphone in is the best way for me to practice on my own at this point.  That way I can still hear the YouTube video loud enough in one ear, but am not getting a false sense that I sound like the 90’s version of Mariah Carey by having a headphone in the other ear too.  Mariah did have some good years in there prior to that weird meltdown on MTV Live.

Aug 16:  My Sundays are normally spent doing yoga, eating at Northstar, and catching up on all things work related for the week.  Today was no exception but also included Chris and I getting some updated pictures together.  When you don’t have kids….your engagement photos are the last time you get cute couple/family photos together.  And then one day you look at them and realize you look so young in them and your hair is now long enough to warrant paying to have it styled at Charles Penzone’s and you have a friend whose a photographer so you end up posing awkwardly with long curly hair while in a sweater and statement necklace next to tall grass and benches at Inniswood Metro Park while you sweat in 85 degree weather.  That was our Sunday….and I loved it!  Random piece of advice not related to singing:  if you’re married and don’t have kids….get some new pics taken just because.  Don’t let your engagement pics be the last “official” pictures you do together.

My overall vibe on singing was kinda “eh” today so I tried to sing acapella in my car.  Never a good idea.

Aug 17:  Life is only about “In Christ Alone” at this point.  I sing it on the way to work and try to remind myself to print the lyrics when I get to work.

I work until 7pm and forget to print the lyrics.

I wonder if I’ll get to sing “Defying Gravity” again tomorrow?

Aug 18:  Tonight is my last formal singing lesson.  I’m going to be out of town next week so I had to do 4 weeks worth of lessons in 3 weeks, making tonight a double lesson (40 minutes in the computer lab and 40 minutes singing).  I was looking forward to the lesson since my “Defying Gravity” moment last week but started wondering how my day was going to go when I bought coffee at Tim Horton’s and the girl dropped my credit card and snapped it in half and my arm got closed in on my car window when I was trying to escape a giant yellow jacket (long story) and nearly broke my wrist.  But, I recovered quickly and I was at Michelle Tuesday Music School ready to do my first 20 minutes in the computer lab knowing I would be picking back up with a quiz on what I’ve learned from the last couple weeks.  When it said “review” I guess I thought it was like a pre-quiz, but “review” meant real quiz and I got a big fat D on it.  I could hear my teacher doing vocal warm ups with another student.  It was the same warm up she has me do.  I felt like she was cheating on me while I was clicking wrong answers on the computer.  I got so many things right on that review…or quiz….or review quiz…but couldn’t remember a single note that fell above or below the staff so I reverted back to my school days of going for speed of completion vs quality of work and I got a 66%.  I felt like a failure.  My broken credit card, sore wrist, and D average headed into the studio for 40 minutes of singing before I had planned to go back and face the computer lab again for the final 20 minutes.

I told my teacher that Angela and I had selected “In Christ Alone” as the song we would record this coming weekend (and yes, I’ll be posting it here on the blog) so we spent the time (after the warm up) practicing it.  It was awkward at first because I’m used to (“used to” meaning a whole week and a half) practicing with the version I found on YouTube which is faster and includes a guitar instead of piano.  I’ve also learned that you can have someone play the melody (which I believe means each note that you’re singing) or they can play…..what’s the word?…..well, the other part….which is basically like playing every 4th or 5th note (I’m butchering this description).  But, all you need to know is, in some cases I was singing and there wasn’t a note per word being played on the piano so that can be a little intimidating.  After muddling through it a couple times, we got on somewhat of a roll.  I do much better when someone is singing with me, but this did force me to sing by myself several times.

The main things I learned in the lesson that I wouldn’t have gotten just by singing at home or in my car were focusing on just emphasizing vowels in the words you’re singing and not consonants, how to breath correctly, and how to not hit the last sound of a word until the very end of the note.  I am also reminded about opening your mouth like you’re eating an apple vs opening it horizontally when you sing.  This requires you to sing louder which requires you to feel awkward which requires you to just get over it.

After the lesson I chit chatted about Gals With Goals with the teacher which cut into about 25% of my final lab time which I was fine with, and when I saw the lab assistant walking towards me (they were closing in about 15 minutes anyway) I tell her it’s fine and I’ll skip the second lab time.  I felt like I cheated a little bit, but I didn’t want everyone to have to wait on me and I still had the sting of the D.  Instead, I went into Angela’s studio and realized Chris must’ve rubbed off on me because he’s the type that follows up with teachers and professors when he misses things…and here I was drawing the staff and notes on Angela’s board asking her to explain what I missed.

My drawing/private tutoring with Angela

music drawing

Angela and I end up practicing for about 30 minutes which was great!  We practiced once with the YouTube video playing and then a few times where it was just us and the piano.  I felt really good about it and kept reminding myself that even if I didn’t sound great – I was WAY further along than I was 18 days ago just by the simple fact that I was even singing in front of someone!  I recorded all of our run throughs and reminded myself not to share a couple of them with anyone since we were singing “In Christ Alone” and Angela may have said a curse word or two when she messed up a note or word.  We talk logistics for how we’ll record ourselves on Saturday and we head out.

I decide to be brave and send the audio of Angela and I (sans curse words) to my Mom and Dad and then decide to play it for Chris when I get home.  My mom responded with “good job!!”  My Dad will probably see it in the morning so I’m still anxiously awaiting his response.  Chris said “it sounds great, a little pitchy in spots, but you did great.”  I dwell on the “pitchy” comment for 45 minutes while Chris continues telling me I’m better than I think I am.  I feel like an American Idol contestant.

So I have 3.5 days to perfect this song before we record it.  We’ll be recording at the music school and I’ll be setting up my phone to do a video and as of now I plan on posting on YouTube (if I even become the next Bieber…..I promise to stay grounded with the fame) and then sharing the link here.  I’m considering setting up a Gals With Goals YouTube account so we can spice up the ole blog with other videos in the future too!

After 18 days I have overcome my fear of singing in front of people on a basic level.  I’m still not ready to hop up and do a solo or anything, but I am comfortable singing with someone….in the privacy of a small music studio.  I care less about how I sound and more about how I feel while I’m singing or facing a fear.

I’m aware I’m not an amazing singer, but I’m proud of myself so far.


“I’m Defying Gravity…and You Can’t Pull Me Down”

Aug 10:  I know that I’m going to have to sing in front of Angela tomorrow – which is phase 2 of this goal.  Phase 1:  sing in front of teacher.  Phase 2:  sing in front of Angela.  Phase 3:  Record song and post for the world to hear.  Phase 4:  Shrivel up and die.  Phase 5:  Move on to September goal. I run through all 3 songs I posted about last time and re-realize I don’t really sound that good singing any of them.  I start praying Angela has alternate song options in mind.  I start getting excited/anxious for my lesson tomorrow.

Aug 11:  Today is officially my second formal singing lesson at Michelle Tuesday Music School (http://michelletuesday.com/).  I was actually looking forward to the lesson since last week and I knew I would finally meet my official teacher, Amanda, since she couldn’t be there last week (and I was excited because everyone kept telling me how awesome of a person she is) – and yes, I hate ending that sentence with “is.”  After a morning workout and a busy work day, I was lucky I even made it to the lesson on time.  I ran errands after work and came home and dozed off on the couch.  I woke up just in time to say a curse word and run to get my keys and purse and sprint out the door.  I pulled into the parking lot at 7:53pm and my lesson started at 8pm so I skipped the waiting and sweating in my car for 20 minutes thing I did last week.

I wasn’t smart enough to operate the self-serve sign-in tablet so the nice girl at the desk signed me in while I walked off with their stylus pen like I owned it.  I had my green folder in hand like all good students do, and this time I actually maintained my common sense and knew how to read my own name on the monitor to show I would be in studio 3 again.  I had approximately 3 minutes to feel like I was at a doctors appointment again as I referenced last time – waiting to get some sort of procedure that you dread that’s never as bad as you read about on google.  That feeling went away when Amanda presented herself and took me back to what I’m now calling “my studio.”

I gave the elevator pitch for the blog upon my entrance with “Hi, I’m friends with Angela, we have a blog, we try something new every month, singing lessons is my thing this month, I’m terrified to sing in front of people, and everyone says you are awesome.”  There was some shuffling around of a chair and pushing record on my phone and we jumped right in.  When a lesson is 20 minutes, you don’t want to waste 10 minutes on chit chat.

We did some Do, Re, Mi, Fa, So warm-ups followed by So, Fa, Mi, Re, Do’s.  I became musically dyslexic with So, Fa, Mi, Re, Do but I made it through.  Amanda pointed out the same thing my teacher from last week noticed which was my strong attempt to be quiet or reserved and she encouraged me to be louder or not just drop off on the last note.  I tend to do this right about the time they say “now you by yourself….” while continuing to play notes on the piano and nodding and smiling at me with encouragement.

After the warm up I realized Amanda’s voice is awesome, therefore, making her awesome all the way around.  She gave me similar tips to Sarah last time about wanting to open your mouth wide (vertically, not horizontally) and giving me tips like pretending I was opening my mouth to yawn or bite into an apple.  I kept thinking of how funny all the people in high school choir looked when they were singing, but it was because they actually knew what they were doing and opened their mouths like they were biting apples.  Plus, choir was like an underground thing in my mind in high school.  It’s like, one day everyone in high school choir performed for us and people I was really good friends with were standing before me in choir gowns singing semi-familiar songs and I didn’t even really know choir existed….let alone know they were in choir!  Like, when were they practicing?  Where did they get those robes?  And why didn’t anybody tell me about it?  Anyway, 15 years later (sidenote – my 15 year class reunion is coming up) I’m having my early 30’s version of high school choir.  So, after the warm up portion she asked me what song I wanted to sing.  I tell her I sang “Feed the Birds” last time but I was open to something else this time.  She asks if I have any musicals in mind and I tell her how last lesson I realized I had only seen Sound of Music and Mary Poppins – I did quickly say “…and I auditioned for Sound of Music in 6th grade and didn’t make it….so….maybe we shouldn’t do that one” (that scar runs deep, obviously).  I continue by saying “well, I’ve seen those and Wicked and I guess I always envisioned belting out “Defying Gravity” but….(voice trails because I feel stupid)….” and by the time I got done pretending I didn’t say that….she pulls out a Wicked music book.  I loved everything about that book and what was about to happen.

We sang “Defying Gravity.”  I sat beside her on the piano stool while it all went down.  My life was complete.

I was so happy.

I wondered if I was too old to pursue Broadway and how hard it would be to get the Elphaba make-up off after every show I’d likely be cast in.

I grab my phone and head to the computer lab, leaving my purse behind in the studio because personal belongings no longer matter.  I am a singer.

I hit the computer lab where I could not comprehend any notes that fell outside of the regular staff and started guessing and clicking on random answers until I heard the clapping and cheers that would play in my headset when I got one right.  I listened to a flute play notes and correctly answered when it asked me to identify if the notes went from high to low or low to high.  I was relieved when the lab assistant told me my time was up right when the final quiz was about to start.  It said the score would be recorded.  It reminded me of the so-called “permanent file” we all think we have that resides somewhere magic.  It supposedly holds all our quizzes, test scores, detentions, and parking tickets and measures how good of a person we are based on those things.  I didn’t want a poor score to go in my imaginary permanent life file and hoped I’d remember enough next week when I had to take the real quiz.  If Broadway doesn’t call before then.

Meanwhile, Angela and Joe were sitting in the back of the computer lab slurping on noodles while Angela would laugh at whatever Joe was saying.  I tell Joe that I hope he didn’t hear me in my singing lesson (secretly hoping he heard any good parts) and he said he didn’t….but he tells me I did a great job when he was on his way out.  I believed him.

The school shuts down, someone vacuums the lobby, and Angela and I go into studio #2 with intentions of picking a song that we will sing together before the month ends.  We limp our way through the 3 songs I posted in my last blog post.  Angela is playing the piano and singing and I am sweating and singing every other word.

We nix all 3 songs and decide on “In Christ Alone” singing the version done by Lauren Daigle:   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3ch6eXkQWU8

We decide we’ll record it in a week and a half.  I drive home feeling excited and realize I sang in front of a friend.

One thing I’ve noticed after 2 official lessons (which I semi-eluded to when recapping my first lesson) is how much I’m enjoying the experience of it all, as cheesy as that sounds.  It’s almost like I feel safe in that little studio.  I don’t have to worry about work, I don’t have to worry about if I’m in shape or not, my lesson starts at 8pm so I don’t have to worry about rushing from work, and I don’t have to worry if the one other person in there is judging me.  The 2 teachers I’ve had so far (and I’ll even throw Angela in there too) have been so encouraging that it’s actually fun.  What I was dreading for so long is actually fun!  I still fight getting down/angry/aggravated when I listen to the recordings of the lessons and realize I don’t sound that great, but I am so appreciative of how it makes me feel when I’m there that I’m not-so-sure I care about sounding bad.  Now, when I’m trying to record a video of Angela and I in a week in a half and sound bad and my outfit isn’t flattering and I am nervous….then all that enjoyable crap is out the window, but for now….I am strongly considering continuing on with singing or maybe piano lessons following this month.  Who knew?!

What I looked like in my mind while singing “Defying Gravity”

defying gravity

Aug 12:  I tried to sing “Defying Gravity” on the way to work with no music to assist.  It was a complete failure.  I shut that operation down immediately as to not taint yesterday’s high.

I sing “In Christ Alone” while listening to the YouTube video.  I realize I only know a few of the lyrics off the top of my head.  I try to remember day 1 of singing and work on keeping my shoulders and neck relaxed while I practice.

Aug 13:  I put 1 headphone in and played the “In Christ Alone” Youtube video on my phone while reading the lyrics off my iPad.  This way I could see the lyrics, hear the original well, and also hear myself.  I ran through it 4 times. I even upgraded and practiced at home instead of in my car.  You know, all while watching the window like a hawk so I knew if Chris was going to walk in and hear me.   There are a couple parts in the song (well, mainly all of it, but I’m giving myself a little credit) that are kind of like….scary sounding….but I will keep practicing.  I feel focused now that we’ve selected a song to record.  I also text my friend Jen (who has an amazing singing voice) to see if she wanted to join in the recording.

And in Wicked news….I sliced the audio down to about 7-10 seconds of me singing “Defying Gravity” with my teacher Amanda from 2 days ago and sent it to my parents, Chris, Jen, and Angela.  13 days ago, I would’ve never done such a thing!

This goal is stretching me and teaching me a lot about myself.

3 Songs I’m Ruining

Aug 5:  I have to pick a song for Angela and I to sing together since she said she’d record something with me before the end of the month.  We’ve exchanged an email or two on the subject but haven’t landed on a song yet.  I spend most of my drive to work listening to various praise songs trying to find one that sounds achievable.  I figure if you’re singing for the Lord, who can criticize, right?  I sing the first 45 seconds to a lot of songs before I realize I just sound bad…unless the volume is up really high.  So I just turn the volume up louder.  I now see why they say to do vocal warm ups (as if that was really going to help me at this point).  I’m still feeling an underlying excitement about the thoughts of Angela and I singing together though.  I’m still on a high from my first real lesson ever last week and wonder if we’ll record something at her house where her and Joe teach lessons or if it’ll be at the school where she teaches/I’m a student.

Aug 6:  I found a hymn song that sounded doable.  I nail the lines I know (with headphones in) and mumble through the ones I don’t.  I realize what Angela told me about, most songs are just repeats of the same notes over and over.  I can hardly wait until my lesson next week.  I start wondering if I should take piano too.

Aug 7:  There’s no better time to practice singing than when you’re stuck in traffic going to Whole Foods.  I spent 50 minutes in stop-and-go traffic belting out the sweet sounds of Pink along with the hymn song I recently found – I debate back and forth which would sound better with Angela and I singing together.  I envision me sitting next to her on a piano stool while we sing.  I had headphones in so I couldn’t hear myself, but based on how good the sounds were in my ears, I’m pretty sure I nailed both songs!  And I ate a healthy dinner!  What can’t I do?!

Aug 8: My main “rehearsal” space at this point is my car.  I can’t risk Chris walking in on my vocal warm-ups.  I did some of the vocal warm ups I remembered from a previous YouTube video and from my first official singing lesson ever in my life.  I realize I haven’t practiced “Feed the Birds” all week.  Ah!  I go to our annual block party where I learn a neighbor majored in voice/theater.  I feel myself getting overly confident in my singing skills but I don’t care.  I’ve convinced myself I’m really good and imagine singing with friends and neighbors alike at upcoming bonfires.  If only I still had my guitar from college….

Aug 9:  I still owed Angela a song pick, ugh, I should’ve been a little more prepared.  Day 9 and I don’t know what song will be my big singing debut and we haven’t even practiced together.  Or ever heard each other sing 1 note.  All I’m working with is the fact that she said she’s also an alto.  I hope her little alto voice is louder and more powerful than mine and it drowns me out.

I decide to play Chris the 3 songs I’m considering.  And…..the fear is back!  I started feeling antsy just playing songs for him even though I wasn’t going to be singing them in that moment.  I was just imagining him imagining me singing them and I was already embarrassed.  I play him the 3 songs and he tells me which he thinks would probably be easier compared to the others and I take off running to the bathroom with a stomach ache.  This is real life people.

I was closing in on the time that I needed to leave for yoga so I decide there’s no more time for dilly-dallying around, so I email Angela every possible day/time I could get together this month to practice along with the 3 songs.

I put one headphone in while I’m driving to yoga and play all 3 songs and sing to each one – leaving the other ear free so I could actually hear myself.  I sounded horrible.  I decided I hate this goal and facing fears is dumb.

The 3 songs I’m currently murdering one note at a time but that are up for recording consideration are as follows:

“Lovely” by Sara Haze –  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fyfMZSaw0i0

“You+Me” by Pink – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nNnBcCk7eDA

“Pass Me Not, O Gentle Savior” – Red Mountain Church – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3cnL_CY_sRI

Here’s to my second week.  My next real lesson is in 2 days.  Lord….work some magic in my vocal chords!



Face Your Fears and Feed the Birds

My goal for August is to take singing lessons and (I’m hesitant to even say this next part) ultimately record a video of myself singing (with a friend, I’m not committing to a solo of any sorts) before the end of the month.  Here’s a little background and prep I did before August 1.

My #1 fear in life (other than the dark, scary movies, and swimming in the ocean) is singing in front of someone.  Most people are scared of things like heights or public speaking but I am terrified to sing in front of anyone.  This goes so far that I don’t even sing in church for fear that someone will hear me, like God, and then He won’t let me in Heaven.  Well, He’ll probably let me in Heaven, but definitely won’t put me in any sort of angel choir.  I spend most worship songs praying I won’t have the fear to sing anymore.  I’ve never been in choir.  I’ve never sang in front of anyone – with the exception of ridiculously high notes to be silly…leading to my friend, Matt, saying that I have “a high note only dogs can hear.”  I don’t even sing happy birthday when I’m in a group of people who are singing happy birthday to someone – that’s why my own birthday is the best, no pressure to sing for myself.  I have literally sang (“sang” sounds like bad English?) in front of someone 1 time in my entire life and it was so scarring that I obviously remember the whole experience.

In 6th grade, I decided on a whim that I wanted to audition for the Sound of Music (go figure).  I told my mom about it a few hours before the audition, she took me to Walmart to get a new dress, she drove me to the audition, and there was my worst nightmare – I had to sing with someone who was playing the piano while my mom sat on the other side of the curtain.  I don’t know how I thought I’d play the part of Briggita or Louisa and sing in front of my new stage mom, Maria, if I wouldn’t even sing a note in front of my real mom, Lisa.  I sing what they ask, I am humiliated, my mom says ‘that wasn’t half bad,’ we rent the Sound of Music and discuss what part I’ll get.  I didn’t get a call back.

As for prep for this goal….the last week of July, I stopped by Michelle Tuesday’s Music School in Gahanna (where Angela is a manager and teacher) and signed up for singing lessons.   I signed up for 1 month worth of lessons which includes 1 lesson per week for 4 weeks.  Due to vacation, I had to sign up for 3 weeks worth of lessons with the last one being a double.  The lessons are 40 minutes long with 20 minutes of singing and 20 minutes of music theory via computer lessons.  I register.  I receive a receipt that says “private singing lessons.”  I feel very snobby/real housewives-esque.  I decide to be open minded and willing to do whatever crazy exercises and sounds this month brings.

Aug 1:  My first official lesson doesn’t start for a few days and I didn’t think singing in the car really qualified – so I turned to YouTube, of course.  I consulted with Angela first and she recommended some vocal warm up videos.  Like some of my other “new thing”-type of goals, I decided to commit at least 30 minutes a day to this adventure.  I ended up practicing for an hour!  Fortunately, Chris was playing a marathon of softball games so I had the house to myself.  I found a YouTube video by a guy who led me through body warm ups – this included things like raising your shoulders and dropping them, small coughs so you can feel when your diaphragm tenses, among other things that are supposed to allow you to relax your neck and shoulders.  I liked the guy so much that I ended up just continuing several of his videos.  Apparently, everyone must like him because his videos had over 3 million views!  The second and third videos had me doing lip rolls (keep mouth closed but blow air out of your mouth between your lips (ugh, this is probably the first of many weird descriptions this month)).  He had me go from high to low notes, low to high, etc.  If nothing else, this served as a way to get comfortable just making musical (or something) sounds in general.  I am SO reserved with singing that even humming, lip rolling exercises, etc can feel awkward, even when home alone.  I did record a video of myself doing some of these exercises and sent them to Angela posing questions about why I’m doing this.  “This” being loose and applying to the whole darn thing.  She warns me about something called vocal sirens and how fun they’ll be. 

I finished with a lesson given by a lady whose voice sounded like one of those people who would pick up if you called one of those phone numbers they print on the cards they hand out in Las Vegas….if ya know what I’m sayin’.  In any case, she had a 15 minute video singing different notes with the piano.  I would actually do this lesson again.  It was a good warm-up (for what performance, I have no idea) but I felt like my skill level was about a 6….okay….let’s be honest…I can be overly confident sometimes…I was feeling like a 7, possibly a 7.5…had I been showered and not in sweat pants…I would’ve been an 8.5.  I felt so good about myself I even recorded the audio and sent a sound bite to Angela, Chris, my parents, and another friend.  I am literally 60 minutes in and deciding I don’t care about looking dumb anymore.

Practicing body and vocal warm ups.  I’m not sure why they said to put your fingers on your cheeks, but I didn’t ask questions.  I was also gazing out the window to make sure no neighbors were close enough to our house to hear me.

singing day 1

Aug 2:  I decide to listen to the audio recording I did the day before with the lady with the “Vegas voice” and try to repeat the exercises.  I do this in my car.  I forgot my headphones so it was hard to hear my phone and overall not that productive.  I think having headphones in while driving is illegal anyway but I haven’t confirmed.

Aug 3:  I practiced in the car again for 30 minutes while driving.  I did the lip roll exercises again and tried singing a song without any music.  I didn’t know what I was doing besides murdering perfectly good songs.  My lessons start tomorrow.  I’m lost until then.

Aug 4:  The day of my first singing lesson ever.  The moment I have avoided my entire life.  The time has come.  Flashbacks of the Sound of Music audition linger.  This goal is about facing my fears (and the possible unveiling of a hidden talent with a record deal and a tour bus and entourage).  The day was busy from 5:45am spinning to back to back meetings and leaving work at 6:30pm.  I think God steered me to a busy schedule today because I didn’t have 1 free minute to think about the singing lessons or come up with excuses to bail on the lesson, this goal, this blog, and everything I ever set out to do.  I had 10 minutes by the time I got home to change clothes and head out.  I opted for an organic fruit smoothie type of drink because I was afraid if I scarfed down the pre-made meals I had in the fridge I’d end up with hiccups.  I wondered if I was supposed to be drinking tea.  That’s a singer thing to do, right?

I was nervous before I even left the house and the whole way there I was swaying between ‘I’m doing it, who cares if I sound bad, this isn’t a big deal, what if I’m actually good?’ to ‘why did I say I’d do this?  what if I’m horrible?  what if Angela can hear me because I know she’ll be there teaching.  why didn’t I wear a scarf to cover my neck if it gets red?  what if people think I’m dumb?’  Ah, the ole “what if they think I’m dumb” trap that stops us oh so many times!  Whoever “they” is.  I decide to ignore “they” and carry on.

Flashback to the end of last week – Angela invited me to an adult recital at the music school.  It was for adult students, it brought a small yet non-threatening crowd, and it showed me that other people are just as nervous/putting themselves out there as me, so I will say my nerves were a little less than they would’ve been without that.  The school itself is a very non-threatening environment which is super important to me and probably any other adult student!

Anyway, I show up and tell them it’s my first lesson tonight.  The person working the front desk asks me what color folder I want.  I choose green because my mom always says green means money…and I just recently won a jackpot.  I’m not sure what goes in the folder or why I need it, but I loved having a folder and being a student of any kind.  She tells me I’ll be in studio 3 and then I take my own advice of asking questions when you don’t know what’s happening or you feel dumb – and so I launch into “so is she going to come get me, or do I just go to studio 3 at 8:00, or does she come get me, or do I just go to studio 3 at 8:00?”  Studio 3 was visible from where we were standing so it’s not like it was rocket science, but I’m facing my life’s biggest fear….no detail can be missed.  She tells me either is fine.  I decide I’ll wait until they come get me.

As I sat in the lobby I looked at the TV the girl at the front desk pointed me to which had all the current lessons going on/upcoming.  I saw my name on the screen yet lost all common sense and couldn’t figure out how to read it.  You’d think “8:00pm” and “Brooke – voice” being on the same line would be obvious, but when your body is overcome with stress and fear you really just can’t function anymore.  I keep reading my name as Brooke Ignet on the TV and think how naked it looks without Hocker at the end because I only gave them my maiden name since that’s what it says on my credit card.  My own name suddenly looked so foreign.

It felt like I was in a doctors office lobby.  Every time a door would open or someone would come around the corner it was like I was just waiting for a nurse to say “BROOKE” very loudly and then weigh me with all my heaviest clothes and shoes on.  Meanwhile, an adorable little girl in the lobby was hiding from her dad.  She felt like tucked behind my chair was the perfect hiding spot.  I wanted to join her.

At 8pm on the dot the nicest person ever named Sarah appeared in the lobby.  She is subbing for who is my soon-to-be teacher, Amanda.  Sarah shakes my hand and takes me into studio 3.  Simultaneously, Angela appears from thin air as she was teaching a lesson across the hall.  I instruct her in a mom-like tone that she is to be nowhere near studio 3 – she gets it – she gives me the reassuring/non-threatening look not to worry.  I appreciate that about her.  I don’t like people who torture each other or pull pranks.  I hate pranks.  Angela says “did you tell her what you’re doing” (referring to this blog) and Sarah the teacher says “oh, I read your blog.”  Sarah….if you’re out there in the blogosphere, I’m giving you a virtual high five.  Yesssssss!  So, I got to bypass the back story of the goals and the blog, I even left out the part about my aspirations to be Briggita or Louisa and we dove right in.  I’m feeling comfortable and happy.  Maybe I can do this!

Sarah starts with warm-ups that sound like laughing but that perfectly match the notes she’s playing on the piano.  Well, she perfectly matches the notes on the piano.  I sound like someone trying to semi-laugh/not have anyone hear them.  She moves into other warm-ups that include singing things like “ni neh nah no noo” (or something like that).  She sings it first, I sing it with her, I convince myself we’re in perfect harmony, I suddenly don’t feel stupid in the slightest.  Occasionally I’d panic on the inside when she’d say “…and now just you…” signaling that I should sing the next bit by myself.  It was awkward but she was so positive and motivating that she never flinched when the sounds coming out of my mouth were squeaky and way off.  She convinced me I was great and I believed her.

10 minutes in and I’d go as far as saying I was enjoying it.  The fear was melting away and practically non-existent.  I felt comfortable in our little studio room and suddenly forgot anyone could possibly hear me outside the door.

She tells me I’m an alto.  I begin to feel like I have an official place in the music world.

As we get ready to move into singing a song, she tells me she has a Disney book, Broadway book, and something that has to do with Italian opera with a fancy word I forget.  I tell her Disney sounds too kid-like, the Italian thing sounded like too much/something I’d need a fancier outfit for, so I land on Broadway.  I’m envisioning nailing “Defying Gravity” from Wicked by 8:20pm.  We land on “Feed the Birds” from Mary Poppins.  Secondary option was something from Sound of Music.  Been there.  Failed that.  She tells me that we’ll just focus on the notes by singing “la” instead of the real words.  I keep thinking of the 33 years I’ve heard my mom sing this song in a combo of a British accent/high note/creepy/humorous way.  I decide not to tell Sarah that part and follow her lead with the “la’s.”  By 8:17 I break the news that I keep forgetting it because I don’t know how to read music and my attempts at memorizing the notes were failing me in the final leg of my ‘facing my fears’ quest.  Sarah makes me feel like I’m doing a great job and I start to wonder if we should be real life friends.

The singing part of the lesson comes to a close and I tell her how she has made this experience 10x better than I expected.

I make a mental note to text my mom about “Feed the Birds.”

I hit “done” on my audio recording (I recorded the whole lesson).

I am elated with my accomplishment and debate hugging Sarah and doing a selfie.  I follow her to the computer lab instead.

Another girl set me up on the computer/headphones where I’d be doing a 20 minute music theory lesson.  If I’m in this thing, I’m in this thing.  I want to learn it all.  She shows me how to sign in and tells me the password.  I think about how Chris and his masters degree in Computer Science would disapprove of their simplistic password and lack of special characters.

I learn about a music staff (the 5 lines), I am given a refresher on the ole “Every Good Boy Does Fine” and “Face” and am introduced to “All Good Boys Do Fine” and “All Cows Eat Grass.”  I don’t remember the Tipp City elementary school introducing those last 2 to me, but I got 10 out of 10 on all the exercises they had me do.  I learned about a treble clef and a bass clef which looks like a sidways frowny face.

I finish up the computer work and am greeted by Angela on the way out.  I am the last lesson in the building and make a joke about closing the place down.  My demeanor walking out is a 180 from walking in.  I tell Angela and the girl at the front desk that I faced my fear and should probably get a tattoo of a music note now.

I listen to the recording of the lesson all the way home.  I realize I sound horrible.  I realize I love Sarah even more for not making me feel stupid.

I feel amazing.  Not because I sounded great in the slightest, but because I faced a huge fear!  Now, I’m not saying I’m ready to post audio of my lesson or sing in front of someone who isn’t my new bestie named Sarah yet….but….I did it!  There’s still plenty of time left in the month for the rest.

I will say, it was nice to just put on normal clothes and go do something that wasn’t work or working out.  An unexpected benefit!