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Sunday, March 01, 2015

Singing Out Loud

 (photo by Robert Jan Ridder, aka Sharif)

Those of you who know me in real life, know that I have had a conflicted history with singing. I sang all through elementary school, high school, and college, in choirs and in school musicals, in which I had lead roles with solos.  My mother used to call me "Ethel Merman" because I could belt out a song to the last row.  In college, I loved being in the University was a place for learning so much about music and singing, and making friends.

 In my final year at college, I learned something terrible had happened to a new friend of mine, a young man I tutored in the evenings at my apartment (and yes, all I did was tutor him in composition, because he was a seminarian).  I think we felt drawn to each other because both of us grew up with alcoholic parents, and we talked of that.  Then, soon after I graduated, I found out that he had been raped by my choir director--another thing on top of many that made me, for many years, see the world as a very bad place.  After that, I stopped singing: my voice would catch in my throat.  I could only think of my friend and how shattered he was, and how betrayed so many people felt.

Fast forward to my life in Santa Cruz:  I already struggled with self-esteeem and did not know how to just outright reject stupid and insensitive comments.  I was told I "sang like a crow" and was mocked because I have an alto voice (actually, I am a second soprano and can sing soprano tolerably well).  M. tried so hard to help me sing again, but I think he did not know how to go about it in a non-intimidating way (the sing-it-yourself Messiah is not quite the venue for a person with singing anxiety to tackle at first).  Plus...I simply could not sing around him, at all.  Something made my voice just wither in his presence, because I was self-conscious, which I think made him very sad...I think still to this day that he would have loved to have been the one to coax my voice out.  He did help me understand music and singing in valuable ways.

 Then in 2013, I found my incomparable voice teacher, Ronda, and after much work (and regularly singing through tears during this past grieving year), I gradually began to grow comfortable singing again.  Finally I had a breakthrough a few months ago: I sang in front of the group and my teacher took me aside after and said, "Whoever shamed you about your voice, you cannot take that in ever again.  You have a rich and absolutely gorgeous singing voice."

Slip over to my folkloric bellydance troupe, Dancers of the Crescent Moon.  We have been incorporating singing into some of our dances (which are choreographies and songs from a wonderful dancer who has passed on).  One of the troupe members, a musician, heard me sing and told me I had a gorgeous singing voice.  For the first time, I really took that compliment to heart (I mean, after struggling with it for twenty years, I might as well).

So, long story short, the picture here is of me, performing with my troupe at Don Quixote's International Music Hall, where just a few years ago, I was assaulted while watching a concert, and my life fell apart.  But here I am now, at the same place, performing with my troupe, safe and sound, and singing with my full heart to the very last row, without any fear at all.