Learning to Sing – Confidence and the Callous Word

This is why I teach people to sing.


On Monday, I started teaching the first of the singing class series at Howard Community College.


As part of the intro, I ask the students to tell me their names and their singing history.


One of the students, an older lady (I’d say early 70s easily) told the following story.


“I was born in England. I met my husband there when I was a teenager. He was a singer and musician and he said he had perfect pitch. We fell in love. I sang a lot in choirs in and in school before I met him, but regardless, I felt a little nervous singing in front of him. He was always critical of singers and had high standards and that scared me some. After a few years of knowing him, I finally got up the courage to sing in front of him. After I finished, he said nothing. I had expected some sort of small compliment, even if he were to just be polite. He said nothing. So, I said, ‘I’ve been told I should get some vocal training.’ He replied, ‘With a voice like that, you should let it run wild. Training won’t help it.’ I was devastated and I stopped singing. I have not sung in front of other people and certainly not him since that day. And I decided to take this class because it’s time to sing again.”


We all applauded her decision to try again and I talked a good bit about how much our confidence in our singing voices can be shaken by a callous word.


Later that evening, as part of the class, I wanted to listen to her sing to make sure she was applying the technique I wanted her to apply.


“Are you willing to sing a little by yourself?” I asked.


“Not by myself, no.”


“Ok. I’ll sing with you.”


“All right. If you sing with me, I’ll try it.”


We sang “Sing and Rejoice” which is the song I was teaching them in order for them to apply the techniques we were learning. She and I sang it together a few times. Each time through the song (it’s short), I sang more and more quietly until I was just mouthing the words along with her. She sang, by herself, and it was a sweet and glorious sound.


After she was done, one of the other students said, “You can *sing*!”


We all applauded. Tears sprang in her eyes. All she said was “thank you.”


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