Give it Light

What is calling you?

What are you waiting for?

How many years will pass you by?

…Fifteen years ago, I was working in musical theatre, auditioning, performing, singing, dancing, and teaching.

And then I stopped.

I buckled down to pay the bills with an office job; I went back to school.

The years flew by, and one day I realized that my musical life was stored in a large heavy box, lodged behind stacks of other heavy boxes in the darkest corner of our basement.

And those Minimalists would tell me that, if I hadn’t opened the box in the last fifteen years, it was time to chuck that box into a dumpster.

Then, a few weeks ago, just beneath the duct tape stretched across the cardboard flaps labeled “my musical heart,” the box cracked open, beaming one small pinpoint of light.

A choir festival…

The invitation reminded me of my choir festivals from high school. There would be three days of intense rehearsal and then a concert on the fourth day.

A summer choir festival! It sounded like the perfect opportunity to see how I liked singing with a choir again—a short commitment, and, here was the key: no audition required.

I signed up.

And then I agonized over my decision.

My brain protested and thought of every reason why it was a bad idea: It was a full-weekend commitment, I wasn’t sure I remembered how to read music or harmonize, I wasn’t sure I even liked choir music, and, oh yeah—it had been fifteen long years since I had sung in public.

I had to talk myself through dread and anxiety right through the drive to the first rehearsal, walking into the building, and putting on my name tag.

I was barely coordinated enough to pry open the metal tab on my mustard-yellow packet of music—but whether or not I was ready, here I was.

The conductor got right down to business. We warmed up and quickly transitioned to learning our first piece of music.

…When I am nervous, my voice gets stuck in my throat and comes out as a muted squeak. I had to breathe deep and stay focused on the conductor and blending in with the people around me.

Luckily, my fellow altos were friendly and kind. Most of them had sung with the group before.

After the first rehearsal, I still wasn’t convinced that singing with a choir was the solution to my vocal nerves and distress. It was only my determination to meet my commitments that made me return for the second rehearsal.

And then…on the third day, my heart opened. I knew I had made the right decision.

It was the sound of rehearsal (my favorite sound!)—the sound of people singing, blending, and supporting each other—

It was the sound of the language of music—like traveling back to my homeland and reconnecting with family…familiar and heartwarming—

Pianissimo

Decrescendo

Eighth notes, quarter notes, and a sixteenth—

Breath

Phrasing

Rest

It took me three days to acknowledge that music is not only good for my soul, it is critical for my soul’s survival.

…The fourth day wasn’t any easier, though. It was Concert Day, and my hands were so sweaty, I spent most of my energy trying not to drop my binder…but I sang. I had learned the music better than I had expected. I harmonized, and I blended. For the first time in years, I felt part of something beautiful and transcendent.

***

…If there is something in your life that you want to try for the first time or try again, I encourage you to take the small step.

Push past the fear and dread—

Listen to the voice in your heart and give it light.

It is never too late.

Starting Again

I was a theatre major in college, and my main love was musical theatre. I had some success early in my career: summer stock, regional theatre, and a small East Coast tour. The full time jobs were a dream for me, and summer stock was the best training. We’d start rehearsal at 9 a.m. for one show, and we’d perform another show at night. With the children’s theatre or a matinee, we’d perform over eight shows a week. Performing on stage became second nature to me.

I got married in my late twenties, and as I settled down with a full time corporate job, my theatre career fizzled out. The years blurred by, and one day I realized that, not only had I not performed on stage in several years, but the idea filled my chest with dread.

My family used to ask me to sing for them at the holidays, but with my new stage fright, I couldn’t breathe. My knees would shake, and my voice would stick in my throat.

By my late thirties, I found I was mourning a career and a love I hadn’t planned to leave behind.

When I was a young, struggling actress, I had read The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron. The quote that stuck with me was as follows:

“But do you know how old I will be by the time I learn to really play the piano/act/paint/write a decent play?”

Yes…the same age you will be if you don’t.

So let’s start.

Julia Cameron, The Artist’s Way

 

This quote stayed with me fifteen years later. I needed to start again. I didn’t know what it meant, but even though it had been several years, I couldn’t give up that part of my life permanently. Continue reading