I remember sitting in front of the T.V. as a child, watching American Idol. I loved hearing so many beautiful voices, and I always wished that mine sounded like theirs did. As an eight-year-old girl, I certainly couldn’t belt like all of the talented men and women I heard on the radio, but it didn’t stop me from trying. When I was younger, singing was a pastime, but certainly not one that I took seriously. The realm of rock stars seemed too far away to be a reality.
In fifth grade, I began participating in musical theater. I tried out for the play, only to realize how weak and small my voice was. After hearing countless female singers with higher ranges, I assumed that was how a girl should sing, and I wouldn’t unlearn this stereotype until a year later. The audition left me with nothing to go by, but my director’s advice to work on my lower range.
I must briefly discuss my love affair with rock music, in order to explain everything that would follow. One day, fourteen-year-old me, was sitting in the car with my father, when an Evanescence song came on the radio. Amy Lee’s voice was strong and powerful, yet she possessed an elegance to her voice. I immediately knew that I wanted to sound exactly like she did. I spent countless hours singing in my room to music from "Fallen," and "The Open Door." I modeled my own voice after Lee’s. I became passionate about finding my voice, and spent my waking hours trying to find out how to sound better. I read article after article, on how to improve, but none of it made a difference. I was able to strengthen my voice, but I still possessed little to no technique.
I remained a shower singer, exclusively, until I joined my high school’s chorus in my sophomore year. Much to my surprise, my chorus director placed me as a soprano. At first, I was contemptuous, but upon further exploration I realized that my range was much wider than I had previously believed. I learned to breathe properly and develop my range and tone. More importantly, I eliminated the word ‘can’t’ from my vocabulary. I learned that the only thing holding me back was myself. My greatest realization was that I must open my mind before I could effectively use my instrument.
Music became a living and breathing thing for me. It was no longer the two-dimensional people on TV or the faceless voices from the radio. Music lived inside of me, and in the people around me. Suddenly, notes became my alphabet, and harmony was my language. All of the research I had done on the human voice was finally contextualized.
Simultaneously with my increased vocal understanding, I was learning more about musical culture. I discovered new artists and bands every time I opened my laptop. Vocalists became my closest confidants. They articulated everything that I felt, and in a way that I understood. All I had to do was sing along, and I felt that I had a place where I belonged. Names like Josh Ramsay, Gerard Way, and Taylor Momsen, would make their way into my everyday vocabulary. I began attending concerts and using my voice to scream back the lyrics that I loved so much. I met people and made personal connections with many other musicians and singers.
Singing has empowered me in so many ways. I now write my own music and sing in my free time. I still participate in musical theater and choruses, but I use my voice for so many reasons. I sing to encourage, to express, to understand, and to feel. I sing because it is a mechanism for me to experience emotion. The excitement of performing gives me chills, I never smile wider than when I sing with people I love, I always choose the music over the tears, and it’s much less expensive to sing rather than breaking things when I’m angry. However, I believe that my voice is not only for myself, I am able to effect those around me. Whether I am healing, encouraging, or creating with, I aspire to touch the lives around me with music.