Updated: May 25, 2021
When last we met, I was about to take over the choral world with my amazing voice, right? Section leader, Choir President, Student Conductor, girlfriend of the cute tenor - it was all mine for the taking.
Then my voice got hoarse and wouldn’t go back to normal. Pretty soon, I’d open my mouth and no sound would come out. Worse, sound WOULD come out, and it was NOT pretty. My voice instructor sat me down and gently suggested I see an ENT. the results weren’t great: I had a pre-nodules condition.
Basically, my vocal cords were inflamed from incorrect and overuse due to late training on bad technique. Apparently, just singing loudly all the time however you want isn’t always the best approach, even if every teacher you’ve ever had encourages you to do it so the other girls could follow you. My prescription? Vocal rest, steroids, and speech pathology. I had to relearn how to talk - from scratch.
I wish i could say i did all those thing and life went back to normal - but it didn’t. I dutifully drove myself out to Fremont every week for speech work. I tried not to sing scream or whisper, but everything I did just put more strain on my cords. It was my Senior year and I wasn’t going to be able to do much of anything. My choir teacher was merciful and instead of kicking me to the curb, she kept me on as section leader and all the rest but instead of competing as usual in solo festival and state honor choir, she had me accompany the other vocalists and teach them their solos. It absolutely destroyed me.
...or did it?
Yeah, I couldn’t sing - but I could play. Nope, I couldn’t hit a high note - but I could explain to other students how to do it. I couldn’t produce healthy sound but dang it, i could teach the basses their line whist playing the accompaniment. And for the next 15 years, that what I did - I taught others. I became the person behind the music: the accompanist who taught all the soloists their parts, helped them overcome their vocal challenges, and secretly cried every once and awhile that I couldn’t be the one in front. I learned how to conduct choirs and started subbing for our church choir director.
It was rough at first, but I quickly found my feet and discovered I truly enjoyed the beautiful dance that is choral conducting. I spend countless hours with other musicians, listening, learning, and eventually leading. I was mentored by amazing women who saw in me something I never saw in myself and gave me opportunities to direct, choreograph, conduct, and eventually, formally teach, and for this I will always be grateful. I started teaching piano and voice to 6 or 7 students in the Pacific Northwest area in which I lived with my husband and four children and discovered something about myself; I was a teacher. So I figure it was time to finish what I’d alway meant to do...at 38, I decided to complete my music degree.