Sing a New Song
December 8, 2006
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Kids love to sing. Whether it's the random sing-song of what they're doing or going to do ... or think their imaginary friends are doing - or if it's singing the McDonald's jingle in the car as they drive past the cholesterol arches - or singing holiday songs ... there's just no doubt that kids love to sing.

I can remember a particular game my sister and my mom and I used to play all the time when J and I were small. Mom would start humming a song and my sister and I would try to guess which song it was. The person who guess correctly first got to hum a song and have the others guess. It was a very fun game, but by the age of three, my sister was darn good at it. I was seven and I thought I should always beat my baby sis, so I didn't take it too well when I realized that Mom and I could guess her songs much quicker than anyone could guess the ones I hummed. And that's when Mom told me I couldn't hum anymore ... I had to sing lalalala.

Well, I did have the allergies from hell and my nose was always stuffed up as a kid. I had allergy shots once a week, a slew of medications to gag down, and still, if I had a single day without a stopped up nose, that was a freaking HUGE star.pngstar.png of a day! So, it did make sense that humming was probably never going to be my forte.

Like most little kids, though, I adored music class in school - if we were actually singing good music, that is. And I loved to sing the minor songs of Halloween with my friends at school. (Anyone remember this one: "Old Abram Brown is dead and gone, we'll never see him more ... he used to wear a big brown cape, all buttoned down before" ??)

So, one day Julie, the older girl across the street, and I were singing "Jingle Bells" for whatever odd reason. (It was summer.) Julie, in one of her really bossy moments, was leading a small group of us. She cocked her hands on her hips, turned her head to the side and looked me straight in the eye.

"You can't sing."

My jaw hit the St. Augustine grass. "I can too!"

We sang some more ... but she stopped us mid-song. Pointed at me. "YOU CAN'T SING."

Apparently having a wee bit of a sensitive moment, I tried very hard not to burst into tears ... and I ran home to tell my mommy. (Hey, I was seven, darnit. That's what you do at seven. Well, providing you don't pop the other kid in the mouth ... but she had an older brother ....)

"Mom, Julie said I can't sing!"

Mom, ever the comforter, says, "Well, sing something for me."

I couldn't believe it. I thought moms were immediately supposed to back you up on the important things in life. But, well, okay. I could take it. I would show Julie ... I would show everyone.

And I began singing "Jingle Bells."

Mom got a funny look on her face, stopped me and told me to start over. This time she let me get all the way through the song. When I finished, I looked at her expectantly. I already knew that my sister's voice was better than mine. But I was all right. I mean, I wasn't going to be a rock star, but I could sing all right.

"You can't carry a tune," Mom said and went back to preparing for dinner.

I was shocked. Here was something I shared at school and at home ... something I did at church ... nearly everywhere I went ... and apparently I sucked.

It was a devastating blow for me.

I tried to not play the guess-the-song game anymore. I was terribly jealous of my sister's joyous singing everywhere she went. I began whisper-singing in church ... and if I forgot myself and actually sang at a normal volume, Mom usually elbowed me and told me to hush.

But I kept trying. As I got older, I practiced with the radio. And then my cassette tapes and vinyl LPs. But always quietly and alone in my room.

I went out for the Texas Girls Choir in ... hmm, either fifth or sixth grade ... and my mother was just appalled when she found out I had signed up for auditions. She gave me that horrendous pitying look and tried to talk me out of it.

But the deal was this: I didn't believe her so much any more. I was scared that she was right ... but she was wrong about so very many things, that I thought maybe, if I could quit being so scared about it, I could prove to her that she was wrong about this as well.

Sadly, after Mom's "pep" talk (consisting of trying to talk me out of this because I was just going to get hurt), I was so utterly terrified at the tryouts that I couldn't really do more than whisper. The vocal coach tried to get me to actually sing ... but it was a foregone conclusion. I just wasn't quite strong enough to shrug off all the weight Mom had piled onto my shoulders.

I did join the school choir in sixth grade ... enjoyed our nine weeks of choir in seventh grade (we didn't have a real elective ... just nine weeks of one thing and then nine weeks of something else). I sang in the shower -- if no one else was home. I sang with my guitar lessons and during practice. But by the end of seventh grade, I refused to sing where anyone could hear me at all.

The past few years, however, I've learned a lot about singing. I've listened to our church choir as it grew from just 6 people to some 20 or more. And after about two years worth of urging, I finally gave up and joined the choir. I'm still terribly unsure of myself ... but I can see now where a lot of those early issues were coming from.

One, my singing voice is in the tenor range ... and my mother truly expected me to be a soprano. So when she played a note out of my range on the piano ... of course I couldn't hit it. But that didn't mean I couldn't carry a tune. Two, I do have something of a falsetto which can reach soprano ... but it's a very soft voice and if I try to push that with any kind of projection or real volume ... ewww ... major suckage and cracking.

It's been a kind of amazing thing for me to be in choir this year. When our choir director plays the tenor part and I know that I'm square on the notes (except once we starting going above middle C ... sketchy territory there!) ... the pride and the pleasure is just ... I dunno. Something I never thought I would have. Of course, after being picked on all those years, I'm sure every criticism and suggestion given to the tenors is directed at me alone ... but I'm getting over that. I've got a lot more confidence about it.

And really, the biggest part of that was realizing that when I sing within my range instead of fighting to sing the range that someone else expects of me ... things go a lot better.

Funny how long it took me to come to that conclusion. In every other aspect of my life, I've always opted to be myself and not even attempt to be whatever it was other people thought I should be. I don't know why I had to fight so hard to make my voice my voice instead of someone else's. But I'm glad I did ... glad I finally got around to taking that risk.

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Posted by Red Monkey at December 8, 2006 12:04 AM | Struggles | | StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble |


Dave Dragon said:

I too used to sing with my children when they were little. I taught them folk songs in English, Spanish and German and they loved it.
It became the standard entertainment when ever we we in the car instead of the radio.

My Daughter has continued the tradition with my Granddaughter and at 4 she has excellent language skills developing and improving all the time.

Dave Dragon

December 7, 2006 10:31 PM


Cav said:

I'm sorry you were told you couldn't sing. Everyone can sing. A lot of us get discouraged and never attain our musical competency. That is very sad. I am a vocal coach and have helped people who really couldn't carry a tune, mostly due to lack of confidence. My mother was one of those people, and I loved to have her sing to me as a child more than anyone else. You just keep right on singing, loud and strong! Music is a very special gift for everyone.

December 9, 2006 6:13 PM


MsDemmie said:

Sing baby Sing ................

I am so glad you have found your voice ..............

December 12, 2006 7:23 AM
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