You and I used to be friends. Maybe not besties, but we were always friendly toward each other. But you used to be kind enough to load when I asked you for a song. Now you are unresponsive. What happened to our friendship? Perhaps you are mad at me because I miss Lala? I would declare war on you if there was anywhere else I could go for music, but honestly, Pandora just doesn’t cut it. So please, dear Grooveshark, be my friend again?
In heartfelt sincerity,
I don’t ever remember a time when I didn’t like music. I was blessed to grow up in a musical family where my mom played Piano and a bit of Violin and my dad would go around the house humming (albeit, off-key) and inventing his own lyrics to songs. I started Piano lessons at age 6 after begging for them. My mom tells me my brother and I were always singing or humming, and I can remember at least one instance when annoyed family members would ask me to stop singing along with the CDs in the car. Gradually I fell out of love with the piano and wanted to stop taking lessons: I hated practicing. So finally my parents let me stop. But that was after I started taking lessons of a different kind: voice lessons. I think I can honestly say that voice lessons changed my life. I started studying voice when I was 11, which is, admittedly, a bit early to begin. But God had given me a voice that began to mature early, and my voice teacher wisely didn’t push me further and faster than was good for me. At first, it was just another lesson. I loved singing – I always had. But then I started to listen to classical singers – my first classical CDs were of Lesley Garrett, Inessa Galante, and Maria Callas. Once I had gained an ear for classical singing I couldn’t get enough of it and I began to dream of being a singer some day. I competed in state competitions, I sang in my church, I didn’t practice nearly enough. But I was in high school at the time. And then I graduated. And college was coming up and I had to choose a major. Well, of course, since my dream was to be a singer my major of choice was Voice Performance. But my dad, always the pragmatist, wanted me to do something more practical – like Music Ed, for example. After all, the Music world is hard to break into. But my mom convinced my dad to let me major in voice. And the rest, as they say, is history. Honestly, I can’t imagine being any other major. I absolutely love what I am doing and I hope to do it for the rest of my life.
I had forgotten how much I loved choir. I had even almost dreaded rehearsal. I was already so tired, and making music can take a lot out of you. Ya, I was excited to see my friends…but I see most of them anyways outside of choir. But then we were given out music. Ok, you need some background here: my school employs a becoming-well-known and brilliant composer. He taught me theory last year, and it was the best semester of Theory I had ever had (and you already know how much I love Theory). Well, my choir is going to be premiering one of his new pieces. I always knew he wrote good stuff. He picks great poems to set and he does a great job with them. But I wasn’t prepared for what I heard. The music…made me move. It was like it entered my ears and took control of me. It was wonderful. That is why I love music.
In my music history class we are studying the Romantic era. Composers of that day revered instrumental music over vocal music because, they said, words limit. In wordless music the listener is free to interpret it as he will. But while I love the Romantic period with all my heart, I must disagree with the Romantics here: when the text and music fit each other the result is more powerful than either could achieve apart.
As I’ve said before, I love performing. Tomorrow evening my choir is presenting a recital of largely sacred works. I am so excited to have this opportunity to perform as a group with fellow musicians. That is something I miss a lot in my solo work. Musicians are some of the awesomest people on earth in my humble (but slightly biased) opinion. I love how a person or group of people can take some words and some dots on a page and transform them into a beautiful work of art. And then when it’s done, we can do it again and it will be completely new and different every single time. Music is like the visual arts in many ways, but this is one of their differences. Whereas a painting or sculpture can be finished and hung on a wall or placed in a museum as a memorial to the artist forever, music is created again and again, and a duplicate portrayal can never exist. Maybe that’s what I love about music. I can run out of landscapes to paint, but music will never be the same.
Last night I went to a concert. On the program were several symphonic works and a piano concerto. Now we all know that as a musician I love music, but my favourite music is music for voice (who woulda thunk it!!). So I was excited for the concert, but not as excited as I will be for the opera my school is putting on next semester.
I put on my dress and walked over to the appointed place with my people, sat down in my seat, and waited for the performance to begin. And what a performance it was!! I had forgotten how much I love to watch others perform. Yes, you read that right. I enjoy listening to music, but the difference between listening to a CD and attending a live performance is the opportunity to watch the artists perform their music. I love to watch the passion displayed by true musicians when the grip of the music is upon them. They become lost in the music – it is the only thing that matters in that moment. You see the emotions displayed on their faces, whether rage, sorrow, joy, or peace.
Music is the window to the soul.
So I work in a library. And I absolutely love it because I love books! Recently while working I found a book entitled Prima Donnas and Other Wild Beasts by Alan Wagner. Now of course like all semi-normal people (and especially as a Soprano) I was rather curious about the contents of a book so titled, so I decided to check the book out and read it. What did I get from its pages? A wealth of humorous anecdotes and a bundle of laughs. Performers really are amazing people. They refine their idiosyncrasies into an art. Sometimes they do things that bug the fire out of those of us in the adoring (or not-so-adoring) public, but often we look back on it and see it all as a big joke to be laughed about. So remember: perspective is a wonderful thing!
You know, some people don’t consider singers to be real musicians. They label us as undisciplined, unmusical, lazy, and the list goes on. I once heard a pianist complaining about his singer friends who were required to practice less than he as an instrumentalist had to, but they, lounging about doing absolutely nothing, still groaned that they had too much to do.
I will admit that some of what they say is true – of some of us. But what many of this opinion don’t know is that many singers work very hard at what they do. It saddens me that the lives of some of us ruin the reputations of us all. But I suppose that is how things work in all areas of life.
Do you realize how many tasks a singer juggles while he is performing? Just like an instrumentalist he has to sing the tune correctly, worry about tone production, battle stage fright, and work with his accompanist. But in addition to these hardly trivial tasks, the singer must sing words: he must sing them as if he means them (and this is made doubly hard if the language he is singing in is not his native tongue) and he must enunciate clearly enough that every person in his audience can understand him. The singer must also become the character that the piece calls for – he must be an actor as well as a singer.
But, as a singer, I suppose I’m a bit biased toward my kind. I find as I listen to different instruments and styles that the instrument that moves me most is the human voice. I wonder if this is simply because the voice is my instrument. But no one can deny that the human voice is different from anything else on earth. Humans alone have been created with the ability to communicate with words, and the voice stands alone among instruments in its ability to combine both music and words.
Violin, Piano, Oboe, Flute, Trumpet, Voice. All of these and more are instruments, all require musicians to be used to their utmost potential. And while I love voice and vocalists, I admire many instrumentalists for precisely the things they criticize singers for. I guess nobody’s perfect.