So I started this blog a little over four years ago, and I hate to admit that I haven’t posted on it in almost three- can you tell consistency isn’t my strong suit? Anyway, I’m not exactly sure where to start with this post (or where to go with it, quite frankly), so I’ll just start out with a little history about what’s happened over the last few years, and I guess I’ll wing the rest.
I attended UMHB for two years for a Music Education degree three semesters, and a BA in Music for my last semester. My Theory II class is actually the reason I started this blog, since we were assigned to write a few blog posts for each semester through Theory classes II-IV. I ended up really loving the chance to let out all my thoughts (and sometimes frustrations, see previous blog post “Does Anybody Even Read These Things?”) and I’m sort of kicking myself now for not keeping it going. Over the course of the second and last year that I spent at UMHB, I found myself dreading class every day. No, not “that one” class. Every. Single. Class. I didn’t really fit in with my classmates. I don’t think so, at least. I didn’t have a voice like all the others. I still don’t, and I don’t think I ever will. That became my biggest fear at UMHB. “I could fail my private lesson classes, simply because I don’t have vibrato like every other person here at UMHB does.” Yes. That was a real topic of conversation between my private vocal lesson professor and me, in more private lessons than what I could count on both hands. Side note: criticism-induced tears aren’t exactly great for enhancing vocal performance, either.
I’m not the kind of person that reacts extremely to just any kind of criticism. It’s taken me a long time to really come to terms with the fact that I think I had every right to be upset about what happened at UMHB. I’m not the kind of person who needs a safe space because somebody offended me. Words don’t typically hurt me (I mean Jesus, being the only girl growing up, you should meet the brothers and cousins I had to toughen me up all these years-the words were the easy parts). If I’m doing something wrong, tell me. And if you’re my teacher, teach me how to fix it. I was told in one of my lessons word for word after I got done performing one of my pieces, “I can sit here and tell you everything that was wrong in that performance, but there’s really no point because nothing I say to you is going to get through to you to the point where you’ll make the changes. You can stay for the rest of the lesson and keep performing your pieces for me if you’d like, but I won’t be giving you my input. Or we can end the lesson here and we can start over next week.” I grabbed my bag, I didn’t say a word, and I left Presser Hall in tears.
I’ve spent the past couple of years trying to justify those words. Maybe she’s right. I didn’t have vibrato. I couldn’t just teach myself how to do it. I didn’t sound like all these other people at UMHB with the incredible vibrato and ranges and total control over their registers. What was wrong with me?
The longer I think about it, the easier it is to blow all of that off. I don’t ever want to forget that moment, because those words have become my fuel. What kind of teacher says things like that? You can’t just tell someone to “have vibrato” and boom, it happens. It’s not like that. You take the right techniques that are supposed to enhance those flaws and weaknesses and you teach the student how to engage the right muscles, the right feelings, the right emotions. Who was this one person to tell me that I was basically helpless simply because I couldn’t teach myself a technique that she was supposed to help teach me? Fun fact though: the next semester (and my last semester), I was transferred to a different vocal coach. I was able to access my vibrato at the second lesson with her. SECOND. She quickly became one of my favorite people at UMHB, and one of the only reasons I didn’t want to leave.
Sometimes I wish I had gotten to enjoy the “college experience” a little bit more. Don’t get me wrong, leaving was entirely my choice, nobody took that away from me. But sometimes I do wish I’d stayed. But if I had, what would I have accomplished? A degree in a field that I don’t want to go into? A voice that’s totally different from my natural one? (I’m STILL trying to get my voice back to the way it was before I went through all the classical training. Some of the techniques were fantastic, but I’m just not one of those people that sounds great with a rich, full, “operatic” voice.) I’d probably still be working part-time waitressing jobs and living in an apartment that I can’t afford, an hour away from my family and friends.
I’m now going to school through the online program at the #4 music conservatory in the US. I’m on my sixth (or maybe seventh?) semester, and I actually enjoy the work. I’m able to work full time and play music, and I can alter my class load to fit my budget. The degree programs are so versatile and there are so many to choose from (can I just be like Crawl from “Son-In-Law” and obtain, like, twenty degrees?). I’m currently going for Music Business, but I still get to take classes in production, composition, and all kinds of different topics. I’m taking an Audio Fundamentals for Recording class, which is so frustrating and challenging, that I’ve come to love it-it’s really accessed my competitive/perfectionist side, and I think it’s even toned down my procrastinator side (trust me, this is NOT something you want to wait until the last minute for!). I’m also taking a Legal Aspects in the Music Industry course, which has been awesome so far. I’m only 4 weeks into this semester, but it’s gone over copyright, publishing, etc. If you’d told me while I was at UMHB that I would eventually be studying law, I would’ve called you nuts (ewww, “law?” Boringggg).
Berklee Online has been so great to me. I took a Concert Touring class a few years ago which I was also crazy about. Care to venture what the final assignment was? Go to a concert. Yes, I was literally graded to go to a CONCERT for my final assignment/grade (I’ll make another post about Chicago and The Doobie Brothers live in some other post eventually, because WOW).
It was supposed to be a short and sweet post, but I guess I actually did have a decent idea of what to write about. Hopefully the upcoming entries can come to me this naturally, too! Thanks for reading, and let me know what you want to hear about!
How do I end this?