by Carrie Classon
I’m having fun singing.
I started singing lessons a few weeks ago. My teacher lives out of town, but every other week she teaches in her parents’ house – the house she grew up in – just a few minutes away.
So, I drive to a little house in the suburbs, meet her parents’ two friendly little dogs (“More people! So exciting!”) and take an hour-long voice lesson in my teacher’s childhood bedroom.
I stand next to an auxiliary refrigerator, put my purse on a storage cabinet and face my teacher, who brings a portable keyboard for the occasion. There’s not a lot of space.
“I can’t believe I used to sneak out of that tiny window at night,” my teacher marvels, pointing to the one small window in the room.
But even if the surroundings are not exactly glamorous, the singing has turned out to be a lot of fun.
My teacher says I have a perfectly serviceable voice – and I am 100 percent sure she says this to all her students – but I still find it reassuring. And, honestly, even if I haven’t improved a whole lot, I do feel considerably more confident – which, all by itself, probably makes me a better singer. But my teacher is not satisfied.
“You need to sing in front of people,” she said at our last lesson.
“Oh, I don’t know about that …”
You should sing for your friends,” she went on.
“Ha! I don’t even sing when my husband is in the house.”
“Oh, you must sing for your husband,” she insisted.
“I wait until he’s gone out,” I explained.
We talked about this a little more. I am going to do a small Christmas program in town at the community arts center. It’s an old log building with a high ceiling and it’s always decorated for the holidays. I suggested (somewhat timidly) that since I was doing Christmas readings with a musician I could, in theory, sing – just a little, maybe a chorus or something.
“Yes!” my teacher said, with way too much enthusiasm. “That is exactly what you should do.”
Now I felt committed. It was only a day or two after the solstice, there was no air conditioning in my teacher’s tiny former bedroom, and there we were, talking about Christmas music.
“You don’t need to worry about it,” my teacher went on. “I used to have my students sing there all the time. That building has seen it all.”
I wondered what sort of epic disaster my teacher was imagining my singing might precipitate. She didn’t leave me wondering long.
“I’ve had students throw up in front of the audience. I’ve had them burst into tears. I had one little girl who started rolling the hem of her dress up until she’d rolled it all the way up past her underwear.”
“I wouldn’t do that,” I assured my teacher.
“Don’t do that,” my teacher said, unnecessarily.
It reminded me of the dance lessons I took as a young person. In spite of an obvious lack of talent, my dance teacher was always encouraging. “If you keep a big smile on your face, they’ll never even look at your feet,” she said.
Apparently, singing was similar. If I could resist the urge to throw up and roll my dress up over my underpants, all would be well.
I know I’ll never be a great singer, but it’s fun to get a little bit better at something that terrifies me. I said goodbye to the little dogs and left, Christmas tunes in hand, a song in my heart.
Till next time,
Carrie Classon’s memoir, “Blue Yarn: A Memoir About Loss, Letting Go & What Happens Next,” was recently released. Learn more at CarrieClasson.com.