Friday, October 15, 2010

812 Reasons I became a Vocalist

I am a classical vocalist.  A dramatic coloratura soprano to be specific.  If you know what that is, I love you.

1.  Papa
2. Grandma
3. Dad
4. Mom

I've been singing my whole life.  My grandfather (aka Papa) used to sing us all to sleep when we were little; mostly "By the light of the silvery moon" and "The Army Air Corps Song".  Grandma (aka Grandma) is still always humming to herself, or randomly breaking into softly sung renditions of "What a friend we have in Jesus" or "Let me call you Sweetheart".   My Dad (aka Boss/Dad) has a little bit of musical ADD - if he hears anything that reminds him of a song lyric, he'll instantly regale you with a verse or two of the song.  Mom does that a little bit too but not nearly as much.  And Mom can sing.  In tune.  My brother can rap, my little sister can rockband.

5. I was a "creative" (read: somewhat ADD) child

Being in a family that accepted random musical outbursts, I grew up not being squeamish or embarrassed by singing in front of others.  When I would play with my She-ra horses (I liked the horses better than the dolls) or Barbie horses or any other kind of toy horses I had (and the fancy stone/crystal/ceramic ones that were supposed to be just for looks) I would lay them out on my bed or the floor or whatever surface that would be the backdrop for my fantastic adventures, and I would sing each part.  I would sing the setting, the action, all the different voice parts for my toys, and they would have epic adventures, battles, romances, and whatever gibberish my brain would spew forth, all done in song.  I would sing along with the radio, the tv, other people, or just by myself.  Sometimes I'd sing songs, other times I would just sing whatever came to mind or whatever I was doing (I still do that by the way.  I have typing songs, driving songs, cooking songs, and most of all Kitty Cat songs.  Steve the cat likes to sing along with the kitty cat songs.)

6. Lutheran Church

So, anyway, I grew up in a singing family and I went to Lutheran church.  For those of you unfamiliar with the various Christian sects, the Lutherans are known for their singing and for their strict sensibilities.  We thrive on tradition and are pretty much Catholic Lite.  So, lots of singing, chanting, sung responses, and the like. I was a troublemaker, so I always ended up getting passed down the pew until I reached the end, where Papa sat.  Well, Papa had the patience of a saint (and no one else to pass me to) so I'd end up plunked down next to him.  Sitting between Papa and Dad, I had no choice but to behave myself and follow along with the service.  Papa would give me his gold-plated pencil from the engraved pen and pencil set he always kept in his inside suitcoat pocket, and let me draw on my service folder (we all thought I was going to be an artist back then) during the sermon to keep me mildly entertained, but I was expected to sit quietly and pay attention during the rest of the service.  Sitting between his bass and Dad's tenor, I sang everything an octave down.  So, I spent about the first 13 years of my life as an alto.

7. Debbie Follsteadt and my first solo

When I was 10 years old, our elementary school (oh wait, I should stop and point out that I am a twin.  Because of that, I tend to refer to my childhood in 3rd person plural to incorporate the fact that almost everything I did included at least my brother.) was putting on a little show about the American Revolution with the 4th, 5th, and 6th grades.  Well, one day after practice Debbie Follsteadt (aka Debbie St. Onge) called a handful of us down around the piano.  She selected Rachel and asked her to sing the first verse of "The Battle Hymn of the Republic".  Well, Rachel, as about all of the rest of the group, was in the G.A.T.E. (Gifted And Talented Enrichment) Music program.  I was in G.A.T.E. too, but for Art.  So, Rachel sings, timidly, the verse.

She calls on me next.  I start off timidly, as Rachel had, feeling extremely and uncomfortably self-aware.  About halfway through the verse I realized "wait, I wasn't singing it like this in practice, why am I being shy now?"  And that's when it happened.  I ignored my emotions, gave it my all, and rocked those grapes of wrath.  I got the only solo in the entire show. That moment changed my life. 

8. Carmen

Well, after that it was established that I could sing.  But, I was still singing alto (or tenor or baritone) thanks to Dad and Papa.  Until a woman at my church named Carmen started sitting behind me.  Carmen could sing, and she was a soprano.  With her behind me, I was tuning into her instead of Dad and singing everything in a proper octave.  This was the point where I really began to grow and develop my voice.

9. Miss Lindsey

 Miss Lindsey (now Lara Moon) was my junior high choir director.  I had her for 7th grade choir and Vail Singers.  In 8th grade I dropped choir to take Spanish so I could go on the foreign language field trip to Washington DC.  I figured I could just do Vail Singers, but the tax levy didn't pass and it got cut from the extracurricular activities.  So for at least one year, I had a great music program.  Miss Lindsey was soooo patient with me and my quirky annoying habits - gave me solos, worked with me personally, and even put me in my first contest.  I sang "Panis Angelicus" and got a 1 (that's the best ranking).  It was my first time competing and it was my first time singing in Latin. 

10. Julie Dima

Dima was a great director and I learned the most about music theory from her.  She and I were never close, but she was an incredible director.  Strict, but she got results. Our A Capella choir went to contest at AA under her and got a 1.  She had me sight reading in 6/8 time. 

11. Dr. Robert Hauck

Dr. Hauck wasn't my first voice teacher, I saw a lady for a few months my junior year of high school but she and I never clicked and I don't feel I grew or developed at all as a vocalist under her.  She did send me to contest where I sang "All in the April Evening" and got a 1, but I do feel it was more on my merit than hers.  She was really more of a glorified accompanist.  I'm not knocking what she did for her other students, but she and I just weren't very compatible.

Now, the latter part of my senior year I began seeing Dr. Hauck.  He was fantastic.  He taught me proper breathing, proper technique, tricks and tips, dark vowels, and under him I grew and developed a rich vibrato.  I stopped seeing him because time and money got tight.  I'd go back to him in a heartbeat though, I just wish he didn't live so far away.

12. My Choirs

With my voice came the privilege/obligation to use it.  I'd join almost any choir that needed me.  This included my church choir (under Debbie Follsteadt), my schools A Capella choir, Show Choir, every musical, The Lebanon Symphonic Orchestra and Chorus, The Dayton Philharmonic Chorus (I was the first high school student to sing for them), and currently the Middletown Civic Chorus, my church choir under Jim Fry, and the First United Methodist Church choir under Mary Ellen Clinard. 

13. Mary Ellen Clinard

 Mary Ellen was our accompanist my senior year of high school.  She and I got along well, but we really didn't know each other very well back then.  That would come 9 years later, when I went to see Yun Kim perform at the First Friday Concert series at the First United Methodist Church here in Middletown.  Well, Mary Ellen saw me there, remembered me from high school, and asked me to join her choir.  This has been a fantastic opportunity for me.  I've met interesting people, soloed, expanded my repertoire, and feel that I'm really beginning to get my voice back and thanks to a tonsil/addenoidectomy in 2002 I now have a bigger post-resonance chamber thereby giving me a fuller, richer, deeper sound.  She's been awesome to work with and she her motivation, energy, and enthusiasm really makes me feel like I'm working towards being a professional vocalist again. 

14. Yun Kim/Mike Hughes

Yun is one of the absolute top organists in the country.  I'm not just saying that, she has the awards to back it up.  She has a doctorate in organ performance and I could listen to her play all day.  Mike is her adoring husband/faithful promoter/devout page-turner.  By far one of the most genuinely compatible/adorable couples I know.  Mike and I have been in several choirs together, and Yun has been my accompanist many times for everything from church services to solos to scholarship competitions (which I, of course, won).  I have been so fortunate to have them in my life for their support.

812. Debbie Follsteadt/St. Onge

Every time I think of all the different factors that went into making me the singer I am today, it always comes back to Debbie.  She gave me my first solo.  8 years later I was the soloist for her wedding.  She gave me solos, duets, ensembles, descants, and auditions; and has been a teacher, and accompanist, a choir director, a judge, and a friend.   She has been a phenomenal inspiration and resource for me and without her influence, patience (I don't think I can emphasize that enough) and support I don't believe I would be the singer I am today, if at all.

I have been so lucky to have all the fantastic people in my life that I do.  This list is just a sample of those that I feel were the most influential to me, particularly in my growth and development.  I don't know if it is luck, fortune, or fate that puts me in the right places at the right times, and this list is always growing.

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